Tuesday 16 September 2014

Electric Cigarettes, awful, irritating, ugly stupid things

I have so far remained pretty silent on the subject of e-cigarettes on both this blog, and the internet in general. Mostly because when I was using them, I didn't want to get into an argument about it, and since I have stopped using them, I have not really given them as much thought, and I still don't want to get into an argument about it either. Let it be said though, that without them I would almost certainly still be smoking twenty odd cigarettes a day (more at weekends) rather than occasionally blagging one when I am proper drunk. I am now a non-smoker, and without the electric fags, I would never have managed to quit. So they are good ok? That's my current position.

To briefly outline my story here, after turning 35, I had the chance to buy a house, and realised that my life was actually quite good, I was very happy with my wife, stepkids and menagerie of animals and prolonging my existence seemed a good idea. At which point I decided my original pension plan of drinking and smoking myself into an early grave was possibly a bit dumb, and began the process of trying to be a bit healthy. So as a smoker of some 20-something years standing, I thought I'd give the electric ones a try, as they were clearly going to be better for me than the real ones. I did, and they worked, I even preferred them to the real ones after a week or so, and stopped smoking proper fags entirely. With no willpower required, and no crazy mood swings and nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Also, I didn't have to go outside the pub anymore, so all was good. I had not given up smoking, but I had found a less deadly substitute for my addiction.

I carried on vaping (as they call it) for the next year and a bit, all the time being aware that I now had even more crap in my pockets than I had when I smoked, and half my reasoning behind wanting to give up was to have less crap in my pockets. Eventually, the irritating, dumb looking, leaky things that need constant charging and maintenance did my head in, and I thought I'd see how long I could go without taking a hit off one each day. It turned out that it was incredibly easy to not bother by this point, so I stopped. Just like that, back in march. Result. I do occasionally nick a real cigarette off somebody, or have a sneaky drag, but the odd smoke every now and then is not going to do anybody any harm is it? Well, certainly not add any new damage to that already inflicted by the aforementioned 20 odd years of 20 odd a day.

Having tried to give up the old fashioned way before, I was surprised how simple it was this time. A few years ago I cut down and stopped entirely, lasting for about 4 months of abject misery and mood swings before deciding to start smoking again anyway. So I am all in favour of the little shiny electrical vapourisers, and am sick of the awful smearing of them going on at the moment.

Let me counter the usual and obvious arguments I hear from reluctant smokers and crazy anti-everything types here.
1 – We just don't know what's in them.
Not true, they contain, propylene glycol, vegetable glycol, nicotine, and various flavourings, like you get in smoke machines, asthma inhalers, tomatoes, and cake. These are vaporised by the use of kanthal wires wrapped around silica wicks inside glass or plastic cylinders. We know exactly what is in them.

2- We don't know what the long term effects are yet
True, but on the other hand, we do know what the long term effects of cigarette smoking are. Being dead from lung cancer, heart disease or some other marvellously unpleasant smoking related illness. I think I'd rather take a punt on the unknown (up to a point, we know the effects of all the ingredients, just not what happens when inhaled regularly for a long period of time all together).

3 – It's not 100% safe
No, but then again, see above for the alternative for most people. It is categorically, definitely and very much proven to be a good deal safer than smoking cigarettes will ever be, so hoorah! A real alternative for long term nicotine addicts who don't want to give up really, but don't fancy the painful death. Nobody is claiming that they are worse than actual cigarettes, really, nobody.

4 – Kids and pets have died from drinking the liquid.
Not quite, there has apparently been just one death from liquid nicotine, in 2011, a suicide utilising injections. Also, it is sold in bottles with big orange warning labels, like bleach. Kids and pets have died from drinking that as well, but nobody's going to ban bleach. Keep your stuff away from kids and pets, they'll be fine, it's not for drinking.
Have a look at this for other comparative poisonings that weren't in the mainstream media.

Of course the utterly insane anti brigade are also claiming them to be a gateway to actual smoking, and that they normalise the act of smoking. This is proper nuts. Do diabetics normalise heroine addiction? Does drinking a whole pint of water in one go when you're thirsty normalise alcoholism/ binge drinking? No, of course not, and as to the idea that more kids will take up smoking in either form because of e-cigarettes, I put it to you that they are probably the same kids that would have taken up proper cigarettes anyway. I don't know any people of my generation that have never smoked, and I doubt it's changed much in the last twenty odd years either. Kids like to try stuff and push at the boundaries, 90% of people my age gave up when they left uni and got proper jobs. That probably won't change either. Don't check that statistic by the way, I just pulled it out of thin air and it is probably not accurate. The scare tactics are much the same as way back when dope was being called a gateway drug and everyone who smoked it would end up Oding on heroin. It is remarkable how many dope smokers I know who have never even tried the stuff, let alone shot it into their eyeballs with a cow insemination needle. See this yougov survey for actual figures and stuff http://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/04/28/e-cigarettes-not-gateway-smoking/ it is baseless nonsense being put about by people who should know better.

The big problem here is still that much smeared and maligned thing, nicotine. Now yes, nicotine is a poison, but it is about as poisonous as caffeine, and nobody is screaming that we should ban coffee. The problem is that the original anti-smoking campaigns that we all grew up with at school used nicotine as the bad guy in tobacco products. Probably because he is easier to anthropormorphise than Carbon monoxide, benzene and cyanide. Nick O'Teen was a marvellous villain, and plants the seed that nicotine is the most dangerous part of the smoking experience. I reckon Ben Zeen might have been better, but less obvious. Nicotine is the addictive bit, but not the killer, otherwise the gums and sprays and patches would be less easily endorsed.

Now as to why the poor things are being smeared, I have no idea, the conspiracy theorists out there will tell you it is the big tobacco companies and big pharma companies worrying about lost income from smokers shifting to ecigs instead of buying the usual ineffective alternatives. It certainly sounds logical, but it is surprising how many otherwise sane and rational people are spouting the “normalising smoking” and “but they could be worse for you” lines.

To my mind, anything that saves lives, and moves people away from actual cigarettes is a good thing, and not to be sniffed at. Don't listen to the naysayers, these are good things, don't keep banning them in public, there is absolutely no danger from passive inhalation, it is water vapour, are you scared of passive fumes from your kettle? This constant banning of everything is a symptom of a society with no free choices, and makes me worry that free will is being eroded. I like to think I chose to give up smoking, but I suspect I am also a victim of the demonisation of a once acceptable habit. Though being conditioned not to slowly kill myself is not a bad thing, after all those years of being conditioned to think it was cool and brilliant by big tobacco companies and movies and rock and roll.

It is very important to understand that any effort made to free oneself from one's conditioning is another form of conditioning.” - J. Krishnamurti


  1. Great piece. Thank you for the information and sharing your personal experiences. I'd not thought about ecigs until now. Glad they helped. I did cold turkey and grumpy method back in the day.

    1. Thanks Steve, cold turkey and grumpy is difficult, like surgery without anesthesia, it belongs to the past.

    2. Too right. Had there been ecigs 'in my day' I'd have been on them. Gee I smoked anything back in those days! And no, pot never led me to harder drugs - it was just fine on it's own thank you!

      Also, I always related more to, and felt sorry for, Nick O'Teen. To me he represented the kid (me) being bullied by the big, Mr Popular, Sporty, Good at Everything, Bully, Superman. The type of superkid who would punch me below the ribs as we walked through a doorway laughing to his mates or give me a wedgy whilst walking down the stairs laughing to his mates. And whilst we're on the subject, the "This is your brain on drugs" posters of the 80's always made me wonder what it would feel like to have a pair of fried eggs as a brain...I simply had to find out! And, Danny Kendall - he was a hero of mine... Talk about getting drug education completely wrong for an entire generation! But I digress

    3. I like my fried egg brain, and I blame Zammo for everything I did in the 90s. The just say no song spurred me on to just say yes. And then later, to just say, well alright then, maybe, and eventually to say, you know what? I've had enough now, I think I'll stop. Though if I hear it again now, i might go back on the good shit, just to spite them.