I have wanted to broach the topic of vaping with readers for some time now but was frozen by indecision on how to introduce the subject and core issues. It’s a little complicated but nonetheless important, because state and federal legislative decisions will ultimately affect everyone, either directly or indirectly. And there are some things that just need to be said, because nobody else is saying them.
After much reflection, I think the best and most effective approach to the topic is chronological and anecdotal followed by an appeal to reason. For this, I will write a series of posts rather than one very long one.
Please know that I have researched vaping more than any other single writer I’ve read thus far, but I am by no means an authority. I’m not a health care provider, nor a lobbyist, pitchwoman or advocate. I was simply a news writer who suffered from a 30-year addiction to cigarettes.
I started smoking Djarum cloves as a teenager in 1984, then switched to Marlboros in 1986. I smoked about a pack a day for 30 years. In the ‘90s, at the urging of family, I attended smoking cessation classes. They helped me cut back a bit but, ultimately, I failed to quit mainly because everyone in my social circle smoked.
In the ‘00s, I tried the patch and Wellbutrin. The patch nearly landed me in the hospital due to an adverse reaction. Given this, I never tried the gum. Wellbutrin helped me feel less anxious, which allowed me to go longer periods of time without smoking, but it didn’t help me overcome my engrained routines, such as the relaxing after-dinner smoke. I never tried Chantix for this reason — as well as the horror stories associated with it.
None of the cessation products or methods addressed the pacifier-like oral fixation of smoking. The oral fixation is why so many people gain weight while trying to quit. I’ve battled weight gain my whole life, so this was another disincentive to quitting.
This funny video clip from the series “Frasier” pretty much summed up smoking for me.
While living in Europe, smoking was much more socially acceptable. But when I returned to the U.S., I realized I had to finally quit. Every time I lit up in California, the way people looked at me was blatantly disdainful. Honestly, I think they’d be less offended if I mainlined heroine. Yet, these hypocrites give you thumbs up if you spark a joint. Go figure.
In 2015, nobody in my new California social circles smoked, and I didn’t want to let on that I did. So any cigarette became an ordeal — the hiding out, the breath mints, the air fresheners, the fabric sprays. But I didn’t quite feel ready to quit. So I decided to try e-cigs.
When I left for Europe in 2013, Blu e-cigs were starting to gain a foothold in local retail stores, like CVS. I had never seen anyone vape. In fact, I don’t think “vaping” was even in our lexicon. Then I return in 2015, and behind the counter of a local Walgreens there are about eight brands covering half a wall – twice the shelf space of cigarettes.
I tried a few brands and flavors and noticed they gave me an intense head rush, which eventually passed. For a few months I secretly smoked when I had time alone and secretly vaped when I didn’t. Over the course of a few months, I just stopped buying cigarettes. It wasn’t the momentous event it should’ve been. I simply didn’t crave them anymore.
But this story doesn’t have a happy ending – not yet anyway.
During the last five years, I’ve been deceived by online vaping articles and blogs; lied to in product advertising; scared by rumors and vague stories of exploding e-cigs; seen prices exceed the cost of cigarettes due to new state taxes; been shamed and harassed by non-smokers who think vaping looks ugly and stupid; witnessed grotesque disinformation campaigns about mysterious e-cig deaths; heard countless and increasingly outlandish “news” reports portraying vaping as more dangerous than cigarettes; and watched at least a hundred public service announcements (PSAs) on television that are throwbacks to the stupid “This is Your Brain on Drugs” campaign or equivalent to modern outtakes from “Reefer Madness.”
Here’s one from the group Tobacco Free California.
By the way, California legalized recreational marijuana use last year. Nobody reports on how that has affected teenagers. Even when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced that the vape-related deaths year were all linked to black market THC vape, the focus remained on teen vaping of legal retail products. There’s virtually zero discussion or concern about teens using high concentrations of THC.
And now, the most effective smoking cessation product in history may be banned; if not by the federal government, then by the states. Why? Because teenagers find it cool. What sort of f**king clown world am I living in?!
Vaping has helped 1.1 million people quit smoking in the U.K. alone, according to reports, and yet teen vaping hasn’t caught on there. What are they doing right compared to the U.S.?
In the U.S., the CDC claims cigarette smoking is responsible for 480,000 deaths a year — that’s 1,300 deaths a day. Compare this to vaping, which produced approximately 2,000 lung illnesses and about 42 deaths over 20 years. Again, however, those deaths are not tied to vaping products sold legally.
At every turn, the truth is constantly hidden. Nobody bothers to fully explain the pros and cons of cessation products; the public benefits of vaping; the laws already in place to protect kids and the lack of enforcement; the disincentives to use legal products created by aggressive taxes; the dangers of black market vape; the differences in devices and nicotine liquids; the influence of big tobacco; the best way to use vape for cessation; the marijuana/THC offshoot micro-market; or what actually killed all those people this year.
To be clear, vaping is not “safe.” To be safe, don’t vape or smoke anything at all. Period. You’ll save yourself a lot of agony and a lot of money. But for those who suffer from cigarette addiction, vaping is a “safer” alternative. Vape liquid doesn’t contain tar, and most legal non-salt vapes made in the U.S. do not contain the chemicals found in cigarettes, such as ammonia and formaldehyde. And vaping, unlike cigarettes, does not increase carbon monoxide levels in the blood.
Switching should be encouraged, but in a manner that allows a person to step down and step off. This will make more sense in an upcoming post, I promise.
I believe there is a way to promote vaping for smoking cessation while widely reducing access to teenagers who haven’t vaped, and perhaps help those who already do to quit.
In the meantime, if you have Netflix and are interested in the topic of vaping, I recommend checking out S-01:E-02 of the documentary series “Broken.” The episode is called “Big Vape.” It more insightful than most, but it also dishes up a lot of the same ol’ same ol’ garbage and overlooks key things. Overall, I think it’s at least trying to treat the topic fairly.