I know politics can be the source of stress and ruin friendships, but I think we can all agree, no matter what politics we have, that treating e-cigarettes like analogs or even banning them completely as if they were worse than analogs is a dimwitted move. I'm very liberal and very active in several big online political liberal communities including "dailykos.com" (a pretty well known lefty discussion website)
I have not seen anyone there talking about this issue so I'd like to raise some awareness by telling my story. This is what I've written, I'd really like feedback so that I have all of the facts correct. I also need some nice images so it's not just a boring wall of text. Do you have any suggestions for me?
Here it is:
My uncle smoked himself to death. And, like so many people in our families and communities, he wanted to quit so very badly for years and years. He had tried over and over for 20 years and never broke free. Today smokers know that smoking is deadly most try sincerely to quit. Hypnosis, patches, cold turkey, gum etc. work for some but not for everyone. That's why I think it is important to keep as many posibilites open as possible.
These methods fail for some because they don't re-create the experience of smoking. When one smokes we focus on our breathing. In a way it is like yoga, there are visual cues (smoke) and an oral sensation of air and smoke passing through the mouth. Smoking often forces you to step outside. How often do you stand under the eves when it is raining and just watch the rain fall? When you smoke you can see your breath, strangely, this deadly activity can make one feel very alive. I should know, I smoked for 2 years around age 24. I picked it up because of my fascination with the glamour of smoking. I rolled my own cigarettes and thought I was being very bohemian. In retrospect, it was more than a little stupid. I'm lucky that quitting was not too hard for me since I never got very serious.
So, what if there was a gadget that mimicked all of the key aspects of the activity of smoking, but without the danger of inhaling burning material, and without (if you wish) the nicotine ?-- well, there is just such a gadget and almost no one has heard of it. It's called the e-cigarette. A e-cigarette is a miniature atomizer, the same device used to make "stage smoke" so often found in haunted houses around Halloween. The "smoke" you see from the device consists of water vapor, it can be flavored to taste like a cigarette, like nothing at all, or even like an apple pie. You may choose to have nicotine added to the smoke at a wide variety of strengths. (Hence, it can function like the nicotine patch, providing a carful step-down from nicotine consumption that avoids withdraws. It's worth mentioning that while nicotine is the addictive agent in cigarettes it is not the most harmful aspect of smoking by a long shot, the greatest harm is done by carcinogenic tar.) The key advantage of the e-cigarette is that while you are doing an activity that feels and looks just like smoking there is no fire, no burning, no tar entering your lungs. Just like the smoke machines used for theatre production and raves the vapor has no odor that clings to clothing, it won't stain the teeth either. Preliminary studies have shown e-cigarettes to be safe and without a doubt much better than smoking "analog" cigarettes, but more studies are needed.
Already, many people have used these devices to quit. Some devices are available commercially and sold in shopping malls and truck stops. Quite a few of the devices sold in this context are rip-offs, they are not quality devices and often fail to really help people quit, those who quit mostly buy the products online. Popular models include the Joye 510 (a small unit that is only a little larger than a normal cigarette) and the Joye eGo (a larger unit with better battery capacity).
The devices are very simple and it is easy to make one one your own. Many communities of "modders" (short for modifiers, since they often modify commercial products) have sprug up online, some of the designs created by ordinary users have become popular enough to grow in to small businesses. In addition to this the art of mixing the "e-juice" or "e-liquid" that is vaporized by the device has also caused many small kitchen-based businesses to come to life. Places with name like "Mrs. T's" or "Kick Bass Vapor" produce favors that mimic every food product known to man. A major hub for all of this activity is the online forum www.e-cigarette-forum.com.
But, all of this creative and frankly life-saving activity will grind to a halt if law-makers and the general public fail to learn more about these devices. Recently, a smoking ban passed (for all public buildings, parks and outside areas of places like public colleges) in New York state said that "smoking and tobacco use, including the use of electronic cigarettes" was banned. Even this wording betrays the ignorance of the people who enacted this ban. Electronic cigarettes can contain no nicotine, if the users chooses, hence, they are not always "tobacco products" -- nor are the really "smoking" since the smoke like substance is water vapor and not the product of anything burning. They have effectively banned the use of fog machines but I doubt any of them even realize it! It is so frustrating to see how quickly people react to something that they think they understand without thinking about it. This is going on all over the country, as more people find out about electronic cigarettes, more people are moving to have them banned or treated exactly like analog cigarettes. Considering the fact that they have helped many people to quit and the fact that they are pretty much harmless this is totally unnecessary. At the same time, more study is needed to determine their long-term safety, and, of course, some regulation is needed for those e-liquids that contain tobacco. A labeling law might make the most sense, holding vendors responsible for having exactly the level of nicotine that they display on the bottle. Hopefully, this could be done without requiring costly inspections or testing. It might be reasonable to ask a vendor who sells juice with nicotine in it to send in a sample to demonstrate that they are able to correctly measure and test nicotine levels. Some vendors have 100s of flavors so asking for each flavor to be tested might be too costly (and redundant.) As you can see, there is a lot to think about, but it would be ideal if legislators tried to write rules that would allow the small business that sell these products to survive and flourish. This is probably too much to ask. We all know that most law-makers are only looking out for the large corporations!
When I think about "vaping" (as it's affectionados call it) I can't help but wonder what it might have done for my uncle. He always complained "I need something to do with my mouth" --but, nothing ever felt quite right. He would get more and more agitated and then give in. Our whole family was rooting for him and supporting him. He was so ashamed. But addiction is a funny thing, it seems so so so simple to outsiders, but it isn't simple at all. Why should we let moralistic hysteria get in the way of something that is already helping thousands of people? (I strongly suspect that some people do not like electronic cigarettes simply because they are actually fun, and they think smokers need to be punished when they quit.) Why would we want to destroy vibrant creative communities that are making products and inovations for themselves and dozens of small home grown businesses? There is a right way to regulate e-cigarette (or more specifically the liquid which contains nicotine, I see no reason why the e-cigarette itself (also called a personal vaporizer) would need regulation- unless we are going to regulate smoke machines and humidifiers too.) but our legislators are just being lazy and caving in to the dim perception that because smoking is bad if it looks like smoking ... well then it must be bad too.
I write this to help more people become informed, and maybe there are a few smokers who are trying to quit who will read this, people who have tried EVERYTHING and had nothing work, and maybe, just maybe, one of them will give e-cigarettes a shot-- if that happens and you get to spend more years with your niece and family it might just make up for it all.