Vaping / e-cigarettes

So I mentioned electronic cigarettes, or personal vaporizers (PVs for short) yesterday, so I figured I’d spend a little time explaining, for those who may be unfamiliar with the devices.

I’m not going to spend too much time talking about what a PV is, or how they work. Those topics have been well covered, some examples are here, here, and here. In essence, an electronic cigarette works by vaporizing a solution of nicotine, flavoring, and either Propylene Glycol (PG) or Vegetable Glycerin (VG), called e-liquid. This creates a water vapor that’s inhaled by the user. This results in an act that looks and feels like smoking, “smoke” exhalation and all.

Now, some people are offended by PVs just like they’re offended by traditional (or “analog”) cigarettes, which can be explored philosophically at a later time. The interesting thing, though, is that PVs are (arguably) harmless.

I want to stress the use of the word “arguably” a second ago – there is a lot of debate about PVs right now. The FDA has tried to pull the devices as drug delivery devices. Currently, the courts have ruled that they are to be regulated as tobacco products, easing the immediate possibility of FDA regulations. There is much discussion about this, you can hit up Google for the narrative, or you can look at a few examples here, here, here, and here.

There are many discussions about the safety of the devices as well, with an FDA report published after testing some low quality imported e-liquids and finding some potentially dangerous compounds. The School of Public Health at Boston University, however, found that there was nothing to worry about. The point of all this is that the contents of the e-liquids certainly demand further study. Personally, I believe, if nothing else, electronic cigarettes are far less bad for you than a traditional tobacco cigarette. This opinion comes from the understanding that nicotine, while an addictive and somewhat toxic alkaloid, is not currently known to be a carcinogen. The carcinogens found in tobacco cigarettes are largely due to additives. We consume pretty much everything in an electronic cigarette liquid daily – PG and VG are bases for many food products we consume, the flavoring is (so far as I have found) food-grade natural and artificial flavoring, and nicotine is also found (in varying quantities) in other members of the nightshade family of plants, such as tomatoes and eggplant.

Does all this mean that vaping, the term coined for using a PV, is safe? Not necessarily. Given current evidence, though, it is stripping arguably all of the carcinogens out of the activity. But PVs warrant further study. Also remember that the addictive substance in a cigarette is still nicotine, which is delivered by a PV.

With all that said, I am a big proponent of electronic cigarettes. Smoking is a very tough habit to kick – I know. I’ve tried to quit a number of times in my life (once for 3 years), and have managed to fall back on smoking every time. PVs are not, however, a smoking cessation aid. It is an alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes. In other words, if you don’t smoke now, don’t start smoking, and equally, don’t start vaping. But vaping has been very good to me. I feel much like I have after a few months of not smoking (comparing to previous attempts). I no longer have a classic smoker’s cough, I can breathe better, my senses of smell and taste improve a little more each day.

I’m also vaping indoors, as the water vapor exhaled from a PV is not riddled with tar and other nastiness. It often smells much like the flavor I’m vaping (peanut butter cup, pomegranate, and green tea are some of my current favorite flavors), and that aroma dissipates very quickly. No longer do I (or my clothes or surroundings) smell like an ashtray.  Vaping smells much, much better!

Perhaps, in time, I’ll drop the vaping habit as well, but in the mean time, I’m enjoying the fact that I’m not shivering out in the freezing cold just for a smoke, and I’m relishing the fact that I’m not winded so easily (I’m still way out of shape, but that’s a whole different discussion!).

If you smoke, I personally recommend that you look into vaping as a less-bad-for-you alternative. It can be a little intimidating at first, I’ll start posting about some of the different vendors and products with which I have experience, and the comments and email are always good ways to be inquisitive!


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