Can e cigarettes help you quit smoking?

Essentially, that question is up to you! It’s a highly personal choice and really depends on your perspective.

First things first though…you should know that e-cigarettes are not allowed to be marketed or portrayed as a smoking cessation method in the US. They are not FDA approved for that purpose, and scientific data is still coming in on how effective it might be for quitting. So if you are looking for an officially sanctioned smoking cessation method to quit, ecigs aren’t it. eCigs are still very new and there are still scientific, legislative, and public perception hurdles to overcome.

Early data is showing some promise for it being effective. Results from a recent study showed it to be as effective as the nicotine patch. The number was actually higher than the patch, but the low number of participants made the difference statistically insignificant, so they were considered equal in effectiveness. More upcoming studies and studies underway will tell us over time if that holds true.

All that being said, the primary reason most people start using e-cigarettes is obviously to stop using tobacco cigarettes. Since they’re replacing one habit for another and there’s usually still nicotine being used (although zero nicotine e-liquid can be used), it’s generally viewed as a possible harm reduction strategy rather than “quitting smoking”.

The thing to keep in mind is quitting tobacco cigarettes is extraordinarily difficult. It’s an incredible mental and physical battle, even if just switching to ecigs…people who have never smoked have no idea just how hard it can be. There’s been some indication that there’s something unique going on with tobacco cigarettes that doesn’t happen with just nicotine. A primary culprit still being studied is that tobacco cigarettes contain MAOI’s (essentially, anti-depressants), which might be resulting in a one-two punch of addiction. By contrast, the evidence indicates nicotine by itself may only be moderately or even weakly addictive.

One of the biggest problems is in the fact that in the past, there was just no substitute for tobacco cigarettes that mimics smoking. You’d either be smoking cigarettes or not. There’s been nothing to fill the void of getting nicotine, the throat hit, and something visible to exhale. For example, when you change your diet, you can substitute unhealthy foods for healthy ones and that fills the void, especially if you learn to make the healthy foods taste really good and learn to like them. With tobacco cigarettes, that traditionally wasn’t the case. That void and lack of any real substitute is a big factor that drives people back to cigarettes again and again.

That factor alone is the driving force behind the surge in popularity of e-cigarettes as an alternative and possible harm reduction strategy for people and those around them. Simply being able to substitute a very harmful activity for a perhaps less harmful one is a huge thing for most cigarette smokers.

Something else that’s important to understand about people new to e-cigarettes, is often they are expecting it to be exactly like a cigarette. While the inhalation, exhaling, nicotine hit, and vapor production is very similar to a cigarette, it’s not quite the same in other ways. For example, it’s never going to taste exactly the same as a tobacco cigarette. The only thing that tastes like burning tobacco is burning tobacco…it’s that simple.

However, the upshot is when they get used to vaping instead and accept that fact. With the right products it can actully taste better and is much more enjoyable.

The other difference is the weight of an e-cigarette is a bit different to hold and use in some way than a traditional cigarette. In most cases it’s best to think of it almost as a portable hookah and hold it as such…almost like putting a pen or straw in your mouth.

There’s some other pretty cool benefits to keep in mind. First is the lack of smell with e-cigarettes…or often a good smell if there is any. Smelling like a stale ashtray is no longer a concern with e-cigarettes at all. People often report feeling much better too. Another minor benefit (or major, depending on perspective) is since there’s no real beginning and end to an e-cigarette, users don’t really have to worry if they have enough time for a smoke. They can take a hit or two and put it down and pick it up again as necessary…no mess and no fuss.

An important thing to remember with e-cigarettes though, is the nicotine still makes it addictive, and the health effects are not definitive yet (although the research done so far is promising).

One way some people do use it to try and quit nicotine completely, is by starting with stronger (18 – 24mg) cartridges and liquids, then steadily lowering the nicotine level of the juice and/or cartridges they buy. But remember in the meantime you are still maintaining an addiction to nicotine unless you jump straight over to zero nicotine juices. Most people try and taper down nicotine levels in their juice over time.

The bottom line is some people will choose to use it as a possible harm reduction strategy, and some may choose to use it to try and eventually stop using anything…again, like we mentioned above just keep in mind that it’s not officially considered a smoking cessation method, so making the decision to switch means you’re taking some unknown risks. You should also discuss what you’re thinking about doing with your doctor. That’s especially important if you have known medical issues. Also, some people have sensitivity to either propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine, (the two main humectants used to produce the vapor in ecigs), as well as some flavorings.

Updated: September 23, 2013 by eCigFreak

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