The FDA has announced that it will begin regulating the e-cigarette market, finally, after years and now that it’s huge by relative standards, a billion-dollar industry.
One of the reasons for this is because the makers of e-cigs have strenuously avoided marketing their products as part of a smoking-cessation program, although of course that’s what they are. People have been working on this sort of thing for decades. Can we shift recalcitrant cigarette smokers over to an analog, a device that sort of acts like and feels like and creates an effect like a cigarette does, except without the smell and stains and emphysema and death?
Turns out, they can, although it’s not been nearly long enough to have any significant data. And the misinformation is so staggering, so widespread and repeated without investigation, that there are layers of opinion before much information has been gathered.
It’s been well over a year since I tried an e-cig. I’d heard about it from a college friend (I mean, I was aware they existed; I just got some personal experience related), who dumped her habit when she bought a new car and just didn’t feel right fouling the interior with smoke. She gave me a lot of information, and so on a whim I tried one. I was definitely a recalcitrant smoker, a few a day but really? I’m not sure the number matters. The damage is enormous, again on a relative standard, by just a few.
Anyway, I never smoked a tobacco product again, or haven’t since. It was obviously immediately to me that I just liked the habit, the motions, the inhalation, the feel of smoke against the back of my throat. Vapor fakes all of this very well. I keep them with me and charged up all the time. It’s a pleasure for me, particularly when I’m bored and/or thinking, or stuck in a car with a long drive ahead.
They produce a slightly peppermint-flavored mist that dissipates almost immediately. It’s vapor; it’s steam, essentially. I could blow it in your face and aside from the rudeness, you probably wouldn’t care. If your eyes were closed, you probably wouldn’t know.
The ones I use contain a small amount of nicotine, since I found that the non-nicotine ones lack flavor, for lack of a better word. There’s less oomph. And don’t get me started on nicotine; there are now studies that actually show some benefit from this byproduct. Nicotine doesn’t kill anyone. Nicotine is on par with caffeine. Some people are allergic or sensitive, particularly infants, but otherwise it’s just a run-of-the-mill stimulant that might or might not be beneficial to some people, although it definitely has the potential for dependency development. Nicotine has a short half-life, so it’s out of the body pretty quickly and thus withdrawal symptoms, as mild as they are, kick in quickly.
But that’s not why people keep smoking. Don’t believe it if you hear it. A heavy smoker will certainly turn anxious and irritable and all sorts of things if they can’t have a cigarette, but actually studies have found that much of this is psychological (i.e., when people know they can’t possibly smoke, such as on a plane, they tend to relax more and not be so stressed, even during withdrawal. Some people, anyway).
Smokers smoke because it gives them comfort. It’s a weird thing to do, when you think about it, and if you never try it then you’re better off, of course, but that’s what it is. Comfort. A habit, a routine, that by its repetition becomes comforting.
I’m not sure I care about the FDA. I imagine if someone made e-cigarettes illegal or prohibitively expensive, I’d be OK with stopping, although I’d probably miss it.
It’s the reason that interests me. And how I wonder we would think about people who do things we find socially unacceptable or at least weird (in my case, people who watch reality TV or read compulsively, just to name two things) if we just thought, it gives them some comfort.
I’ve been getting a mess o’ pictures of my grandson lately, as he gets bigger and mobile and crosses off milestones every day. I’m heading to Austin next week, in fact, for a quick visit.
A recent picture (a series of them, really) inspired my latest column, which you can read here if you’d like.
Or, in something I’ve decided to maybe experiment with, you can just listen to it.