To Vape or Not To Vape?

SEFF 2012 004Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of things in the news regarding eCigarettes. Most of what I’ve been hearing about is that they are bad for you, or that they need to be regulated. It seems that somebody did a study and discovered that teenagers are trying electronic cigarettes at an alarming rate.

Why do I even care about this? Do I care that the kids are getting hooked on it? Nope. It’s up to their parents to talk to their kids and teach them responsibility for themselves and their health. Do I care about electronic cigarettes because I feel that the government has the right to regulate these so that they can potentially tax them and bring in more revenue? Nope. After all, the government is even more irresponsible than the teenagers so they would just waste whatever revenue they made on these regulations.

I care about this because Jay has been using the electronic cigarettes in order to quit smoking. As of the writing of this post it has been 80+ days since Jay last smoked a real cigarette. He smoked his last one on July 14th and hasn’t touched another one since then. I am very proud of him because I know how hard it is to give up something that you’re addicted to. I’ve been trying to give up sugar, but I’m not strong enough to do so. I asked Jay some questions regarding the electronic cigarettes, but I’ll save those for the end.

First, let’s talk about the electronic cigarettes themselves. From the V2 Cigs website: “An electronic cigarette, also known as an e-cig or e-cigarette, is a device which heats liquid containing nicotine to produce vapor. This vapor is then inhaled by the user and acts as a nicotine-delivery system. E-cig enthusiasts enjoy the act of “smoking” without the smoke, ash, combustion or odor of traditional tobacco cigarettes.” There are some people who really are into smoking these e-cigs and trying all kinds of flavors, which is referred to as ‘vaping’ since you are inhaling the vapor from the electronic device.  So what is this liquid that they are vaping? It all depends on which supplier you get your liquid from and what they prefer to use. Jay has been introduced to a vendor called ECBlend and he buys their liquid exclusively so we’ll look at their ingredient list. Per their website they describe the liquid base in which the nicotine is placed: “Flavors and nicotine are dissolved in hygroscopic components, which turn the water in the solution into a smoke-like vapor when heated. Commonly used hygroscopic components include propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), and polyethylene glycol 400(PEG 400).  ECBlend uses PG and VG. ECBlend does not dilute any of its base liquids with distilled water or ethyl alcohol (Note: ethyl alcohol is included in the ingredients on our e-liquid bottles because it is included in our concentrate flavors by our manufacturers.)”

Hmmm…. this sounds interesting. Since Jay is inhaling something with PG and VG let’s look at those ingredients a little closer. “All three liquid bases are common food additives used in a variety of pharmaceutical formulations.

Propylene glycol, the current dominating liquid base, has been utilized in asthma inhalers and nebulizers since the 1950s, and because of its water-retaining properties, is the compound of choice for delivering atomized medication. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes propylene glycol on its list of substances Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), and it meets the requirements of acceptable compounds within Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

ECBlend uses only 100% USP Food Grade Kosher Propylene Glyocol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG).  (There are no animal by-products in either our PG or VG.)”

After reading this I would have to say that I’m okay with Jay inhaling this stuff. In fact, I can’t find it now, but there was a study done by a doctor back in the 1950’s where he discovered that rats who inhaled PG regularly were much less likely to get sick as compared to the control group. Both groups were exposed to germs and the rats who were breathing in the PG never got sick. A few weeks ago Jay started coming down with a bit of a cold that we was so kindly given by one of his coworkers. Jay had symptoms for a day, maybe two. His coworker (and me once I caught it) dealt with congestion and mucus for at least a week.

It doesn’t seem to matter what a person does because there will always be one person who will have an issue with it. Why did they ban smoking in public areas? Because the smoke was horrible and poses a health risk to others who have to breathe it in. There were a few whiners in the group and they spoiled it for everybody. Whenever the government comes out and starts harassing us about smokers they always cite all of the chemicals that are being inhaled from the burning of the tobacco and what it does to your lungs. These electronic cigarettes eliminate all of those issues, and yet it’s not enough.

When will people ever be happy? When you go onto the CDC’s website all of their stats deal with the issues stemming from the actual chemicals being burned in the tobacco and released into the air. In fact, one of the suggestions that they give for helping a person to quit smoking is to use a nicotine inhaler! Yet, once a popular form of the nicotine inhaler really starts to gain traction the people who are losing out on it (tobacco companies, pharmaceutical companies, etc) pressure the politicians into regulating the product that is cutting into their profits. If the government begins to regulate electronic cigarettes it could make a pack of cigarettes the cheaper alternative. If you can’t afford the apparatus that would best help you to quit smoking then why bother? It’s just like the common complaint that healthy food is more expensive and therefore people tend to buy the junk food because it’s all that they can afford.

I am very skeptical about this study that has been done regarding these teenagers and their apparent addiction to the electronic cigarettes. Let me tell you why I’m a bit skeptical that they are correctly interpreting the data:

1) The findings from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, in today’s  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, show that the percentage of high school  students who reported ever using an e-cigarette rose from 4.7 percent in 2011  to 10.0 percent in 2012.

First off, they state that “students who reported EVER using an e-cigarette“… it doesn’t say that these kids took up vaping on a regular basis. It says that they reported that they had ever used an e-cigarette. If I were asked this question I would have to say that yes, in 2012 I used an e-cigarette but I hadn’t used one at all in 2011. Taking just that sentence you could assume that I meant that I had started vaping. Nope. I’ve tried Jay’s different flavors now and again just to see what they taste like. Does that mean that I’m hooked? Am I now a nicotine fiend?? Per this report, yes.

2) The study also found that 76.3 percent of middle and high school  students who used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days also smoked conventional  cigarettes in the same period. In addition, 1 in 5 middle school students who  reported ever using e-cigarettes say they have never tried conventional  cigarettes.

Let’s pretend that they only asked 100 kids about their e-cigarette use just to make things a little easier. We have 77 kids (I’m rounding up because you can’t have .3 of a kid, though sometimes you might wish that’s all there was walking around) who are smokers and they have tried the e-cigarettes. Isn’t this a good thing? Shouldn’t we be urging them to use the electronic cigarettes as a tool to stop smoking? After all, even though nicotine is a drug that they are hooked on all of the documentation regarding the health risks of smoking are concentrated on the actual carcinogens in the tobacco. If these kids start using the e-cigarettes then they can dramatically decrease their health risks.

This stat also means that 23 kids aren’t traditional smokers and haven’t taken up smoking in the last 30 days despite the fact that they might have tried the electronic ones. To be fair I suppose that one of those 23 kids could be a huge vaping fan, but again, isn’t that a good thing since they aren’t inhaling the thousands of horrible things found in tobacco smoke?

One other thing that I want to point out is that they use the stat that “1 in 5 middle school students who reported ever using e-cigarettes say they have never tried conventional cigarettes.” This is a little deceiving because all of the stats up to this point use both high school AND middle school students, but for this one they decide to use just the middle school kids? There again, though, it doesn’t appear to me that this stat is saying that kids are going to get hooked on e-cigarettes instead of regular cigarettes. So, 20% of the middle school students who ever even took one puff off of an e-cigarette never tried conventional cigarettes. Big deal. Your bigger issue should be trying to get the 80% of middle school students off of the conventional cigarettes. Why are we worried about the 20% when we should be focused on the 80%?

“These data show a dramatic rise in usage of e-cigarettes  by youth, and this is cause for great concern as we don’t yet understand the  long-term effects of these novel tobacco products,” said Mitch Zeller, director  of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

I won’t get started on my dislike of the government telling me what is and is not good for me, so I’ll pass by that part of the statement. A dramatic rise in the usage of e-cigarettes?? I think that the misinterpretation of the data is screwing this whole analysis up. As per usual, the government is causing problems where there might not be any issues. We can look to see what ingredients are being used in the e-liquids. Let’s use ECBlend’s list, as an example. We don’t know the long-term effects of these products?? Food grade Propylene Glycol has been used in inhalers and medicinal atomizers for decades and we don’t know the long-term effects? Perhaps the government should start restricting the use of them among teenagers. But once again I have to ask why isn’t the government more worried about the 76% of teenagers who are smoking conventional cigarettes??

I guess that the most important thing that you should take away from my blog post is the thought that as long as the ecigarettes are helping people to quit smoking, and improving their health, then isn’t it worth it? Yes, continue to do studies about the effects of the liquid on your health, but don’t regulate it beyond the reach of the common person who wants to quit. I firmly believe that the electronic cigarette is a better way for a smoker to quit because not only are they trying to overcome the nicotine addiction, but they also have the added dimension of needing to do something with their hands. Have you ever heard somebody who quit smoking say that they didn’t know what to do while driving or eating? That’s when they would typically smoke and when they don’t have the physical thing to handle they feel even more deprived.

I’m not a smoker, but I grew up in a household with two smokers and then I married one. What bothers me the most about cigarettes is not only the health risks, but also how dirty and stinky they are. I used to hate using the computer after my dad was done because he smoked while he sat at it and there would be ashes on the desk and keyboard. When one of my parents would be smoking in the room it seemed like the smoke always drifted over towards me so I would have to move from where I was sitting to get away from the cloud. Even with Jay I disliked finding his spent butts in the pop cans or beer bottles that I was rinsing out for recycling.

eCigs HolderJay’s e-cigarettes have taken on a life of their own in our house. He made wooden blocks for various rooms (and even one for his car) that can hold his various cigarettes. You see, he can’t have just one; he has to have at least half a dozen flavors ready to be vaped at all times. That way you can vape according to your mood. The thing about the liquid is that you can choose the strength of nicotine that is in it; from the very strongest all the way down to nothing. In this way you can slowly work on weaning yourself off of it.

 

Ecigs 4There are all different flavors, strengths, and accessories. You can even buy a couple of flavors and try your hand at mixing your own custom flavor.  I have tried a couple of the flavors and they aren’t bad. In fact, there are a couple of flavors that I enjoy smelling as Jay is vaping. I would much prefer to smell the scent of strawberry as compared to that horrid smell that a conventional cigarette gives off.

The best part of the electronic cigarettes, though, is that I’m no longer worried about Jay’s health. He was starting to get that smoker’s cough and it had me worried. My parents both have the cough and I dread to see what their lungs look like. I want them to live a long life, especially if they ever have grandchildren, but I can’t tell them to stop smoking. My sister used to try it when she was younger and it just angered my parents. It would kind of be like somebody continuously telling me to lose weight. It’s not that easy and you just need to keep your nose out of it.

Anyway, I asked Jay a few questions regarding e-cigarettes and his opinion on them:

Kerry: What made you decide to quit smoking?

Jay: It was partly due to laziness, but it wasn’t a conscious decision. It just sort of happened.

K: How much research did you do on the eCigarettes?

J: None. I just… well, you got me the V2’s and that’s what I was using when I had my last cigarette. I didn’t get into the more serious ones (ECBlends) until Sam got me hooked.

K: It didn’t bother you that you could be sucking other bad things into your lungs with the ecigarettes than what you had been sucking into your lungs with regular cigarettes?

J: There are 4,000 known chemicals in a cigarette. There’s no possible way that propylene glycol, distilled water, vegetable glycerin, and artificial flavorings can generate 4,000 chemicals through noncombustion. See, combustion is a funny process. There are all kinds of different interactions of chemicals in the combustion process. The coil doesn’t get hot enough to combust anything, it’s just heating it up enough to vaporize the liquid.

K:But the vapors are releasing something into the air, doesn’t it worry you to suck that into your lungs?

J: Most of what I have is water based. There is minimal exposure to any chemical. It’s not combusting so it’s not changing the molecular structure. When you vaporize nicotine most of it goes up in the vapor. A tank of nicotine is lethal if you drink it, but I can vaporize it and get only a touch of what is actually in there.

Ecigs 3K:What do you like best about your electronic cigarettes?

J: All of the cool different flavors and colors. It’s bling. It’s carry-around bling. It satisfies every need: nicotine, taste, and a toy to play with.

 

 

eCig comparisonK: It doesn’t make you feel less manly to carry around such a large toy to smoke on?

J: Nope. While the other “men” have to go outside to smoke, I can sit wherever I’m at and puff on my cigarette.

K:What’s your least favorite thing about them?

J: Trying to decide what flavors to order. There isn’t really a downside.  As with anything mechanical you have to maintain and care for them, but it’s become another thing for me to learn. I have to know how to clean the wicks, clean out the tanks, keep the battery charged. The really cool thing is that you can take any combination of flavors and mix your own recipe to come up with a customized flavor.

K: Do you feel that there’s any legitimacy to the claims that the various flavors are actually a way to market to kids?

J: NO. If they were marketing to kids you would see more commercials on network TV. You would see them during races and football games, and I’ve never seen one ad for any kind of cigarette, electronic or otherwise.

K:If they start to regulate the e-cigarettes and it becomes more expensive to smoke these as compared to real cigarettes, would you stop ‘vaping’ and instead return to the regular cigarettes?

J: No. Before it would be regulated I would get a large stash of juice that would last me a long time.

K: Do you plan on getting down to the 0 nicotine level? If so, would you continue to vape?

J: Eventually I plan on getting down there. I’m not going to put myself on a timeline. When I quit smoking it wasn’t due to a timeline, it was a choice between turning right or left. I turned left and went to work instead of turning right to go buy cigarettes. I didn’t give much thought to it, actually, on the first day that I quit. It was easy and it got easier every day after that. In the morning when I get out of work I walk by the smokers hanging out by the door smoking, I walk through the cloud generated and it doesn’t bother me.

K: Would you say that your smoking habit was more of a physical thing (having to have something for your hands to do) as compared to a nicotine habit?

J: Oh, it was definitely an addiction to nicotine. I can’t suck on an ecig with zero nicotine for long before getting edgy.

K: You tried the medicine to quit before?

J: I was on one month’s worth of Chantix. It was okay. It made me hungry all of the time, but I never had the weird dreams. The prescription ran out and when I tried to get it renewed my healthcare wouldn’t cover it. I’m not going to pay $150 a month for the medicine. Even when I was on the pills I was still smoking, so it didn’t really help me to quit. I can plan for a lot of different things, but it almost always goes out the window. I lose interest quickly and that’s it.

K: Do you think that you would have ever tried to quit if the ecigarettes hadn’t come along?

J: Again, it’s not a matter of me trying. It just has to be a set of circumstances where I decide right then that I will take it or leave it.

K: What do you usually tell people about the ecigs?

J: It’s like what I tell people about skydiving: it’s not for everybody. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, but I’m not going to force it onto anybody. I’m not the same as everybody else; what might work for me might not work for everybody else. It’s cheap enough to try. Spend $60 on a typical starter kit and give it a try for a couple of weeks.

K:  You’ve been cigarette free for 80+ days. What benefits have you seen so far?

J: I can smell the cats. Lol  I don’t feel the need to have to go smoke in my own basement when we have company, or go sit outside. I can smoke where ever. I don’t get winded as easily so obviously my lungs are beginning to heal. I can definitely feel a physical difference. I don’t remember the last time that I coughed. The stuff that I breathe in at work now has more of an impact on my coughing. It’s easier for me to count the hazardous things that I’m NOT breathing in at work than what I am.

 

I hope that this post was somewhat informative for you. As with anything you should do the research and determine if it will work for you. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section and if I don’t know the answer I can probably get Jay to give it to me.

 

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One Response to To Vape or Not To Vape?

  1. Jamie says:

    Very interesting topic for a post! I hadn’t read that the government was trying to control e-cigarettes, but it doesn’t surprise me. I agree that it is none of their business – people have a right to do what they want. If it is hazardous to their health, well, that’s their responsibility. Make the information available and let them choose.

    I did not know that you could get flavors for e-cigs, either. It’s a creative idea, though!

    Does it not strike anyone else as ironic that the government is looking to give itself more responsibilities when the current government shut down is screaming for the world to see that they can’t even handle what they’ve already taken on? Morons…

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