Making quitting easier, you baby
// Colin Spensley

Quitting smoking is hard. Really, really hard. Ask any sullen faced person who has four days of nicotine withdrawal, and they’ll probably spit in your face and call you an asshole. For many people, it takes more than willpower to beat their addiction to tobacco; hence, the various forms of nicotine replacements, such as nicotine gum and the nicotine patch. However, nicotine gum is old school, and we’re modern smokers and who need modern technology to help us quit. Thank god for the Electronic Cigarette, am I right? Not surprisingly, many people are skeptical, not least of all Health Canada.

The e-cigarette is a hand held device that looks like a cigarette, albeit a bit larger and with a fake glowing tip (like the real deal!). A battery and a heating element take up half its mass. The user inserts a cartridge housing a nicotine chemical formula, then inhales a vaporized mist of nicotine, propylene glycol, and other chemicals. Yum!

There is no actual smoke, as the nicotine oil is heated and released into your lungs as a vapour, and is thus touted as much healthier. The vapour, when exhaled, does look and smell like tobacco smoke. If that’s too bad-ass for you, nicotine free cartridges are available, so you can puff away on a piece of plastic for no fucking reason at all!

Smoking is as much of a social activity as it is a drug delivery system. One of the biggest excuses a smoker will give for not kicking the habit is that they worry their social life will decline. “But what will I do at the bar when I’m bored and want to go outside?” they will often tell you. “What will I do with my hands?” they will say. “I have busy hands and I need to be using them all the time.”

On the surface, the electronic cigarette does seem to be a great option for people to lessen the health risks of tobacco while maintaining their hand to mouth habits. It’s a bit more believable then the previously marketed nicotine inhalers that looked like tampons, and in the dark, thanks to that glowing tip, all your smoker buddies may even forget the fact you're switching teams.

“The main issue currently with e-cigs is quality control,” says Dr. Carl Phillips, a professor at the University of Edmonton in an interview with Daily Planet.

Phillips claims that most e-cig brands are made in China, and over a dozen counterfeit factories have been created in the blossoming industry. You may believe you’re inhaling a fairly standard mix of nicotine, water, and propylene glycol, but without regulations on these products, it’s impossible to tell what is in the nicotine cartages.

Additionally, as with many breakthroughs in technology, the long-term effects are not currently known. The Health Canada website states, “Although these electronic smoking products may be marketed as a safer alternative to conventional tobacco products and, in some cases, as an aid to quitting smoking, electronic smoking products may pose risks such as nicotine poisoning and addiction.”

So are e-cigs a good alternative to normal tobacco products? Many researchers and users would have you believe so. The vapour is much less harmful than smoke, and the chemicals used in the nicotine gel are by far less hazardous than the extra chemicals added to tobacco, which include formaldehyde and arsenic. However, with any new “health” product, a good amount of research is required to make an informed decision. Although you may feel like you’re making the switch to a cleaner form of nicotine inhalation, it is possible you’re simply sucking back a new form of toxic sludge instead.

How far are cigarette addicts willing to go before biting the bullet and just quitting? Smokers are a very social and inclusive group of people. They want you to be one of them, but take one step outside of their circle of respectability and that’s it, buddy. One of the main reasons that nicotine inhalers have never become popular was because they make you look like an idiot sucking on a plastic tampon. If you’re willing to stand outside in the rain huffing on a battery powered cigarette, you may as well just smoke.

// Colin Spensley, Writer
// Illustration by Alexandra Gordeyeva

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com