The Vape Debate
Posted by: Stephen Rigby at 17:19, September 21 2015.

The rise in the use of e-cigarettes was inevitable. E-cigarettes were supposedly developed as a “safe” delivery system for nicotine under the belief that the need to smoke is a need for nicotine. This “reason” for the development of e-cigarettes is questionable and safety of this delivery system prompted a request from the World Health Organisation to ban e-cigarettes.

I have been helping smokers to stop smoking since 2002 and I provide a stop smoking service in Guildford and Woking. The reasons why someone smokes are complex but the role of chemical addiction is questionable. We are always told that nicotine is “highly addictive” but it does not behave how one would expect a highly addictive substance to behave. If one were to repeatedly inject heroin into someone they would become addicted to heroin and start to crave it. Nicotine is supposed to be more addictive than heroin but prior to the smoking ban, non-smokers were constantly enveloped in a shroud of cigarette smoke in the work place, pubs, restaurants, cinemas, public transport etc. etc. and I never heard of any non-smoker who claimed enjoyment of that or craved returning to a smoky atmosphere from which they had just escaped.

What is Addiction?

Chemical addiction is a process whereby an external chemical becomes incorporated into one of the body’s normal chemical reactions. One could say that the more readily the body does this, the more addictive the chemical can be described as being. In this respect, nicotine could be described as being more addictive than heroin – but there again so could salt or sugar. It is, however, not how addictive a chemical is that is the problem but the effect of not getting the chemical after the body starts to expect it – the withdrawal.

When one considers that the majority of smokers roll over and go back to sleep (or go for a pee) when they wake in the night, one might conclude that withdrawal symptoms from nicotine, if there are any, are not significant enough to wake one up. By comparison, the withdrawal symptoms from heroin will deprive the addict of sleep and can kill; yet there exists a belief (normally in smokers) that it is harder to give up heroin than to stop smoking.

If the reason why smokers smoke was due to nicotine alone there would not be questions over effectiveness of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

Can e-Cigarettes Help One Stop Smoking?

There is an indication that “Vaping”, e-cigarettes may help people quit smoking but only when the e-cigarette does not look like a conventional cigarette. The research indicates that image is a component in the complex explanation of why people smoke or continue to smoke and my experience is that the more a smoker links their image to smoking, the harder they will find it to quit. Unfortunately, what the research did not indicate is whether those that stopped smoking using e-cigarettes were then trapped in a habit of “vaping”.

Why do Smokers Smoke?

Some clues as to why a smoker smokes and has difficulty stopping is in what they find most enjoyable about smoking. Generally it is not the taste, the smell or anything else about smoking but the activities they engage in while smoking. The smoking ban made it difficult for smokers to engage in many of the social activities they associated with smoking (much to the enhancement of the non-smoking majority’s social lives). As a “safe” means of taking nicotine, e-cigarettes are promoted as something that can be used in places where smoking is illegal. The reality is, however, that many people find the atmosphere created by those using e-cigarettes unacceptable and they are being banned from the premises of many businesses and the use of e-cigarettes in public places will become illegal in Wales in 2017.

Hooked on Nicotine Replacement?

I have assisted many people to break habits and my experience is that it is harder to quit a habit involving a nicotine replacement product than it is to stop smoking. My “stop vaping” service in Guildford to help people to break the habit of using e-Cigarettes differs significantly from my “stop smoking” service to take into consideration this observation.

My concern with e-cigarettes is that society will go through the same torturous process as it did with smoking – aggressive marketing (the big names in cigarette production are also manufacturing e-cigarettes); governments will delay taking action because of an ongoing “are they safe, are they dangerous” debate (just as with cigarettes) and this technological toy will enslave generations of immature image conscious young people to a habit that is harder to break than tobacco, providing more revenue to a heartless industry that has already knowingly killed millions of people.