Many of yesterday’s pleasures have been modernized almost beyond recognition. Kids of today might never know what liner notes are, more and more books are on digital devices rather than between covers, and today’s cigarette might contain a battery. The electric cigarette is a modern take on smoking that offers smokers a flame-free, and potentially nicotine-free, way to enjoy the habit.
An electric cigarette (or e-cigarette) offers smokers an inhalable vapor through a device that may closely resemble a tobacco cigarette. E-cigarettes may or may not contain nicotine as part of this vapor. A smoker inhales and exhales through the device exactly as they would do through a cigarette, and takes in the vapor, which provides them the smoking habit without the odor, ash, opprobrium or, ostensibly, the harmful effects of tobacco smoke.
While e-cigarettes are not marketed or prescribed as smoking cessation tools, nicotine-free e-cigarettes can be a used in tandem with smoking cessation programs or therapies.
Anyone who has ever tried to stop smoking knows the numerous challenges that come with the territory. In addition to the chemical addiction, smokers also struggle with breaking simple habits that make the lack of nicotine that much more difficult to bear. People trying to quit smoking miss the sensation of holding something in their hand, or manipulating something in their mouths, or the rhythmic breathing that comes with smoking.
Fortunately, e-cigarettes can help smokers break the habit by offering them a way to maintain these small, smoking related routines while their body concentrates on the harder work of breaking a chemical addiction.
Most e-cigarettes are composed of three parts: a cartridge that contains the liquid to be vaporized and inhaled, an atomizer that heats and vaporizes the liquid, and a battery area. They are often powered by lithium batteries, but several manufacturers are now offering e-cigarettes that can be charged through a USB port.
Though these cigarettes are assumed to be safe, studies are currently being conducted worldwide to determine the health risks to consumers, and legislation is changing rapidly. Acceptance of e-cigarettes varies widely from country to country. The sale of electric cigarettes is prohibited in Brazil, but permitted in China. They are legal in South Korea, but are taxed at a very high rate. In India, though smoking tobacco cigarettes in public is illegal, smoking e-cigarettes is acceptable. In the United States, the marketing and sale of the device varies by state.
Smoking e-cigarettes, or “vaping” as some smokers prefer to call it, may be permitted on airplanes and in restaurants because there is no vapor-based equivalent of second-hand smoke and no flame to cause a fire hazard. It may be wise to inform personnel that you are “vaping,” however, so there will be no confusion. While e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly common, some business owners may not be familiar with the devices and may mistake them for tobacco cigarettes.
While the jury is still out on the potential harm of e-cigarettes, it is widely accepted that smoking them is less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes, though probably not as healthy as eschewing smoking entirely.