Is Vaping Better Than Quitting?

regulated mod with tank, photo from Dollar Photo Club by disto89

Yes, I know–that title is pure, unadulterated, shameless linkbait.

Before you lynch me, let me explain that I am not claiming that switching to e-cigarettes is better for your health than quitting smoking. Yes, there are studies that show positive health benefits of nicotine, but let’s get real: the best thing for your health is never to start smoking at all. The next best thing is to quit completely.

My husband always defended his right to smoke vociferously. He claimed that people in large cities and industrial areas breathe in so much pollution that smoking hardly makes a difference to their carcinogen intake. But I’m pretty sure that he would have been just as happy to wake up one morning any time between when he started smoking and when he discovered vaping and find he had lost interest in cigarettes. He spent about $300 on them every month when he still lived in Holland and smoked all day indoors, and $200 a month after we moved in together and he had to go outside to smoke.

Smoking is expensive for a reason. The high cost is meant to deter people from smoking, and in some cases it works. I know people who finally quit when it got too expensive. Non-smokers, who outnumber smokers, are happy to vote for extra sales taxes and surcharges on cigarettes, because they don’t have to pay them–and anyway, most of us tend to think that if we don’t smoke, nobody else should either.

So most smokers have an incentive to quit. It’s expensive, it’s inconvenient, and non-smokers increasingly treat them like criminals. But most people who smoke have tried to quit, only to give up when the cravings set in.

I gave up sugar and carbohydrates in 1990. The withdrawal was terrible. I’m told by people who have done both that coming off sugar is worse than coming off heroin. The worst physical cravings lasted four or five days, but the mood swings went on for at least three weeks. I had lots of support, and was able to make it.

I’m told withdrawal from cigarettes is worse.

There are smoking-cessation products on the market. I notice that Nicorette gum claims you can double your chances of quitting. If your success rate so far has been zero, that’s not much of a promise. Still, there are people for whom the nicotine replacement therapy products produced by pharmaceutical companies do work.

The folks who were still smoking when e-cigarettes were invented were obviously not among them.

People try e-cigarettes for many reasons. My husband had two: he wanted to be able to “smoke” indoors, and he wanted to save money. The V2 “cigalikes” he started out with allowed him to do both things, and also introduced him to a radical idea: nicotine in a non-tobacco flavor. (He tried coffee and cola, and liked both, but preferred the coffee.)

But the V2s didn’t deliver quite enough nicotine: he still needed to go out and smoke a regular tobacco cigarette first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening.

In July at WordCamp SF 2013, he met someone using an eGo battery system (the link shows a newer model), ordered a starter kit himself, and discovered that vaping could be just as satisfying as smoking–without the smoke.

From there he started a methodical investigation of different flavors and devices. He started watching review and tutorial videos and soon began to build his own coils. He stopped using cigarettes altogether–not meaning to, but because he no longer needed them and they tasted revolting to him. I, meanwhile, no longer had to put up with smelling cigarette smoke on his clothes and skin, or finding piles of ash on the front steps.

So why might vaping be better than quitting?

  1. It’s satisfying. Vapers obviously enjoy vaping. They like the taste, as they should: e-liquid comes in far nicer flavors than smoke does, because no matter what you do to smoke, you can’t obscure the fact that it’s smoke. Breathing any kind of smoke is bad for you. They like the sensation known as “throat hit.” (I’ve never smoked or vaped and could not describe this to you.) They like the stimulant feeling of the nicotine. They like the sight of giant plumes of vapor (“clouds”) emerging when they exhale.
  2. It mimics the activity of smoking. When you quit, there’s an absence, an emptiness. You get time back, which is good. But smokers are used to having something to do with their hands and their mouths. That’s part of why so many of them turn to eating. Vaping satisfies the gestural habit, even though nicotine on its own doesn’t appear to be nearly as good an appetite suppressant as tobacco is. Unlike people who quit cold turkey, vapers don’t start binge-eating sweets.
  3. It’s still good for your health. Although vaping may not be as good for you as quitting, and e-cigarette manufacturers are prohibited by law from making any claims that their products are smoking cessation devices, there are observable health benefits. I’ve noticed my husband coughs less and his tongue is no longer discolored, and he can walk uphill without gasping for breath. One vaper conducted a survey in which more than 3,000 respondents reported improved health (less coughing, fewer respiratory infections) as a result of switching from smoking to vaping. One vaper reported that his doctor told him his lungs had returned to non-smoking levels in just 8 months.
  4. It’s a hobby. Many people get into “rebuilding,” meaning they make their own coils, painstakingly choosing the best thickness of kanthal wire and wrapping it around a mini screwdriver or beading tool, testing the resistance with an Ohm-meter, wicking the coil with silica, cotton, or stainless steel mesh, amassing a collection of tanks, drippers, and mods, in pursuit of the best possible experience. Some people mix their own e-liquids. The vaping culture has a definite Maker movement feel to it. Since most smokers spend hours every day taking smoke breaks, they have plenty of time to devote to a hobby when they switch to vaping.
  5. It’s social. Smokers may talk to each other while standing the required 20′ from a building to smoke, but there’s not really anything about cigarettes that binds people together. Cigarettes aren’t interesting. Since vaping is new and people have questions about it when they start, forums have sprung up around the Internet. Places like Reddit and ECF are full of activity, and the YouTube reviewers have tens of thousands of viewers. Most experienced vapers are happy to answer newcomers’ questions. Vaping brings people together around a shared interest.

I met my husband in 1995. I would have been delighted if he had quit anytime between then and when he started vaping. But now we’re on an adventure that I’d’ve been sorry to miss. I have no reason to be afraid of secondhand vapor as long as no one clouds up my car while I’m driving. Most of it smells pretty good. We’ve met some great people. My husband has found a cause he can get behind. I’ve had a chance to look at the political process a lot more closely.

If you’re a smoker and you can quit, that’s probably the best thing for you to do. But for some people, vaping really is more beneficial than quitting.

Sallie
WordPress fangirl, ghostwriter, linguistic alchemist, podcast consultant, and accidental vapor advocate. Married with 2 cats.

3 Comments

  1. For me it was the fact that i was able to step down my nicotine intake at my own pace, which was much quicker than i thought it would be. I went from 36mg down to 3mg and even 0mg in many liquids i make, this took less than 4 months. Once i found RDA’s i went from 24mg right down to 6mg, at this point i started making my own and went to 3/0mg. I was a two pack a day smoker for over thirty years. Also i had to try all the flavors everyone liked so much, each flavor put smoking further into my past.

    The health benefits were apparent in just a few weeks after having my last smoke. To be honest the only real downside is the senses i have regained, smell/taste. They were so overpowering and took a couple months to get used to. There are still smells and tastes i can’t be around, favorite food stuffs i can’t eat. On the plus side i could never be a smoker again, the smell is nauseating.

  2. Studies dating back to the 1940’s have shown that a small amount propylene glycol ( the primary ingredient in most e-liquids) safely and effectively destroys flu, stash, steep, and e. Coli in the air.

    No one has yet done a study to find if vaping actually reduces or prevents the spread of airborne diseases, but there is a very real possibility that vaping is genuinely better than quitting since noone has documented any actual name or risks. Your post may not be link bait after all!

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