E-Cigarettes: Abstinence or Alternative Addiction?

Many of us are no stranger to the feeling of when, being slightly tardy on our return from the mid-lecture break, during which we barely managed to squeeze in a quick few drags, you slither into your seat soundlessly and cringe as everyone in your row sniffs at the odour that has accompanied your arrival, greeting you with short, sharp glare. The life of a smoker. For the satisfaction of our constant cravings, we empty our wallets, taint our fingernails, blemish our teeth and gums, mutilate our lips and, ultimately, sacrifice our health and well-being. Given the choice, almost all of us would happily abandon this addiction if we could. If only it was that easy. We’ve all tried the nicotine gums, sprays, and patches that supply a steady stream of nicotine into your bloodstream but they just don’t seem to work. Whether we abstain for a few days or a few weeks, the majority of the crowd will eventually return to the smoking area. Why?

To solve this conundrum, we must examine cigarette addictions closer. Of course, you have your biological dependence on nicotine, this being an extremely addictive substance that the body cannot seem to go without after a long enough period of exposure to it. In the absence of nicotine, we feel restless and frustrated. Even our tempers shorten as we snap at anyone unlucky enough to attempt conversation. The alluring thought of our next smoke ruthlessly governs our entire consciousness. Can all these undesirable attributes solely be triggered via the lack of a single chemical? It prevails that there may be another possible, but important, factor.

People seem to overlook the hypothesis that almost anything can become an addiction. If we carry out an activity regularly enough and integrate it into our daily routines over a lengthy period of time, its absence will cause us discomfort. So, do you still think that smokers attempting to quit are commonly seen chewing on pens, straws and all sorts because they are craving nicotine alone? No. What they so sorely miss is the feeling of the cigarette butt between their lips, the hard burn against the back of their throats, and the feeling of sour content as they emit the recycled smoke from between puckered chops. The argument for the major influence of psychological factors corresponds strongly with the fact that nicotine patches and other similar products tend to sway towards being ineffective in the majority of cases. However, there is a new product which has taken the market by storm.

The E-cigarette. Commonly mistaken for a real cigarette due to its uncanny resemblance, these plastic clones have been the reason behind hundreds to thousands of success stories on a global scale. Your average ‘E-cig’ consists of a small cartridge, which contains a vaporiser and flavoured nicotine solution, and a longer lithium-ion battery (either rechargeable or disposable) which powers the vaporiser, heating up the solution and causing vaporised nicotine to be discharged from the smaller cartridge (which acts as the butt of the “cigarette”). Its strength is in its ability to address both the chemical and mental addictions associated with the bad habit; it provides you with nicotine in every pull but also mimics the sensory sensations of smoking. All in all, the E-cigarette seems like the perfect solution for all the smokers out there that are trying to give up, but is there more to it than meets the eye?

Well, let us recap to what I mentioned about how anything can develop as an addiction. It is perfectly reasonable to predict that the addiction for the conventional cigarette may be substituted by a dependence on its electronic counterpart. A controversy surrounding their use is that there is, generally, no age restriction; they may possibly act as a preliminary gateway to later tobacco use through the initial exposure of nicotine to the body. There is the unmistakable danger of more curious children and teenagers moving on to real cigarettes.

However, a more critical question has arisen in conjunction with the conception of the E-cigarette – what are the long-term implications of inhaling pure, vaporised nicotine? With the freedom to smoke indoors and for as long as the rechargeable battery lasts, surely there must be some health risks associated with excessive nicotine intake? Well, research has yet to prove this and we cannot act on mere suspicion.

In the face of all the criticisms, I firmly advocate the view that E-cigarettes just may possibly be the answer to the prayers of doomed smokers everywhere. In my eyes, anything that can progressively make lung cancer less of a reality cannot be ruled out of being a beneficial product. The absence of the thousands of horrid chemicals that you would find in your conventional tobacco already makes them a safer bet. Even financially, smoking an E-cigarette will cost someone, on average, a third of what the regular smoker invests on an annual basis. Yes, governments definitely need to enforce age restrictions, and maybe the E-cigarette companies could attempt to make their products slightly more distinguishable from the conventional kind, purely for the comfort of others. However, we should not turn a blind eye to their positive impacts purely due to the speculation that excessive nicotine consumption could give rise to future health implications. Moderation is the key. My final say is that, if used sensibly, E-cigs are arguably the best substitutes for cigarettes at this current moment in time.

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