So you’ve started vaping, you have not had a cigarette in 4 weeks, you are justifiably proud of yourself. After all this is the longest period you’ve ever gone without a ciggie since you started smoking, and you’ve tried every method of quitting the old addiction known to man..
Then someone says it. And it’s like you got a paper cut and someone rubbed lemon juice into it….
‘You haven’t given anything up! You’ve just swapped one addiction for another!’
I think everyone who vapes has heard that at some point and boy is it annoying!
Worse still, for a new vaper who is still on the high of realising that it might actually be possible to escape slavery to the ciggies, that mean little comment is like a slap in the face. After 368 days cig free, hell I’m still amazed that I haven’t lit one up, even sneakily when no one was looking. Even after almost a year of reading about, and researching the science behind vaping and the nature of nicotine addiction, that throwaway cliché still makes my hackles rise.
Nevertheless, why is it so annoying? I know it’s not true. Yet when someone said it to me recently I felt so stung and indignant, I could have exploded.
Instead of exploding, and having removed myself from the company of the cliché-spouting offender, I started thinking a bit more objectively about it. Have we as vapers just swapped one ‘addiction’ for another, and if so have we truly ‘given anything up’ at all?
Let’s look at the first part of the statement, that’s the easy bit. When you decide to switch from smoking to vaping of course, you have given something up! In fact, you have given a LOT of somethings up!
Just look at what is added to a cigarette aside from tobacco. I’m not going to make a list, it would be waaay too long, because there is a LOT to list. In the mid-90’s, five major tobacco companies submitted a report of the additives in their cigarettes to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Aside from nicotine and tobacco, 598 additives were recorded as being added to the average cigarette.
In comparison, the list of ingredients in e-liquid is somewhat more manageable.
Basic e-liquid is pretty simple, Nicotine, Vegetable Glycerine, Propylene Glycol, and flavouring. Because e-juice comes in more flavours than found in cigarettes, it’s too difficult to produce a precise breakdown of the flavouring elements that could be found in every specific e-liquid.
However, it is also worthy of note that e-liquid containing nicotine bought from reputable vendors will have undergone testing as per TPD regulation and part of this was to reveal the sources of all ingredients used in the making of every individual juice, including the flavouring,ensuring full traceability should any issue arise. The flavouring manufacturers are subject to similar scrutiny, which means that all e-liquid purchased from a TPD compliant source has been certified as safe for human consumption and inhalation.
Likewise, the ingredients in the tobacco cigarettes described earlier have also been passed as safe for human consumption. However, that level of safety does not take into consideration the effect of combustion. The chemical properties of any given substance can change considerably after being burned. Burned substances, even foods, contain a far higher level of carcinogenic chemicals than in their original state. This is why around 4,000 further chemical compounds are created when a cigarette is lit. The action of an e-cigarette involves no combustion. There is a fair amount of heat involved to vaporise the e-liquid; however, it should never ignite and burn. The temperatures required for vaping never come close to those of a lit cigarette:
Cigarette temp without drawing:
Middle of the lit portion: 580°C / 1112°F
Cigarette temperature during drawing:
Middle of the lit portion: 700°C / 1292°F
Sobering stuff, and another poke in the eye for smokers who complain that your vapour is worse than their smoke. A cigarette does not conveniently stop burning between every inhale, it continues poisoning you and those around you for as long as it is lit and for some time after.
‘You haven’t given anything up…’ well I think we can put that one to bed right now.
Ok so I still vape e-juice with nicotine…what about the 500+ additives I’m not guzzling anymore? Furthermore, I now have control over the amount of nicotine present in the juice I am vaping, the only control a smoker has is to smoke fewer cigarettes – and as an ex-smoker, I know that is a lot easier said than done.
‘You’ve just swapped one addiction for another!’
This part is tougher, and after some lively forum discussion with other e-cig users on the Planet of the Vapes, I realised that it is because this part of the statement is ambiguous. It feels accurate but logically it is not. Furthermore, it is based on a moral judgement rather than intellectual reasoning. This is the part of the cliché that stings the most, and it is hard to argue with because it doesn’t actually make any sense.
- I smoked for nicotine. I vape for nicotine, therefore the statement is incorrect. It is the same addiction.
- I smoked for comfort. Like nail biting, eating when not hungry, a child with a dummy etc (hand/mouth action). I vape for the same reason, again the statement is incorrect. I am doing precisely the same thing.
- I used to smoke a lot. Now I vape a lot. Rather makes sense, BUT doesn’t! One thing switched for another, but where does the ‘addiction’ bit fit in? Are you just saying I’ve switched one hobby for another?
Confusing, but consider the negative moral judgement attached to the idea of ‘addiction’ and it starts to make sense. Addiction is not inherently unhealthy or harmful; however, society tells us otherwise.
Some of the people who responded to my forum questions saw their addiction in terms of vaping rather than nicotine,
Addictions are very very human.
The difference is that there are some quite unhealthy and destructive addictions and some that are rather harmless.
The dose creates the poison in most cases though….an addiction to sports is classified as good…too much of it may be unhealthy too.
Many people i know are addicted to coffee, sugar, smartphones, tv,…
Am i addicted to vaping? Yeah probably…so what?
Some saw it from a hobbyist /collector’s point of view,
I wouldnt say swapped addictions.. You are still addicted to nicotine your just feeding the addiction in a different way…
However the addiction to collecting as much shiny gear as possible is a whole new can of worms..
Others saw the issue in terms of harm reduction,
Being an addict to anything … drugs, gambling, exercise, collecting teapots, masturbating, whatever … is only a problem if it negatively impacts you or those around you. Caffeine and nicotine addiction are not particularly problematic in themselves, indeed they might have social benefits. However, nicotine addiction through smoking tobacco is injurious to health, both to yourself and others, so switching the delivery mechanism to vaping is a harm reduction strategy that allows you to continue your addiction in a far safer way. It’s a bloody good, positive step to take.
Describing the switch from smoking to vaping as merely replacing one addiction with another is not only a very negative perception of a positive and perfectly reasonable choice, it’s actually incorrect. It’s the same addiction to nicotine. But what you’ve quit are all the harmful and unwanted chemicals and emissions …What you’ve given up are most if not all the negative impacts of a nicotine addiction … for yourself and those around you.
Being an addict to anything is nothing to rejoice about, but quitting smoking certainly is. Remaining a nicotine addict is only a problem if it negatively impacts you or those around you.
Whether the addiction is to nicotine, to putting something in your mouth, or to a shiny new hobby remains a matter of debate. Personally, I do not believe that nicotine is as addictive as we have always been told. Every time I tried to quit and failed in the past, I would ‘excuse’ myself for the failure with that well-known platitude about nicotine being ‘as addictive as heroin’. It would also be at the front of my mind while I was trying to quit too…no wonder I always failed!
In addition, if it is all about the nicotine then why don’t the medically legitimised nicotine replacements, such as gum, sprays and patches have a much higher success rate?
Stop Smoking News looked at the success rates of the most common reasons for, and methods of quitting smoking.
Nicotine Gum: Success rate for getting smokers to quit cigarettes permanently: less than 1%
Nicotine Patch: Success rate for getting smokers to quit cigarettes permanently: about 4-5%
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) (vaping) Although e-cigs are not officially recognised as a cessation method: Success rate for getting smokers to quit cigarettes permanently: 30% or greater
Of course, e-cigarettes are not a legitimate smoking cessation method. I’m just sayin’…
Furthermore, does being ‘addicted’ to nicotine even pose that much of a danger to health? I think not, but these are all questions for another day, another blog.
So next time you hear someone tell you that you’ve given up nothing and just swapped one addiction for another – especially to you new vapers out there – don’t let it spoil your day!
They are either a smoker, jealous coz you’ve quit, OR a non-smoker feeling holier than thou. You got some verbal ammo to chuck back at them now if you so choose, but don’t question your decision to ‘swap’ based on an illogical and incorrect throwaway comment.
Remember this one thing, if nothing else – if smoking is 100% stupid then vaping comes in at 5% stupid. That’s not bad odds when it comes to making a decision about your wellbeing.
Keep yourself informed, and VAPE ON!
Sources and further reading: