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An Alternative to Tobacco Smoke: E-Cigarettes

Posted by on January 27, 2014 . .

It is a simultaneously tragic and beneficial fact of life that some of the most costly diseases; both in human life and financial drain, are also the most preventable.  These are primarily diseases of habit and lifestyle whose prevention is a matter of personal choice. 

Numbered among them are cancer and heart disease.  One of the most egregious habitual life styles that are known to have a detrimental causal effect is tobacco smoking.  The habit affects not only the direct smoker but anyone else within range of second-hand smoke.

Smoking, like many other habits is a matter of choice.  While quitting smoking is a matter of choice, anyone who smokes knows that although the choice to quit may be easily made, the execution of the choice proves to be difficult in the extreme.  As some smokers say, “Quitting smoking is easy; I‘ve done it hundreds of times.”


What’s the trick?

Smokers wanting to quit their habit may ask this question to someone who has succeeded.  The trick, of course, is that there is no trick.  It is mind over matter: making the choice and enduring with that choice one day at a time, day after day.  Few who go through the process will readily admit that it is easy, but those who have succeeded will always say that it was worth it.

Once upon a time, a smoker had to rely on the will to quit with the possibility of others -- a life-coach, a minister, a psychologist, or a friend -- to supply encouragement and moral support.  Now, there are drugs, chewing gum, patches, banning of lighters, matches and snatches of ever increasing clock-time, all in an effort to avoid lighting up.

Many of our habits are formed in the idle time we spend in between activities that keep our mind focused on our daily lives: working, raising a family, household chores and recreation.  Simply eliminating a bad habit often leaves a void.  If that void is not filled by a good habit, it will just as likely be filled by returning to the old habit or creating a new bad habit.

We do not need to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.  Isn’t the idea to avoid the fire?  In the case of tobacco smoking, that is literally the idea.  While there are a number of alternatives noted above – and one or another of them may be effective depending on our personal circumstances – there is another alternative not yet noted: the electronic, or e-cigarette.


What is an electronic-cigarette?

You’ve seen them and may have wondered what exactly is going on.  It looks like a cigarette, but the light at the tip is not an open fire and the apparent smoke exhaled by the user is not smoke.  But if it looks like a cigarette, much like the duck routine (looks, quacks, walks), isn’t it a cigarette?  Wasn’t it just called a cigarette above?  

If it’s not a cigarette then why isn’t it called something else?  A vapor stick, a smoke no-no, or how about a PSD (personal (non)-smoking device) since we have evolved a culture of acronyms?

The fact is, like anything else, it matters little what it is called.  For convenience, it is called an e-cigarette and that is not likely to change since the device is now in its eleventh year of marketing in China; where it was invented, and its eighth year in the U.S.  We suppose the moniker carries the same logic that gave us “e-mail” when the message created is not on paper and is not “mailed” in the traditional sense.

The e-cigarette is a narrow tube, roughly sized to equate to the circumference and length of the traditional tobacco cigarette.  It is often white and may even feature the tan wrapping of a filter.  The color, however, is immaterial; it is strictly a matter of marketing and personal preference.  Black is a popular option with a variety of contrasting, vibrant “filter” colors like red and blue. But there is no filter and none is needed for e-cigarettes.

There are active and passive components contained in the tube.  The active components are: a rechargeable battery and circuitry, a heating element (atomizer) and a vial with a liquid solution (usually, the vial and atomizer are contained in a collective section).  The passive elements are: an LED and a mouthpiece cartridge.  Some e-cigarettes have the active components in disposable, replaceable sections, such as the atomizer/vial.  Others are assembled as a single unit that is discarded once the liquid is used up. 

While these elements are typically cigarette-shaped, as further development continues, a variety of alternatives are entering the market, such as a pipe-shaped option.

The battery provides power to the heating element that atomizes the liquid, which is then inhaled by the user.  Some brands make use of an electronic airflow sensor that will begin atomization when the user inhales; others feature a small button that must be pressed while using the device.  Rather than calling the action “smoking,” the preferred reference is “vaping.”  The exhaled vapor is little more than water vapor. 

The liquid combinations are varied in flavor for personal preference.  Some contain nicotine and some without nicotine.

The LED is located at the opposing end from the mouthpiece.  It illuminates during the atomizing process, mimicking the glow of burning tobacco when the smoker inhales.  It may be featured in a variety of colors in addition to red or yellow.

While there are some concerns and official investigations proceeding by such organizations as the FDA, CDC and WHO, there is little doubt that the replacement of tobacco smoking with vaping e-cigarettes is a healthier alternative than continuing with a tobacco habit.  And there is one factor appreciated by conscientious smokers and non-smokers: there are no discarded butts to litter the landscape and no risk of setting a forest on fire.

Tags: Alternative to Cigarettes, Suggestions, Support Last update: January 28, 2014
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