A Non-Smoker’s Perspective on Electronic Cigarettes

Frosted Oatmeal Cookie flavor from Tasty Vapor

I spent my earliest years in a non-smoking household and was a poster child for the anti-smoking educational programs of the 1970s–even though my parents went back to smoking after they got divorced. Though I had friends who started smoking as young as ten, I never even tried it, and was proud to be a non-smoker.

Though I didn’t become political about my dislike of smoking, I was always just as happy to have any new law passed that meant I wouldn’t have to breathe smoke: no more smoking on airplanes, in restaurants, in public buildings. Never mind the lung cancer and the heart disease. If people wanted to kill themselves, that was their business, but I hated to be around smoke. I’m not allergic; I just dislike it.

Naturally I was fated to marry a smoker.

I won’t say that I was immediately thrilled when he discovered electronic cigarettes. I didn’t know whether e-cigarettes would work for him; and I didn’t know whether they would work for me, either. I was reluctant to let him use any kind of nicotine-emitting device in the house, and being as heartless as most non-smokers, I didn’t have nearly as much sympathy as I should have when he was forced to go out in the rain to smoke.

But the vapor was inoffensive. The smell was faint, and it dissipated quickly. Since he found he preferred the coffee flavor to the imitation tobacco flavors, it was almost pleasant. And once Himself moved from “cigalikes” to a battery-and-tank combination, something amazing happened.

He went out to have a cigarette in the morning (he was still smoking a couple of times a day at that point) and came back coughing and making faces. “That tasted horrible,” he said.

“I keep trying to tell you,” I replied.

Of Course, Flavors in E-Cigarettes

collection of different flavors of e-liquid
Dozens of different flavors of e-liquid appeal to the newly-rediscovered
sense of taste. Photo by Stefan Didak.

In the time since then, my husband has adopted vaping first as a hobby, then as a cause. Not only has he undergone physical changes (by December he could walk up a hill without getting out of breath), he’s made social connections and developed a sense of commitment to something beyond himself that he didn’t have before.

My husband is a better man for vaping, and as a result of it, I’ve been exposed to a lot of alarmist media reporting about the alleged evils of e-cigarettes, particularly the repeated claim that the manufacturers of e-liquids (sometimes known as e-juices) are marketing to children because they make nicotine available in flavors like cotton candy and gummy bear.

Now, there’s been plenty of discussion among vapers about why this is BS, with two popular counter-examples: flavored vodka and flavored condoms. Personally, I’m very fond of flavored coffee (vanilla, chocolate, caramel, butterscotch toffee). Coffee is another product not normally consumed by children, and when I was a child, coffee came in two forms: caffeinated and decaffeinated. Now flavors are everywhere, both in the coffee grounds you buy and available to be added at the cappuccino bar. Americans love flavors, period. (Perhaps Americans are all children, but that’s another post.)

But the discussions I’ve heard all seem to overlook that basic fact which every non-smoker knows, every smoker suppresses, and every vaper rediscovers with astonishment: tobacco smoke tastes terrible. The only reason smokers have put up with it all this time is that they didn’t have a choice.

Oh, sure, you’ll hear smokers tell you that part of what they like about smoking is the taste. My DH said that to me once or twice. I regarded that statement with the frank disbelief it deserved. I can understand having a desperate craving for nicotine. I can even believe that, separated from the toxicity of smoke inhalation (and marijuana may have amazing medicinal properties, but there is no kind of smoke it is beneficial to breathe), nicotine may have valuable therapeutic properties that haven’t been properly explored. But that cigarette smoke tastes good? Only someone who has destroyed his taste buds with 20 years of smoking could say so.

So when you can have nicotine taste like anything at all, why would you choose the taste of burning tobacco leaves?

And in fact, it turns out that tobacco is a very difficult flavor to synthesize. There are tobacco-flavored e-liquids, some of them popular, but I’m told that the flavor and experience are different from smoking. Maybe it’s the lack of tar.

The flavorings used in e-liquids come from the restaurant industry. Who orders a dessert that tastes like tobacco? That would be no one. So you can have a lousy tobacco flavor or a nice mango flavor. Or peach flavor. Or apple bourbon flavor. Or vanilla custard, or whiskey. Or, as I told the committee hearing on AB1500 this morning, frosted oatmeal cookie, which is my husband’s current favorite.

And, finally, there’s the fact that vapers are enjoying a sense of taste for the first time in, very probably, decades. Sure, there may be a few kids who are curious, but the mass of people who are vaping, and certainly the ones who are investing in e-liquids, and definitely the ones ordering online (unless they are already masters of identity theft, in which case their parents had better watch out for their bank accounts), are middle-aged adults who smoked for years and might never have intended to stop.

They just started to get their taste buds back along with their lungs, and they want to exercise them.

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


  1. Please send this to the FDA, they are looking are some serious restrictions that would in essence destroy all the good products on the market and leave the withered corpse of the industry in the hands of the big tobacco companies that were killing your husband.

    We need some regulations, but charging small vendors that make the flavors that your husband likes, tens of thousands of dollars to continue selling their products., would murder the small cottage industry that has made this possible for your husband, and millions of others like him.

    I encourage you and your husband to read about the FDA’s propose regulations, and please submit this article to them at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2014-N-0189-0001

  2. Good on you for making a public statement about this as a non-vapor! I quit smoking 3 months ago when I picked up my ego S, after having smoked a pack a day for 20+ years and my fave flavor is Vanilla Custard. Thank you!

  3. Thanks for posting this, I had a similar experience, used to puff cancersticks but now I feel much healthier and I exercise more, my stamina is better, my masculinity is better, all thanks to electronic cigarettes. I hope the tobacco companies burn in hell for all the suffering they are creating along with their allied psychopathic politicians!

  4. After reading this article I immediately looked for a link to email this blogger directly. I can see why this wasn’t an option (that I could find). I had to write her regardless, so I decided to participate publicly here. I bookmarked this page right after reading it and plan on sending it to my wife.

    My wife has never had one drag from a cigarette in her life and she absolutely hated everything about them. She vowed never to date a smoker but got stuck with me anyway. Yeah, I’m that good.

    Any of this sounding familiar? About 5 years ago I tried quitting with eCigarettes using cigalikes. That’s pretty much all there was at the time. They were awful pieces of crap that worked less than half the time and you barely got anything out of it when it was working. It failed pretty horribly. This is actually why it took me so long to try them again. I had tried all the NRT’s (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) (patch, gum etc.) and even tried laser therapy (which worked way better than most people would think, just still not good enough).

    Once I decided to go this eCig route again, I got an eGo style PV. I’ve heard many accounts in which people had a cigarette again and were disgusted. I’m quite curious about this (though not curious enough to do anything about it) because I never went back to cigarettes at all. Once I had my first “e-puff”, my lips never touched a butt again (other than my wife’s). It’s become a hobby for me as well, which wasn’t a surprise because I tend to find something that catches my interest and go completely overboard with it. This was different. I spend a lot of time in a nearby shop where people want to try rebuildables but they’re intimidated by the whole process. I have a tackle box of stuff so I tell them if they buy an RDA or an RBA, they can sit with me if they have the time and I’ll help build them one. I have all the supplies with me and the kanthal for the first build is on me. We’ll build one together. I don’t even work there! I can’t stand the idea of someone being interested and turning away because they think it may be too much for them.

    Along the way I had started reading studies and articles highlighting public awareness and attitude towards vaping. I started reading them every day and would often read about the medical reports from studies that had only been released a day or two prior. Nothing has ever gotten to me like this before. I educate every person I possibly can, anywhere I go. I’m obsessed, and it feels great.

    Sorry for this being so long but the end right here, is my point. It’s what I wanted to write to you. Every moment that passed while I was reading your article, felt as though I was reading something my wife wrote under the pen name “Sallie”. I thought I might be fanatical at first, until I started running into others. We’re basically taking part in a modern healthcare miracle together, and how can’t that in itself be so exciting that it’s ironically addictive? I’m addicted to this passion and I’m addicted to the love this community has for anyone willing to try to break free from cigarettes. It turns out addictions actually can be a positive thing. If I had to kick all these addictions, nicotine would be the least of my concerns.

    Yes. I know how obnoxiously long that was.

    1. See this is why the vaping community is great. Openness and friendliness. I just got into this about 3 months ago and I can say that the people in the vape community are some of the best people I have met. Its almost like how motorcycle riders are (which I am as well). It’s been a great way to network with people and something that the love of my love and I share. I really would be devastated if the FDA took this all away from us.

    2. Being in a smoke free family since the 1960’s, this vaping thing is new to me. It was quite amazing the other day, when I heard the first rabid fan from the Vaping Community sell another smoker on the merits of the new inhalation method. At first, I thought they were talking about a new way to take marijuana–so much passion about it.

      Funny, it happened at the dog park, where we have a parallel addiction to the love of our canines.

  5. HI Sallie,

    I just wanted to say thanks for the great read.

    It’s pleasing to find and read stories like this, particularly hearing the acceptance of others modified habits which not only curb a very addictive and now anti-social habit but one that also improves individuals well being both physically and mentally.
    I’m an ex-smoker and have been on e-cigs for nearly 3 years and very proud that I have never once had or desired to have a real cigarette. I’m so happy that I am no longer trapped in that expensive and spirit destroying cycle of smoking. It’s so easy for me to be self reminded how much healthier I feel, just by how easy it is to do physical tasks that used to take my breath away. One of the most prominent self rewarding spins from being smoke free is not having to smell my own stinky ashtray smelling odour that used to emanate from my clothes and body, a smell that most of the time I was actually aware of but refused to accept how much it affected others, particularly those that cared about me.
    It’s actually quite amazing how little you’re affected when you are unable to have a vape for what ever the reason, a significant contrast to the stress levels and desperation methods I would go to when I couldn’t have a smoke.

    I’m not sure what I’ll do if they successfully ban e-cigs and the associated supplies in Australia, but regardless of what spin that attached to it, I know that I would struggle to accept their purpose for such an action would be for the interest of my health and well being.



  6. Thank you Sally for taking the time to write of your experiences. I am pro vaping as an alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes because of the positive health benefits it has to offer. It is baffling to hear people opposed to personal vaporizers constantly making reference to the flavours being part of some marketing drive to encourage children to start using the devices and how this could lead them on to tobacco cigarettes. Since when do people lose interest in flavour when they become adults?

  7. you are pretty great, and i think your husband must be lucky to have you!

    i smoked for 8 years… my husband for 15… with vaping/ e-cigs we were literally able to quit in 3 days.. seriously! And by that third day… that last cigarette was beyond disgusting!! Vaping is saving lives… is it the perfect solution.. probably not, but what is!

    thank you for this wonderful article!!

  8. We vapers don’t often hear publicly from family members affected by our switch to ecigs; thank you so much for your encouraging article. I hope you and your husband are as proud of each other as you should be!

    And may I compliment you on your elegant solution to e-liquid storage!

  9. I just recently quit smoking after 13 years with the help of an electronic cigarette. My first flavour was a tobacco “RY4” flavour. In your article, you call tobacco flavour “lousy.” RY4 actually tastes kind of like vanilla and caramel. There are other tobacco flavours that taste vaguely like cherry. Tobacco is actually a pretty nice flavour when you’re not mixing it with hundreds of carcinogens and setting it ablaze.

  10. Thank you so much for this wonderfully written post. My husband and I are identical to you except I WAS the smoker and he has always been a non-smoker. I tried so many times to quit smoking because I knew he didn’t like it and the only times I was ever successful was during my 2 pregnancies.
    Like your husband I too have found a new hobby and cause. It is so empowering to feel connected to so many other people all working toward a common goal.

  11. It always interests me to learn the view of the family of a vaper. . I smoked from the age of 12 for 34 years. For the last ten of those years I got through 35-40 rollies (hand rolled cigarettes).

    I switched to a personal vapouriser approximately 18 months ago and my family has been fully behind me once they realised how much my health was improving.

    Like others I started with a cigalike which was not the best way. However I then tried a generation two device which truly satisfied me. However at this point I discovered I had taste buds again and the wonders of different flavours. It was the combination of the gen 2 device AND the flavours that truly got me away from tobacco. Without both ingredients I have no doubt I would have eventually gone back to tobacco smoke.

    Now I have a generation three device (actually I have a few) over 100 flavours of ejuice (the bulk of which I make myself) and I have absolutely no fear of returning to tobacco again. Ever.

    Except for one thing.

    Remove the variety of devices, the sheer number of flavours and increase the c cost of daily use. Destroy the vibrant, diverse mix of cottage industry artisan eliquid producers. Regulate device improvements by tinkerers and enthusiasts and you will have destroyed the very things that make ecigs such a stunning success.

    This is the clearest example of a highly successful, self regulated, consumer driven and consumer owned health bonanza being sold in packets to the industries who have fed off the carcasses of smokers either by supplying the tobacco or treating the effects. Sold to them by the people we elect to safeguard our health and the beurocrats they appoint who have no personal stake in our health .

  12. Good reading but you shouldn’t pit vaping & smoking against one another. I smoked for 27 years before i vaped & it was ok until the anti smoking crew got their way & jumped all over it. Smokers have been demonized enough & don’t need vapers to turn on them too. As far as i’m concerned vapers are no better than smokers, just lucky to have found their way to a healthier alternative.

    1. I know vapers who are rushing around trying to “convert” smokers and others who are busy defending smokers’ rights. I don’t want to be around smoking, but I don’t think that smokers should be treated like criminals, either. Americans do like to show off their Puritanical roots.

  13. Sallie you wonderful lady!!!! In a way your husband was me. I never thought I would quit and actually didn’t want to. Then Vaping entered my life and I have not only quit smoking, I am an active member of our local vapers group. I have met many friends and am even attempting to covert my cousin. She vapes but she still smokes but I’m going to get her over to the vape side. It took a few months for me to stop smoking altogether. Many people quit the same day they start vaping and I just couldn’t understand how they did it but I’m happy to say I have finally accomplished it and I can walk my dog with ease, attempt to exercise 🙂 ,and so many other things that I couldn’t do before due to cigarettes. The best part is I have made both my daughters very happy by not smoking anymore and that’s my favorite reward.

  14. Thank you for such a well written post. After smoking for 31yrs I feel vaping has saved me, I don’t have the words to say how much better I feel or how scared I would be if it was banned.

  15. I started smoking at 15 finally switched to a ego 2 months after I turned 36.
    Never tried tobacco flavored but my current flavor is a grape green tea. Thanks for the blog and your support.

  16. Just….thank you. It’s so refreshing to see something besides the drivel and paranoia that has become so prevalent! And you’re so right about the taste of cigarettes. They don’t and didn’t taste good. It was all we knew and all we had. When I started vaping, I realized that it wasn’t cigarettes that I loved…it was smoking! The actual physical act, the ritual. I think that is why vaping is so successful. We keep a lot of the ritual. I am so disappointed that the government is trying to take the only thing that worked for me.

  17. That’s a really lovely thing to read Sallie and I thank you for the time you took to write.
    I smoked, heavily, for over 40 years and the Vaping has saved my life for a few extra years at least.
    The amount of negative press it gets has to be biased and corrupt, no other idea that saves so many lives every year could be attacked unless money was involved!

  18. After smoking for 40 years I have now quit for 1 year–thanks to e-cigs. They are a blessing for me and others who have kicked the nasty habit. I feel so much better, don’t smell of stale tobacco, have so much more energy, no longer have wheezing and can taste foods again!!

  19. This is total BS. I didn’t even have to read to the end of this to realize it was written by the e-cig people themselves. Do people fall for this, really?

    1. So…who is “the e-cig people,” exactly? Which e-cig people? My husband writes his own posts and you can see me in that photo at the hearing. (If they ever release the video, you can see me there, too, doing a not-that-wonderful job of speaking against the requirement for age verification at both purchase and delivery.)

      Since that’s all pretty obvious, and I’m well-known both locally and on the Internet, and this blog has been around for years, I call troll and linkbait on you.

  20. I just wanted to say this was a terrific read. I too am a recovered smoker. My take on the ecig phenomenon is that vaping is a smoking substitute. I used to be a 2 pack a day smoker. I quit with chantix and within 2 years had picked up cigars. I quit again with chantix for 6 months. The 3rd time the chantix didn’t take. I also tried the patch, gum and hypnotics, nothing would work. I started vaping after my son suggested it. He switched and loved it, he is an advocate and works in a vape lounge. I now vape instead, my nic level has decreased to 6mil and my preferred flavor is Cinnamon. I also like the sweet of the Cinnamon, It’s like my desert. I’ve stopped eating sweets, no chocolates, ice creams, cakes etc can hold a candle to my Cinnamon vape. My health has improved, and my weight has reduced as a result. I also wrote a message to the FDA and ask that every reader and commenter do the same. Thanks again (posting link to FDA below). http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2014-N-0189-0001

  21. Can i say what a informative and pleasant read you post/story was. I am one of the OH who have smoked for 30+ Years and have tried the vaping side, and found it to work for me as a aid to quit smoking. Nearly 8 monthly down that road i have not looked back. Yes i ended up spending more of my vaping items and ejuice than i ever did smoking, but i feel so much better for it. I was so glad to read from a non smokers view and i can see how ever word you have written is so true and to the point.

    Such a pleasure to read this and well done to your other half.

  22. Wonderful post. This is a much needed perspective since most of my friends and family do not smoke and don’t understand why I haven’t been successful in “just quitting”. They don’t seem to realize that this battle affects them too and the consequences of FDA possibly over regulating vaping could have negative effects for decades. Speaking out against regulations as a non-smoker was probably heard by many more than you might be aware of.

  23. Thank you, Sallie, for a beautifully-written treatise from the non-smoker’s point of view. Like many other respondents, I was a smoker (for 50 years). I stopped on the very day I received my first e-cig. Six months on, I am a new man. And my wife, a never-smoker, and a vociferous anti-smoker, is as delighted as you are! I hated the way I was treated by the establishment as a smoker; the barrage of scare-tactics, the social stigmatising, and general demonisation of smokers. Now I hate with a vengeance the ploys that continue to be used against vapers. I did not like, but I understood, the ban on smoking in public places, but there is no sense, no rationale, no science that supports the attacks on e-cigs. So I have become a militant, and I intend to fight for the right to partake of something that I believe to be of little harm to me, and of no danger to anyone else. Thank you for speaking out!

  24. I aint buying it. “Tobacco smoke taste terrible.” That’s why cotton candy vapor won’t appeal to kids? Alcohol taste terrible too. When I was getting started (13, 14) I drank the sweetest stuff I could find. Sloe gin fizzes were a standard go to. They don’t have to get a kid to like the taste, they just have to get them to try it. Addiction may do the rest.

    1. I didn’t say that it won’t appeal to kids. It might, though so far what research has been done indicates that the enormous majority of vapers are adults who started as smokers. What I’m saying is that there are good reasons for adults to like flavors that some people consider “childish.”

      If kids are determined to try something, they will. Did stores sell you alcohol when you were 13? Did they sell you cigarettes? But you managed to get hold of them anyway. I find it a little shocking that they sell alcohol in packages that look like the juice packs you put in kids’ lunch boxes, but no one is trying to regulate THAT out of existence.

  25. Thanks for this. Articulate and thoughtful.

    I quit smoking (up to 4 packs a day of unfiltered for 45 years, plus Skoal chewing tobacco for when/where I was forbidden to smoke) with the help of e-cigs. As several others mentioned, I quit over night. I got set up with plenty of skinny batteries and cartridges of several flavors and strengths, and one night I had my last cigarette and the next morning I started vaping. It’s been 2 years and 7 months now, and I’ve only tried smoking twice since then – I couldn’t even finish one smoke. The taste was terrible.

    Also as several others mentioned, I began by looking for tobacco-flavored juices. It actually took me nearly a year to discover that I didn’t really like that flavor. Since then, I’ve settled on two basic flavors (sour cherry, and sour green apple) in maximum strength (36 mg/ml) juice. I find I have no inclination to give up nicotine. The side effects are minimal, easily monitored, and easy to correct with diet and exercise (which I now can do). I find the nicotine helps me concentrate and is calming. I am also of an age where the possibility that nicotine may help slow the onset of Alzheimer’s and/or Parkinson’s is becoming an appealing thought.

    It seems to be difficult to get real data, but where it is available, it seems that the vast majority of “children” who have taken up (as opposed to ‘tried) vaping seem to be mostly early smokers, so the “gateway effect” must be considered minimal. It seems to me that children are as entitled to be allowed to quit smoking as adults.

  26. I love seeing all these replies and testimonies about vaping and it’s positive effect on your lives, but people please…you took the time to share this with a complete stranger, please share this on the FDA comment page where we can make an impact! #vaporsunite

      1. These comments don’t need to comply or relate exactly to the regulations. What they need is our testimonies. The stories just as I see here. Our struggles and joys in the new found break away of constable tobacco. The ecigs we love, just the way they are.

  27. I myself am part of the vaping community! I was not a smoker before this experiment but picked it up as a hobby with my husband who was a smoker for 20+ years! I can proudly say my husband has been cig free for 3 months. And as well started vaping at 12 mg and is down to 3mg of nicotine! This has all been possible because of the wonderful vaping community! We have a few local shops that we give most of our business to and not only do they truly care about what they sell but they care about the people! I begged my hubby for years to give up that nasty habit as did our children and I can honestly say he feels better about himself and his health as well! I would be devastated after all his hard work if the government made vaping impossible for him!

  28. As a former smoker, 27 years, and a current vaper, almost 4 years exclusively, I can say you’ve nailed it here. My wife would say almost those exact words.
    The save the children mantra is a smokescreen and anyone who thinks e cigs will lead to smoking does not have a clue.
    Thank you for a well thought out and written piece, I wish this could be read on the floor of the senate.

    1. I’m encouraging vapers to get their family members involved, so perhaps there will be someone to speak on the Senate floor from the perspective of the non-smoker who has benefited from a loved one’s switch to vaping.

    1. Yes, I realize that some people do like tobacco flavors…though I am informed that tobacco flavored e-liquids don’t really taste like tobacco, or not like burnt tobacco.

  29. You wrote very well. I was a regular smoker but from the last six months, I have been vaping and it is a good experience for me. I have successfully quit smoking and feel better with the electronic cigarettes. I am also not much addicted to nicotine based e-cigarettes.

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