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An Accidental Way to Quit Smoking

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An Accidental Way to Quit Smoking

A look at e-cigarettes from the perspective of one happy user

I recently got hooked on a new toy that opened a world of discovery for me. I tried smoking an electronic cigarette, hoping to save a little money, and accidentally quit smoking. This is an amazing thing to say. How in the world can you “accidentally quit smoking” if you are a confirmed smoker? Seems impossible, but for me, at least, it’s true.

A Chinese man invented the electronic cigarette eight years ago. He was a smoker and his dad had just died from a smoking- related disease. He wanted a way to smoke more safely.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 599 approved additives to cigarettes that you ingest when you smoke. The burning cigarette creates over 4,000 chemical compounds, many of which are toxic and/or carcinogenic. That is on top of the thousands of chemicals which naturally occur in tobacco. One of those is nicotine.

Nicotine is a naturally occurring liquid alkaloid, as is caffeine and, like caffeine, has a stimulating effect on the body. It stimulates the release of endorphins in the body, causing euphoria. It is also an addictive substance, and a significant reason why smokers continue to smoke. Nicotine, however, is not the reason why smoking is bad for your health. It’s the tars, chemicals and carcinogens in cigarette smoke that are the cause of most smoking-related health issues. This is why the American Heart Association refers to nicotine replacement therapy—dealing with the addiction to nicotine while avoiding combustible tobacco products—to be “safe and effective.

” “Nicotine alone is generally not harmful, it’s the other stuff in cigarettes, the carbon monoxide [produced] and other thousands of chemicals,” explained Dr. Edwin Salsitz, of the Division of Chemical Dependency at Beth Israel Medical Center. Believing it’s the smoke that’s most harmful to you, not the nicotine, Hon Lik invented a device that vaporizes a liquid that has nicotine and flavors in it. When you use it you mimic the smoking process, but you are only inhaling vapor, like the steam when you cook spaghetti noodles. Instead of ingesting the thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke, you are inhaling a vapor that includes food flavoring, propylene glycol (used in fog machines, toothpaste and tons of other stuff) and nicotine.

Most people start out with an e-cig or “personal vaporizer” that looks like a traditional cigarette and request flavors that taste like tobacco. That lasts about three seconds. Soon one realizes that tobacco doesn’t taste anywhere near as good as coconut cream pie (my current favorite) or coffee mocha frapucchino or grape or cinnamon. I have also switched to a personal vaporizer that is bigger and looks more like a small flashlight, because it holds a bigger battery, so doesn’t need to be re-charged as often.

There is a rather big learning curve to e-cigs. You need to find the flavors you like, the nicotine level that suits you, and the device that’s easiest for you to use. There is a forum on the Internet ) that’s like AA for smokers who are switching to vaping. People give each other helpful advice, recommend excellent vendors, and discuss this amazing discovery. If you’ve got a minute, go there and read some of the success stories. They are worth it.

It was while exploring this forum that I learned aspects of vaping that fascinated me—political, social, legal, and biochemical. The political issues are caused to some degree by the potential impact e-cigs have on big government (loss of tax revenue), big tobacco (loss of cigarette profits) and especially big pharmacy (no more will smokers waste their money on “smoking cessation” products that have a 7 percent “success rate”). Do the math—that’s a 93 percent failure rate! So you can bet that these three groups oppose e-cigs big time.

The FDA classifies nicotine the same as caffeine. It is perfectly legal. It’s not good for you, but it’s not especially bad for you, either. In fact, nicotine has been used as an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, ADHD, MS and other diseases. You can now buy nicotine gum and patches over the counter. Yet the FDA is currently in a lawsuit because they are claiming that personal vaporizers are “drug-delivery devices” which have not been approved as safe. According to that logic, spoons are “drug-delivery devices” when used to deliver cough syrup to your child. Coffee cups are “drug-delivery devices” delivering caffeine.

Amazingly, anti-smoking groups are opposed to e-cigs. They have decided that smokers must quit their way, ingest no nicotine except from pharmaceutical cessation products that are expensive and ineffective, or die. They fail to see that nicotine is helping some people. They fail to see that harm reduction is a huge improvement. I am reminded of people who are opposed to condoms because they believe in celibacy. Well, assuming that celibacy isn’t happening a lot, what’s the next best alternative for disease and pregnancy prevention? Condoms. Assuming that some people are not managing to quit smoking, what’s the next best alternative? Smokeless products! These includes snus, snuff, chewing tobacco and personal vaporizers. Assuming that people are going to continue to drive their cars anyway, recommendations for using seatbelts for harm reduction have been enforced. It’s not safe to ride a motorcycle, but it’s safer with a helmet. Scheesch! We’re not going to get out of life alive, that’s for sure, but we can make decisions daily to reduce our harm.

Remember, it’s the smoke that’s bad for you, not necessarily the nicotine. The FDA, however, has said that in testing e-cigarettes, the products from two of the dozens of companies selling them included toxic chemicals; one brand included diethylene glycol, “an ingredient used in antifreeze.” What they didn’t mention, however, is the tested cigarette contained just one-tenth the amount of diethylene glycol contained in an aspirin—presumably considered to be safe. And while it can be used as a coolant, it is used as such only rarely.

Other toxic and/or carcinogenic traces the FDA found in the samples tested included nitrosamines—a cancer-causing agent also found in bacon and beer. Michael Siegal, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, has responded: “As these data show, the level of tobacco-specific nitrosamines present in electronic cigarettes is at the trace level. It is measurable in parts per trillion (nanograms per gram). It is comparable to the nitrosamine levels in nicotine replacement products which are approved by the FDA.”

I’ve smoked cigarettes for 46 years. It had begun to be obvious that it was harming my health, but I’d tried to quit before and had failed each time. I tried the patch, hypnosis, support groups, Zyban, and cold turkey. I once quit for two years, but was never happy during that time and finally started smoking again because I was tired of fighting my desires so fiercely all the time. Stopping smoking had ruined my quality of life. Why is it that so many people continue to smoke, especially given the current social environment, where you are treated like a pariah—a leper? We continue to smoke even though the cost has gone through the roof due to “sin” taxes.

Research has shown that the addiction to smoking goes beyond the physical addiction to nicotine and can include psychosocial reasons that make quitting difficult. In addition, It looks like there are chemicals in cigarette smoke that really help people on a biochemical level. It looks like one of them is monoamine oxidase inhibitor, which works with dopamine in your brain. MAOIs are powerful anti-depressants, and there has been speculation in scientific circles that some people addicted to smoking are actually self-medicating themselves for depression.

This startling realization came about when in the testing process for buproprion as an anti-depressant, it was observed that trial participants were reporting a high level of smoking cessation. In addition to a new anti-depressant medication, the FDA approved buproprion (Wellbutrin, Zyban) as a stop-smoking aid.

I have come to realize that I am one of the people who actually needed something I was getting from cigarettes, and that I was still lacking that “something” with the personal vaporizer. So I began supplementing my vaping with the use of snus (rhymes with moose for those in the Pacific Northwest). Since then, I am again “comfortable in my own skin.”

People have used smoking for different reasons. Some are hooked on the “hand-to-mouth” part. Those people do fine with e-cigs at low or NO nicotine. Some people needed the nicotine, too. Those vape with whatever strength of nicotine works for them. Other people needed all that, but needed other stuff, too. I am one of those people. We need vaping and snus or vaping and continued minimal cigarette smoking. Some people needed only the extra stuff and do fine on snus alone. They stopped smoking and vaping.

The main ingredient in cigarettes is nicotine. Because of that, people focused on nicotine as the thing to alter in smoking cessation devices. But nicotine is just part of the picture. The best analogy I heard was likening cigarettes to pizza. In pizza, the main ingredient by far is the dough. In cigarettes, it’s nicotine. But the reason people eat pizza is the other stuff: pepperoni, artichoke hearts, cheese, and spices. Different people go for different parts, too. Even trace elements, like the basil, salt and pepper are crucial to the appeal of your favorite pizza.

I hope that e-cigarette manufacturers win their lawsuit against the FDA. I hope the FDA never bans e-cigarettes. In my opinion they are the best invention for harm reduction I’ve seen, ever, and that includes seatbelts in cars. No second-hand smoke to “harm” or piss off the guy next to you. Nothing’s on fire, so you won’t burn down your house. No disgusting smell. No ashtrays. Just luscious vapor and improved health! Sweet!

If you’re interested in trying e-cigarettes, Cathy says the best deals are generally found online—search any of the e-cigarette forums for what users have to say about a particular company and beware, she says, of free offers as they generally turn out to be financially debilitating.

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (26 posted)

Tracy Lyn 09/24/2013 11:21:50
I first tried an e-cigarette in the hopes of finding * way to not have to go outside for my first cigarette of the day or in inclement weather since my boyfriend had recently quit smoking via the patch. I'm unable to use the patch due to an allergy to adhesives. I first picked up * cheap disposable e-cigarette and realized it would likely work for my purposes, and after * bit of research ordered an ego kit and some liquid. After receiving the new kit, I noticed over several days I'd smoked far fewer cigarettes than usual. Within * week, cigarettes tasted nasty to me. To avoid waste, I decided to finish the pack of cigarettes and be done with them. I had to force myself to finish them. I haven't picked up * cigarette since then, and that was 16 months ago. I went from * pack and * half * day cigarette habit to no tobacco use. I still use the e-cigarette though, but I've been gradually tapering down my dosage. Regardless, my nicotine habit now is much healthier than the tobacco habit I had before.
oxygen concentrator 09/01/2011 11:14:22
I thought I could smoke for * couple of years then quit and be fine. Too bad it didn't work out that way. Now I have constant sinus infections and never ending post nasal drip no matter what I take.

I have friends that tried e-cigs. One said he couldn't stand the side effects and the other was able to quit but only after going from the e-cig to nicotine gum. He said he felt like with the e-cig it was harder because he was still going through the motions of smoking.
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wow leveling guide 04/03/2011 17:14:22
I am going to be a ecigarette customer for a long time!!
Kay Goodnow 02/09/2011 13:05:52
After reading the article and all of the responses, havng smoked for 50 yeas, I am going to see a physician tomorrow morning to learn more about e smoking. If he is uninfomed I will inform him and go on the internet with intent to learn more. If not, I will ask for a prescription that I can use on my 2011 taxes. Thanks Cathy for te article and thanks, Mary Claire for sending it along to me.
CloudNine 11/07/2010 07:55:52
Amen !!!I myself "accidentally"quit smoking traditional cigarettes.Nearly 2 years ago i researched and purchased my first ecig or pv .I never smoked another cigarette again.I still have the rest of my last pack.I had smoked a pack a day for 20 years and stopped my first day!Along the way I had help with a few snus here and there,and an awesome vaporizer now called the i-olite.(butane powered)Unlimited vaping options.I however have found I tend to collect different models to try and compare.Maybe i should do some reviews on my experiences.Anyway I for the mostpart settled on two devices I never leave home without!They seem to be accepted by most and I have even been asked to demonstrate how it works in smoke and even tobacco free zones.I loved it ,even sold a new kit i hadn't used yet.These things have changed my life and from what ive read so many others as well. Dont ban Expand
StOmPeR 09/24/2010 04:01:24
E cigarettes have enabled me to stop smoking after 12 years!! I can taste and smell again! I don't smell like a walking ashtray anymore. My teeth are starting to turn white again, My vehicle doesn't little ash particles floating around all over every inch anymore!!

Then to top that off, those greedy bastards haven't got their hands in this cookie jar yet! So I am not giving uncle SAM and state governments $4 a day in more tax revenue!!! And in times like these, where the federal government has become very oppressive, that's a excellent thing! STARVE THE BEAST!
I am going to be a ecigarette customer for a long time!!

Electronic Sally 09/21/2010 00:26:05
I have stopped smoking after 42 years because of the e-cig.
Kellie Jones 09/20/2010 04:55:59
This is also what I've been telling people since I started vaping 3 months ago. Didn't think I would ever be able to quit smoking, started when I was 17 and smoked for 25 years. Tried many times over the years to quit - all of the FDA approved ways, hypnosis, cold turkey...nothing worked for me. That is until I tried my first e-cig 3 months ago. The harm reduction is truly evident - my breathing is better than its been in years and that daily smokers cough is gone!

Many of my friends and family are now trying e-cigs as a way to reduce their cigarette intake, with much success. There is finally an alternative to smoking that works and has the opportunity to save lives! I want to shout it from the roof tops, but don't think my neighbors would approve, lol

Thank you Cathy for this great article - it will be read by many folks who need to hear its message.
Craig Schultz 09/18/2010 17:45:48
Interesting and very apropos title,
Accidental way to quit...
! I first bought an e-cig because I thought it was something interesting to try. It didn't work very well, mall-bought, but it at least worked well enough so that I knew it could work.

I ordered a new kit, found it worked very well and then it took me a while to actually realize that I hadn't had a cigarette since trying it, after having smoked for over 30 years.

I never really set out to quit, even though I had countless times before with dismal results. After the initial cartridges ran out, I bought some flavorings and edible glycol from a candy making supply store and used that finding out to my even greater surprise that I could even do without the nicotine.

I agree that each smoker is likely motivated to continue smoking for different reasons and for some it will be harder and some easier but for me, quitting the coffin nails was the easiest best change I have ever made in my life.

Thank you very much for a very well written and expressive article that describes better than anything else I have seen written about what a positive impact e-cigarettes and e-nicotine inhalers can have on those who choose to use them's life!
Jim Rothenberger 09/18/2010 17:36:03
Cathy, that was a great article. I posted it to my facebook.
Greg Hester 09/18/2010 13:11:47
Excellent article that so eloquently and effectively drives home all of the points that the Vaping community has been trying to make. Thank you for brightening my day!
Kate 09/18/2010 06:02:13
This might be the best ecig article I've read Cathy, thanks very much.

I'm going to post it in full at Vapers Network, I hope that's ok, if not please let me know and I'll just link to the article here instead.
Trish Gannon 09/18/2010 06:22:57
Kate, thanks for enjoying the article. We prefer if you print only a paragraph and then link to the article here... it not only lets us know the level of interest in the article, but honors the intent of copyright protections. Thank you for asking.
Kate 09/18/2010 07:25:51
Ok Trish, that's no problem, I'll do that. Thanks again for the great article.
Julie Woessner 09/18/2010 04:27:22
What a wonderful article, Cathy! As a former 30+ year, 2+ pack-a-day smoker who had tried just about everything to quit (always ultimately unsuccessfully), I gave up on quitting. I came to the profound conclusion that nothing was going to work, and I was going to die a smoker. I picked up an e-cigarette in an effort to reduce my smoking habit, not to quit . . . within days, I had completely stopped smoking in favor of vaping, and I've been smoke-free for 20 months with absolutely no desire for a cigarette.

Your article really spoke to me because the few times before when I had managed not to smoke for any length of time (primarily during pregnancies), I felt deprived and miserable, always craving a cigarette even after months of smoking abstinence. With e-cigarettes, I not only do not feel deprived, I feel empowered. I enjoy using e-cigarettes far more than I ever "enjoyed" my smoking habit.

Thank you for a powerful article that speaks from the heart.
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Karen 09/18/2010 03:58:41
Thank you for an extremely well written article. I agree with you, having smoked cigarettes for 36 years, I was really skeptical about the ecig, but after a month of using it, I haven't smoked a cigarette in three weeks. Considering the fact that this past month included moving my oldest child into college, it's been pretty stressful around here! The ecig allowed me to vape in the car all the way to college, without subjecting anybody else to second hand smoke. Governor Deval Patrick increased the taxed on cigarettes to the point where I was paying $8.28 for a pack of cigarettes, so I have him to thank for my decision to try this product, and I am saving over $150 a month. My only disappointment during this time was to discover that the Town of South Hadley, Massachusetts, where I work, has placed a ban on ecigarettes, anywhere smoking is not allowed, ecigarettes aren't allowed, either. Even before I read your article, I thought that this approach could be compared to banning an employee from having a steaming cup of coffee. It is my hope that eventually physicians, health insurers, and smokers everywhere embrace this wonderful technology as a better alternative.
Chasm 09/17/2010 23:21:50

Nicely done - one of the best ecig articles I have read. I smoked for 44 years. FDA approved patches (even 4 & 5 at a time) didn't put a dent in my 2 PAD habit, and Zyban wasn't much better.

But I have been vaping for a year and smoke free for 10 months, thanks to my (mostly) generic 401 ecig(s). The health benefits are wonderful, as are the economic rewards. I love the feeling of being out from under the thumb of Big Tobacco, Big Pharmaceuticals and Big Gov.

E-cigs are indeed the best harm reduction ever invented.

Vape On!

[and I'm going to try artichoke hearts on my next pizza]
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Cathy Bixler 09/17/2010 17:54:07
Bipolar disorder runs in my family, too. It's interesting to discover that our desire for cigarettes might have been our intelligent bodies demanding what they needed and not our stupid loser minds lost in an addiction we were too weak-willed to conquer. Puts a whole new spin on it, doesn't it?
Meredith 09/17/2010 17:45:04
Love this article! But don't forget that while chewing tobacco doesn't produce second hand smoke to harm your loved ones, it still causes mouth cancer in users.
Jim Rothenberger 09/18/2010 17:33:57
Hi Meredith, I understand where you're coming from. I had the same opinion until I stumbled into the world of Electronic Cigarettes. I had resigned myself to smoking the rest of my life after trying everything other than Chantix to quit. I was smoking 2-3 packs a day at the end of a 43 year habit. The government actually helped me when they demanded FSC/RIP cigarettes. Something in the fire suppressant didn't sit well with me. I started coughing a lot and for the first time I developed a wheeze.

I know the problem was with the FSC because I have homes in two states and I was able to buy my cigarettes from the non-FSC state for awhile and the wheeze went away. Once both states went fire suppressant, I had to find another product, thus the E Cig.

I immediately dropped down to a half dozen cigarettes a day and stayed there for nearly six months, but by then I wanted to stop smoking completely. Wheeze was gone, but I still had a smokers cough. There were people on the E-cigarette-forum that were talking about Swedish snus. I was extremely negative about anything smokeless for the same reason you were. However the internet is a great resource.

Studies from Sweden showed that then only cancer that there was an increase in was Pancreatic cancer at something like the rate of 8 per 100,000 where a never smoker rate was 4/100k. Smokers on the other hand had an increase of close to 12/100k. After a month of research and a lot of questioning, I was convinced. I started using Swedish snus a little over seven months ago and I haven't had one puff on a cigarette. Most estimates I read place Ssnus at about 98-99% safer than cigarettes.

For many people, just the hand to mouth habit that E Cigs can address is enough to get them off cigarettes. For others, the nicotine is important. For people like myself, the other Alkaloids in tobacco needed to be addressed. I am very content with about four portions of snus a day and occasional vaping in certain social circumstances. The E cig still helps, but I use extremely low nic in the E cig most of the time.

The government has not been our friend, for at least the last 30-35 years.
Kate 09/18/2010 05:56:46
Hi Meradith. There is some very misleading information around about smokeless tobacco, especially the scale of risk. All smokeless tobacco is less harmful than smoking and the one mentioned by Cathy - snus is the safest tobacco product (partly because it's pasteurised). It's frequently mixed up with chewing tobacco but is even safer than that.
Elaine Keller 09/17/2010 15:05:59
Hey Cathy: Great article! I sent the link to Molly Peterson, the reporter from Bloomberg who ran a story earlier this week on e-cigarettes. I hope she comtacts you as background for doing a follow-up story.
Jackie Webb 09/17/2010 15:05:18
Great article. I have bipolar disorder and while my meds have been good the last year, I have been fighting against my desire for nicotine ever since I quit smoking 17 years ago. I always said that if I could access nicotine without hurting anyone else I would, and so I am. My husband noticed an instant improvement in my mood, and so did I. I feel almost "normal" these days. =) My quality of life has improved, partially because of my mood adjustment, but a huge part of it is that I no longer fear "slipping" into smoking real cigarettes gain, and I no longer have any shame about what I'm doing.
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Jennifer Dusic 09/17/2010 14:58:18
Terrific article. Great analogy. In a perfect world there would be no addiction, but the world isn't perfect. I don't understand why anti-smokers aren't thrilled with this! I also quit accidentally. It's absolutely amazing. For 40 years I smoked, I too tried everything available. This is a life saver for me.
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Cathy Bixler

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