This post has become a useful reference for tobacco withdrawal symptoms and notes on intolerance to e-liquid ingredients. It has been continuously updated as new information comes in, and will continue to be edited as necessary.
The material performs several functions:
1. It ensures that symptoms of tobacco withdrawal are not attributed to e-cigarette use.
2. It lists a wide range of tobacco withdrawal issues, which are hard to find in one place.
3. It lists intolerance issues and helps with their identification and avoidance.
4. It does not shrink from sensitive or contentious issues, and lays out all the information we have.
The effects of tobacco cessation are wide-ranging, occasionally long-lasting, and may not occur for a month or more after quitting tobacco. Such symptoms are well-known and widely reported, and these cannot be attributed to e-cigarette use since they are experienced by those who have never even seen one. Apart from dry throat and similar effects, almost all 'symptoms of e-cigarette use' are the result of tobacco cessation and are experienced by quitters regardless of whether an ecigarette is used or not. A small number of people are intolerant to one or more ingredients in e-liquid and this is discussed below. There are also some individuals who have specific concerns regarding e-cigarette use and we need to flag up such issues.
This article has been regularly reformatted but would not have the useful history that it does, without the original post and the effort that was placed in it. A heartfelt thanks to the OP for starting it out.
For update history, please see foot of article. Please note that this section is regularly updated when new information is received.
Section 1: Medical symptoms of tobacco cessation
Section 2: Electronic cigarette usage issues
Section 3: Beneficial effects of vaping vs smoking
Section 4: Areas of interest
Section 5: Interesting reports
Section 6: Assorted notes
Section 7: Purpose of e-cigarettes
Section 8: Smoking cessation methods and issues
Section 9: Update history
Section 1: Medical symptoms of tobacco cessation
The following are all symptoms of tobacco smoking withdrawal. They may affect quitters irrespective of the quitting method, and have no relation to the quit method, or lack of one, or alternatives switched to.
1. Mouth Ulcers
The Quit Ulcers are a common symptom of tobacco withdrawal, affecting many quitters. The ulcers can be very painful, but there are effective topical treatment gels. It has been suggested that high-dose vitamin therapy may also be effective.
The ulcers or gum inflammation may start a week or more after tobacco cessation. They generally clear up after a few days or weeks.
It may be possible that nicotine being absorbed through the mouth can also exacerbate this, as folks using nicotine gum have experienced these mouth sores although it would need to be shown that those using nic skin patches did not suffer so commonly.
It may be that after ecig use, at first, drinking something to rinse the mouth out may help. This will get the nic (or perhaps flavorings or other materials) out of your mouth and not give it a chance to sit there and irritate your mouth tissues and make any sore worse, if this is in fact an issue.
Note that PG is a bactericide and virucide, and used medically for that purpose, so that it is more likely to improve this type of symptom than worsen it. It is unlikely that ecig vapor from an e-liquid with PG in will affect the Quit Ulcers in any way except beneficially.
However: Cinnamon flavoring in an ecig refill is known to cause or exacerbate this problem in some people.
2. The Quit Zits
A common symptom of tobacco withdrawal is skin eruption, in the form of spots through to severe acne even in those who never experienced it when young. The 'quit zits' have no relation to ecigarette use.
The bad news is that in some cases these eruptions last for months, for some who successfully stop smoking cigarettes (whether or not e-cigarettes are used). There has been some experimentation to see if various e-liquid ingredients may exacerbate the condition (such as PG or flavorings), as some e-cig users have questioned this, but without any solid results.
3. Headache, Nausea, Shakiness - but see #V4
These, together with irritability, inability to concentrate, poor sleep, depression and so on, are common nicotine withdrawal symptoms. If you are using a low-strength refill liquid and not absorbing as much nicotine as when you normally smoked, you can experience these withdrawal symptoms, which typically last only a few days to a week. Perhaps the use of a higher nic strength refill liquid might be a good idea temporarily, reducing the strength as needed. But: see V4
Probably the most common symptom of tobacco smoking cessation, along with sputum / phlegm production. The severity and duration may depend on how heavy a smoker you were before switching, and how many cigarettes are smoked while transitioning to vaping.
5. Sputum, Phlegm
When quitting smoking, with or without using e-cigs, people find that their body starts coughing up all the junk they've been putting in - tars and other materials coating the surface of the lungs. This material is coughed up in the form of phlegm / sputum.
Some folks find they start coughing up this junk within a week or two - some faster. The duration will vary, but most people were finding that the morning cough went away in the first week and the rest of the junk came up within the first month - but it's very common.
6. Heartburn, acid reflux
Some people have reported heartburn / acid reflux symptoms. This reported by those quitting who don't use an ecig, so it seems to be an occasional symptom of quitting. It is reported to go away eventually.
There is a possibility that swallowed nicotine may cause or worsen this condition.
Nicotine overdose is also implicated according to some reports - there is a hypothesis that nicotine causes the muscular valve at the top of the stomach to relax, in some people. NRT gum users are reported to see this issue more than others, so swallowed nicotine may be implicated.
One way to live with it is to use Gaviscon liquid, an OTC (over the counter) med that coats the gullet and stops the acid burning. It's far more effective than pills for some people. Or, see your doctor and discuss proton pump inhibitor (antacid) meds - which is probably the best course of action.
7. Muscle Cramps and Aches
Some people report increased muscle pains. One theory is that the PG in eliquid breaks down into lactic acid, which needs to be eliminated from the body.
Increasing water intake usually addresses this problem, whatever its cause. Not reported as much when using VG (vegetable glycerin) mixtures, but this is more than likely due to statistical probability since VG users are only a tiny number of total ecigarette users.
The possibility of exacerbation due to ecig use is not proven. The problem with attributing muscle pains to lactic acid build-up caused in some way by ecigs is that all normal muscular lactic acid accumulation is topical, that is, if you work a muscle hard then that muscle alone accumulates lactic acid. Muscles are flushed out by natural processes and all lactic acid leaves via flushing, it is not possible for it to be introduced into a muscle even if that muscle is surrounded by others containing lactic acid. This is likely to be a tobacco withdrawal symptom.
8. Night Sweats
Some report night sweats, it is not known if this is a tobacco withdrawal symptom or not.
It has been reported that an intolerance to PG may be implicated but this is not proven. A change to VG only use and the immediate cessation of night sweats would confirm it but this is not reported.
Again, this may be a tobacco withdrawal synptom although it has been claimed that intolerance to PG might be the cause. Once again, a switch to VG accompanied by the immediate cessation of diarrhoea would confirm it.
Hiccups are reported to be a symptom of nicotine OD, for some people. Because of this, and their common occurrence, they are also known as the 'niccups'. The idea that they may result from an alternative delivery path for the nicotine, via the mouth or gullet (ie swallowing it), is attractive to some people.
Hiccups are reported to be experienced by smokers and tobacco users, and are said to be more common among those who use chewing tobacco, Snus, or dissolvable tobacco tablets. It is further suggested that they swallow tobacco juice and hiccups may result. They are not common among pipe and cigar smokers, who neither swallow nor inhale smoke, or users of nasal snuff.
11. Bleeding gums
A period of time when the gums bleed has been reported as an occasional symptom of quitting tobacco. Apparently dentists have confirmed this. It's also a symptom of vitamin C deficiency, which is not uncommon with a modern diet, so it may be wise to take vit C supplements in order to cover that possibility.
There is a modern trend to take aspirin daily for many years - decades, for some people. If you habitually take aspirin then it may be worth asking your doctor if this might be implicated. A combination of tobacco cessation and chronic aspirin ingestion seems to occur in many reports of bleeding gums. A positive note is that the bleeding apparently ceases as the tobacco cessation event recedes into the past.
12. Thyroid issues when quitting tobacco
There is discussion currently among the medical community about possible thyroid problems occurring after smoking cessation. It is not known how widespread this is or how serious. The appearance of thyroid problems soon after quitting is statistically higher than should occur, so there is a question whether smoking suppresses the symptoms of thyroid disease or whether quitting triggers it, or indeed if smoking causes or exacerbates it. This is uncommon so not a major issue for worry. Apparently weight gain or weight loss can be minor effects experienced by many, related to thyroid activity. This whole area is not fully understood so you should not read anything into our commentary, instead please ask your doctor.
Here are links for further research:
Does Quitting Smoking Trigger Thyroid Disease? - Thyroid Disease - 10/13/97
Smoking and Thyroid Disease: Exploration of the Connections / Thyroid Disease Information Source - Articles/FAQs
Some useful comments from thyroid patients who had been diagnosed before starting use of an e-cigarette:
Vaping and thyroid issues ?
It is worth noting that thyroid meds such as Syntroid can cause a range of worrying symptoms if the dosage is wrong. There is at least one case where these symptoms were attributed to vaping before it was realised the meds dosage was too high.
Also see: Aspartame, in Section 4 below.
Also see: Smoking cessation and autoimmune diseases, in Section 4 below.
Section 2: Electronic cigarette usage issues
V1. Dry Throat, Sore Throat
Tobacco withdrawal produces a sore throat in some people. It is unknown why this occurs but perhaps cigarette smoke ingredients have some sort of preventative or anaesthetic effect, and stop the throat becoming sore during cigarette use, which it is easy to see could cause it.
Some - but by no means all - suffer from a dry throat, or even a sore throat, when starting to use an e-cigarette due to the drying-out effect of PG.
If a person suffers from both conditions: the tobacco withdrawal sore throat, and the e-cigarette new-user sore throat, then in rare cases a fiercely sore throat can result.
PG is a humectant (attracts, ie 'sucks out' water) and when vaping the back of the throat gets coated. You can find that after sleeping, you wake up with a sore throat. Things that can help are drinking a glass of water before bed, gargling with a mouthwash to cut the PG coating before bed, drinking water throughout the day, using hard candies and drinking liquids with honey liquid through the day to keep your mouth moist - especially if you are a new user.
An alternative for those who experience more throat dryness than normal is to change to a VG-based e-liquid, which normally solves the problem.
Extra-dry mouth or Xerostomia, commonly called cottonmouth, can be experienced by some. The obvious solution is to sip liquids, especially those that seem to assist the repair of dry buccal tissue such as blackcurrant juice (some acidic fruit juices may not be of much benefit). Of course, this may be problematic when travelling, so a throat lozenge may help. It appears that PG is more likely to cause this than the other two eliquid base materials (VG and PEG), so a change to all-VG liquid, or just a higher percentage of VG, may help.
V3. Light phlegm
It is not unusual for ecigarette users who ceased tobacco smoking several months previously to experience light phlegm, coughed up two or three times a day. It may be more pronounced with VG eliquids. This might be regarded as a beneficial effect since it allows the body to expel unwanted inhaled materials.
V4. Headache, racing pulse, inability to sleep
Also light-headedness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, slurred speech, hiccups, tingling of the extremities (fingertips, toes), jitters, teeth grinding - all these are reported as nicotine overdose symptoms.
Sometimes we overestimate just how much nicotine we were getting with regular cigarettes, and underestimate how much we are vaping, particularly at the beginning. Racing pulse is the most common, slurred speech less so. Headache can be severe. Light-headedness plus tinnitus is described as the 'just come out of a loud rock concert' effect. Try cutting down the nic dosage in your cartridges or liquids or vaping less frequently. The nicotine strength can be easily reduced by adding some VG (Glycerine, USP - obtained from a pharmacy), although this will also reduce the flavor.
It is said that some people experience one or other of the above symptoms even with a low nicotine liquid and find that switching to VG solves their problems, although such symptoms of PG intolerance are not widely believed to exist never mind be proven. It is more likely that such a reduction of the symptom/s (while staying at the same nic level) would be due to an intolerance to flavorings, colorings or similar used in an eliquid, and changing to a VG liquid simply removed those particular ingredients - see footnote.
Tachycardia and insomnia
A racing pulse and inability to sleep are symptoms of nicotine OD that may be experienced by those who have never before had any symptom of excess nicotine consumption. It is not clear if these symptoms are due to a batch of e-liquid that was considerably stronger than labeled, or an eventual reaction to excess nicotine. The solution might be to reduce the nic strength to a minimum sufficient to produce the required results (removal of cravings, adequate life functionality, stress relief, etc.) and no more.
Note that there is a huge range of tolerance to nicotine: some people report that 12mg liquid causes these types of symptoms for them, while others consume fairly large quantities of 36mg (or even higher) with no effects whatsoever. There are cases of users with 6mg liquid who reported that over-consumption was problematic, compared with a case of one user who vaped 60mg with no effects. There are many reports of people consuming 48mg in order to successfully convert to an e-cigarette. This appears to show that there is a factor-10 variance in nicotine tolerance between individuals - that is, some can tolerate a nicotine intake ten times higher than others.
As a general policy, it is probably best to reduce the nicotine strength to the minimum needed. It will often be impossible to equate this to the amount smoked as for some reason there is no direct relationship, for many/most people. Also, the nicotine strength of the liquid can be reduced over time, for most people.
V5. Intolerance to e-liquid ingredients
A small number of people find they are intolerant to an ingredient and need to change the refill liquid they use.
a) The most common source of minor intolerance issues is PG, the most common base or carrier liquid component. A large number of symptoms have been reported, from sore throat, dry skin, and itching - though since there has been no research of such topics, all statements are guesses/opinions. If you find that you are experiencing some sort of issue then the first thing to try is a higher percentage of VG in the liquid (i.e. less PG), or an all-VG liquid, to see if the problem disappears.
b) A very small number or people report the reverse: an intolerance to VG. However, it should be carefully noted that not all glycerine can be used for e-liquid purposes. In particular it has been reported more than once that buying a cheap brand resulted in an adverse reaction. Note that only 'Glycerin, USP' bought from a pharmacy is recommended. VG can be made for industrial purposes and a cheap brand bought in a general store is unlikely to be of the best quality. If a reaction to VG is experienced, it would be worth trying another brand.
c) Some are intolerant to other ingredients, and these are most likely flavorings or colors. The answer is to change to a different liquid or even a different supplier, and see if the problem persists.
d) If you experience a strong reaction to a new liquid then don't use it any more - change to another liquid from another supplier. Some flavorings are obviously going to cause a reaction in a percentage of people because of the type of flavor and its known issues - cinnamon is an example. Some will have a reaction to it and this must be expected.
Here is a post on PG vs VG issues:
Ecig VG health question
V6. 'Menthol Mouth'
It is reported that the use of large amounts of menthol-containing e-liquids can result in the deadening of taste for a period, with the result that all refills become tasteless for a while or until menthol use is reduced or ceased. Cinnamon is also implicated.
Menthol may or may not be the cause since many report that all eliquids lose their flavor for a period. Another factor is the change in taste perception, mainly a loss of taste, caused by smoking, together with its return after tobacco cessation, and a possible period when taste goes dead for a time during the first few months off cigarettes even for those who have not used menthol.
CAUTION: E-Cigarettes and Emphysema
Persons with emphysema are at increased risk of pneumonia, and there is a possibility that e-cigarette use may increase this risk further. We have only heard of one case where this may, possibly, have been a factor, after many millions of ex-smokers using e-cigarettes for 7 years, so it is clearly not a major issue.
Nevertheless, emphysema patients are at risk of pneumonia, so any increased risk is not advisable. Smokers with emphysema (or stage 3, stage 4 COPD) should switch to Snus, not an e-cigarette, since inhalation of anything that might negatively affect an existing, serious lung disease is not advisable.
The pulmonary consultant MUST be informed of any decisions in this area.
Our advice is:
(a) Snus would seem a better choice, in the circumstances.
(b) You must consult your doctor about these issues because some patients with serious lung diseases caused by smoking are at risk of pneumonia.
(c) This is one of the very few areas where 100% VG e-liquid does not seem advisable. A percentage of PG seems preferable as it it has a bactericidal and virucidal action, which seems desirable here. The use of all-VG does not seem the optimum choice by persons with emphysema.
Snus is the best choice for smokers with emphysema who cannot give up tobacco/nicotine.
An all-VG e-liquid does not seem the best choice, some proportion of PG seems advisable.
Consult your doctor - there is an increased risk of pneumonia with emphysema, and it is not yet clear if e-cigarette use may, rarely, exacerbate this.
Note that pneumonia developing in an emphysema patient is not unusual and has absolutely nothing to do with lipoid pneumonia. This has a completely different pathology.
Section 3: Beneficial effects of vaping vs smoking
Since we don't want to focus on just the negatives of tobacco cessation or e-cigarette use, here are some positive words from our experienced users.
First, most people adjust in the first week to symptoms. Dry throat and sore throat are easily remedied, and things like headaches or gas tend to go away quickly.
Sinuses clearing up. A wonderful thing when it starts happening. Your sense of smell starts to come back, stuffiness goes away, etc. You start noticing the smell of other people's smoke, or more subtle smells you've forgotten about as a smoker. The downside is you also start to smell the nastier smells too.
Smoker's morning cough going away. Most find that the annoying first thing in the morning coughing session goes away. Depending on how bad that was for you as a smoker, this is a definite milestone.
Deeper, clearer breathing. As your body clears all the toxins away, you start breathing deeper. Some folks report they get dizzy initially; perhaps due to taking in more oxygen and/or having no carbon monoxide intake. Many smokers actually breathe really shallow, especially if they've been smoking for a long while - so the change can be quite dramatic.
Smoke smell begone. No more stale smoke smell in your hair, your clothes, your home, your car. Downside is once your sense of smell comes back, you're prone to go on a massive cleaning spree - especially if you smoked in your home, you might find it smells unpleasant.
Section 4: Areas of interest
A section for medical issues where there are unanswered questions, insufficient research, or debate regarding effects of medical conditions on e-cigarette users.
- aka arrhythmia, irregular heartbeat, palpitations. These types of symptoms are a more serious version of the issues mentioned in para V4 above. They are a rare occurrence and have been noted in cases of extreme long-term nicotine overuse, especially with dual use of NRTs and smoking - for example in persons who smoked and also used nicotine skin patches excessively, or who chewed large quantities of nicotine gum. This type of symptom can also occur for some people as a result of nicotine overdose.
Some cardiac dysrhythmias may be serious, such as atrial fibrillation ('a-fib'). It would be wise to avoid behaviors that might lead to such conditions.
Because it is easy to over-use an e-cigarette since there are no immediate adverse effects, unlike smoking which produces sore lungs and throat, it may be possible for people to consume too much nicotine over an extended time period of months or years. It may be wise to consider this, and cut down on the nic strength if possible.
There is a group of people who show no signs whatsoever of nicotine overdose, no matter how much they consume and for how long. It is conceivable that such people are more at risk than others, because they receive no warnings of over-use.
It is probably a good policy to gradually reduce the amount of nicotine consumed until the lowest level of acceptable efficacy is reached, instead of consuming high-strength nic without regard for the fact it may be far more than is needed for the desired results, and that it is a toxic substance when over-consumed and that perhaps cannot be taken in large quantities over time without issues. Most people experience some sort of warning that excess nicotine has been consumed, in exactly the same way excess coffee (or alcohol) affects them - the effect is not pleasant. However for some people there are no warnings at all that enough nicotine has been consumed. For this group, additional caution may be in order.
NSAID cardiac issues
It has been found that consumption of certain (but not all) NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Nurofen) and diclofenac can, in some circumstances, lead to cardiac events including dysrhythmias. There is one clinical trial that shows a relatively high dose can produce such an effect within one week, for vulnerable subjects, so this is not necessarily a long-term consumption issue. The dosage needed to produce effects reliably was 1600mg per day, which is relatively high. However consumers should consider whether long-term regular use of e.g. ibuprofen with nicotine might be desirable in those with a family history of cardiac issues.
Vaping and diabetes
Diabetes is one of the medical conditions that generates questions regarding its relationship to e-cigarette use. There simply is not enough data over a sufficiently-long time period to resolve such questions. There are various anecdotal reports, such as:
Blood test results for vaping and diabetes
Antidepressant medicines and e-cigarettes
There are questions about taking antidepressants in conjunction with sources of nicotine such as NRTs and e-cigarettes. The issue is thought to be the possibility that some antidepressants may block nicotine receptors in the brain, causing the person to take more nicotine than advisable. Presumably the same problem is not apparent with smoking since the effects of over-consumption are more visible and unpleasant. Snus consumption is an interesting question here because there is good evidence from comparative blood plasma nicotine tests that some Snus can provide more nicotine than many other sources (including cigarettes, e-cigarettes and NRTs), leading to the possibility that this issue would have more impact with Snus consumers than others.
Persons taking antidepressants are advised to consult their doctor and ask about this issue, and investigate antidepressants that don't have the problem.
The reasoning behind this is simple: there are many antidepressants, but only one proven safe and effective way to avoid the significant risk of disease and death from smoking, which is Snus; and one method with a large amount of anecdotal evidence to suggest it is equivalent to or better than Snus - electronic cigarettes. There are no other proven safe and effective ways to avoid the risks of smoking*; so it is probably better to seek an alternative antidepressant.
* Pharmaceutical interventions for smoking cessation have a well-demonstrated 9 out of 10 failure rate in real-world situations, and in independent clinical studies as against those paid for by the manufacturer. NRTs typically perform at the least-effective end of the scale, with a 2% success rate commonly reported; psychoactive drugs may perform at the top end of the scale, with a success rate approaching of 1 in 10 or even slightly better, but have well-documented risks. Also keep in mind that mentoring, that is to say constant expert support, makes a very great difference to results, whatever approach, of any kind, is used.
In its simplest form, this is an involuntary twitch of the eyelid. In its minor and temporary form it is linked to stress; increased eyestrain; (anecdotally) reports of elevated caffeine and nicotine levels; and (anecdotally) a nutritional deficiency. ECF members report that they fixed a blepharospasm issue that occurred after starting vaping by:
- Resolving a vitamin D3 or zinc deficiency
- Avoiding elevated combined stimulant levels (cutting down on coffee and vaped nicotine, especially when combined)
- Fixing an eyestrain or stress issue
Interestingly, this is one symptom that may even be caused by ECF: a person who had not used a computer extensively before, reported that after excess research on ECF they experienced blepharospasm, which was resolved by less internet use. We don't have confirmation of any of the listed resolutions in the literature, but this is what has been reported by our members.
In the item above, at Section 1 #12, about thyroid issues, it was mentioned that over-prescription of the thyroid med Syntroid can produce alarming symptoms; these appeared to an e-cigarette user taking this med as being related to their ecig use. This proved incorrect, as it was an over-prescription issue.
Recently we have seen similar concerns regarding aspartame, the artificial sweetener. Perhaps it may be expedient, if you are a diet cola drinker and experiencing unusual symptoms that may appear to be related to smoking cessation or e-cigarette use, to try a reduction or cessation of consumption of sodas / fizzy drinks / colas that include artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. 'Diet colas' and 'diet sodas' seem to be the issue here. Although there appear to be concerns that these artificial sweeteners can in rare cases contribute to symptoms variously diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis or Lupus, what we are concerned with here are unexplainable symptoms that may be attributed to e-cigarette use when in fact the cause is elsewhere.
Smoking cessation and autoimmune diseases
There is a statistical correlation between smoking cessation and onset of some autoimmune diseases (see list here).
Two classes of conditions implicated are thyroid and bowel disease. There may be some connection between smoking / non-smoking, or smoking cessation, and endocrine issues or onset of inflammatory diseases.
Thyroid conditions are more prevalent among those who have quit smoking than the norm. See the section on this above.
Ulcerative Colitis is sometimes classed as a 'non-smoker's disease' as it is more prevalent among non-smokers; presenting with UC also has a statistical correlation with a smoking cessation event. Since it is a disease with a strong genetic connection (it is often found to run in families), there is a school of thought that says that if your family appears to have a strong genetic predisposition to UC, then you should consider smoking as a preventative measure; or, don't quit smoking; or, if the condition has already presented, then smoke one or two cigarettes a day as a treatment. There are doctors who have suggested all of these measures; others suggest using NRT products such as nicotine skin patches.
However there appears to be no research that demonstrates that nicotine is the beneficial agent here; we also know that another of the tobacco alkaloids, anatabine, has a powerful anti-inflammatory action. Therefore if someone decides to use an e-cigarette for nicotine consumption as a preventive measure against UC, or as a treatment after the condition presents, (which would appear to be a better option than smoking), then consideration might be given to using a WTA refill as against a plain nicotine one (WTA or whole tobacco alkaloid refills include the other active alkaloids such as nornicotine, anatabine, anabasine and myosmine - this approach reduces cravings for those who still experience them even when receiving sufficient nicotine substitution). Currently there are two vendors of WTA refills.
It is known that being a non-smoker, or smoking cessation, has a statistical connection with some of these conditions. Nicotine is assumed to be the preventative factor (or the main one) but there does not appear to be solid evidence for this, so a WTA-inclusive refill approach seems a better option.
Section 5: Interesting reports
Here, we'll list interesting information / reactions received that are not widely reported.
1. Violent mood swings when using cleaning materials
There have been several reports that after quitting tobacco, the use of large amounts of strong cleaners such as floor cleaner that flood a room with vapor can cause sudden mood changes, always for the worse, including depression and hostility. One theory is that ammonia vapor is the culprit, and is linked in some way with the cessation of inhalation of the ammonia in cigarettes. This is not reported in the general press but since ECF is probably the largest tobacco cessation forum in the world, with tens of thousands of visitors per day and over 100,000 posts per month, it seems reasonable to expect that newly-reported symptoms of tobacco cessation might be seen here first.
Section 6: Assorted notes
1. Medical reports of illness
The lack of official medical reports of illness linked to e-cigarettes is extraordinary. After global use by millions of people for many years, there is not one single confirmed report of morbidity or mortality linked positively to e-cigarette use. Even common medications such as aspirin could not achieve this record. It indicates that e-cigarettes are best thought of as a food product like coffee, since no medication can replicate this accomplishment.
2. Tendency to assign all new symptoms to e-cigarette use
There is a strong compulsion in many people to assume that all/any new medical symptoms must be related to their new electronic cigarette usage. In 98% of cases these are found to be normal symptoms of tobacco withdrawal which they were unaware of - such symptoms are very wide-ranging and can occur for up to six months. In some cases, a full check-up reveals there is an unrelated medical issue. Finally, some symptoms are due to intolerance to a particular brand of e-liquid or type of ingredient.
3. Minor specific e-liquid issues
In some cases, people are intolerant to ingredients in a range of liquids from one vendor. The answer is to try some from other vendors.
It should be carefully noted that it is extremely unlikely that all materials offered by all vendors can be consumed by all users with no adverse consequences - somebody, somewhere, will be intolerant to one or more ingredients. One answer would be to try to exclude e-cigarettes or identify the e-liquid or the ingredient causing the problem, by doing the following, in order:
1. Reduce the strength of nicotine, since some symptoms may be nicotine OD.
2. Stop using flavorings that are known to have implications. Cinnamon, vanilla/vanillin, capsaicin (chilli extract), and dark food colorings are likely to cause problems for some (or even many) people - and this is not a complete list. Diacetyl (butter popcorn flavor) is highly toxic and should never be inhaled as it can cause a degenerative lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans.
3. Cease using e-liquids with long ingredient lists. For sensitive people, the less ingredients the better.
4. Stop using any e-liquid except a type known not to cause problems, such as a low nicotine strength VG liquid with a good reputation for purity. For example, genuine Ecopure at 12mg would be a good choice. All the flavors in this range are very mild, and little has been added to the basic liquid.
But: note the caution on emphysema and VG-based liquid.
5. Try a different cartridge filler material or cartomizer type, to eliminate the possibility of inhaling burnt filler/batting.
6. Change to Swedish Snus temporarily (instead of going back to smoking) and see the effect.
One or more of these actions should help you find out if the culprit is e-cigarette use, and if so, exactly which factor is the problem. Nine out of ten problems result from tobacco withdrawal or other medical issues; the remainder are normally intolerance to an ingredient or ingredients used by a particular vendor.
4. Allergic Reaction to Eliquid Ingredients
There have been a small number of cases reported where some of the symptoms were similar to #V4 but in addition there were one or more of the following: chest pains, dizziness, severe skin tingling, a feeling of electric tingling on the scalp, a general feeling of being very unwell, insomnia, headache. These symptoms may or may not be related to use of a new e-liquid. They are also the exact symptoms of over-prescription of the thyroid med Syntroid.
If you think you may have experienced a reaction to an e-liquid ingredient then do not use that liquid. This is one reason to buy small, sampler pack bottles first, before buying larger amounts.
5. Specific brand VG intolerance
There are cases now being noted of severe intolerance to specific brands of VG. This may be because there are several different ways to manufacture VG, and some products may not be suitable for inhalation as a result. Or, it may be an issue with an additive of some kind.
The symptoms are shortness of breath, wheezing, congestion, bronchitis-like effects. This indicates that another brand should be used immediately. The symptoms quickly clear up after changing to another brand.
Jatropha plant toxins
This is a potentially serious issue and needs consideration. Glycerine produced as a by-product of biodiesel production must not be used for inhalation as it may contain toxic contaminants. The phorbol esters of the Jatropha plant, increasingly used in biodiesel production, are toxic; and apparently hard to isolate in analysis. Neither the FDA nor the pharmaceutical industry are currently said to be in a position to be able to identify these toxins reliably. There may be a problem at Q3 2012 in that biodiesel by-product glycerine may be labelled as Glycerine, USP in some circumstances (google 'fda jatropha').
6. Pre-existing lung disease: the issues
As more smokers switch to electronic cigarettes, it will be found that more persons with pre-existing lung disease caused by smoking will take up vaping. There are a multitude of issues here and it is very likely that some high publicity incidents will occur. People will die from these diseases as many are terminal, and if they have started to use an e-cigarette in the late stages, it may be blamed on the e-cig.
If a person already has diagnosed COPD, emphysema, severe bronchitis, a history of pneumonia, or similar, then the sensible thing to do would be to use Snus and not an e-cigarette. Inhaling more materials into damaged lungs is not going to improve things.
It should be noted that emphysema sufferers have an increased risk of pneumonia, and a percentage of emphysema patients will develop pneumonia and subsequently die. If they happen to be using an e-cigarette then this may unjustifiably be implicated (and this has already occurred). It is unjust to blame the e-cigarette since (a) pneumonia is commonly seen in emphysema sufferers, and (b) nothing further should be inhaled into seriously damaged lungs in what may be a terminal illness situation. It is quite possible that e-cigarette use will exacerbate the condition and this is simply logical, and not something that, in fairness, is entirely unexpected. Emphysema patients should not inhale anything further since it is unlikely to be beneficial.
The sensible advice is that if you have a lung disease then don't inhale anything more. If you are diagnosed with a lung disease, then stop smoking, vaping, or any other type of inhalation of foreign materials - switch to Snus instead. Smoking damages the lungs, sometimes beyond repair, and continuing to inhale anything after diagnosis is not going to help anyone - either the person involved, or the vaping community, when patients eventually die as a result of smoking-related diseases and where an e-cigarette was being used.
The e-cigarette in cigar mode
One thing worth mentioning here is that an e-cigarette can be used in 'cigar' mode: with a sufficiently strong refill liquid, it may not be necessary to inhale the vapor. If the nicotine level in the e-liquid is of sufficient strength then some - perhaps enough - absorption will occur in the mouth (and nose). The highest retail strength of e-liquid currently available is 45mg (45mg/ml or 4.5%). Some persons cannot tolerate 6mg in excess, others can tolerate 60mg ad lib without symptoms, so there is a factor-10 difference in tolerance. Some experimentation with nicotine strength would be needed, in order to provide a satisfactory experience when using the ecig in cigar mode.
Section 7: The purpose of e-cigarettes
At ECF we don't support the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation method since it is more logical to view ecigs as a low-risk alternative to smoking for long-term use, in the same way that Snus is; although unlike Snus, ecigs are not a tobacco product since they don't contain any tobacco. The nicotine, if used, could come from any source. This consumer-driven process is called 'substitution' or 'Harm Reduction'. A consumer decision is made to purchase a consumer product to substitute for one seen as having higher risk (cf. low-fat foods, low-alcohol beer, decaff coffee). In this particular area it is also known as Tobacco Harm Reduction or THR.
No doubt some e-cigarette users will transition to zero-nicotine use or totally quit, but this is regarded as an ancillary effect and of no immediate interest, since if the risk profile is similar to that shown for Snus, statistically and certainly clinically there is no practical difference between continuing use and total cessation. There is no significant statistical difference in health outcomes between those who totally quit smoking and all tobacco use, and those who switch to Snus (a slight increase in risk for stroke is shown but is not considered statistically significant); let alone any clinical significance, the numbers needing to be considerably higher than minimal statistical evidence to qualify as clinically relevant. We expect the same to be shown eventually for e-cigarettes although no one knows at this time.
Because there are no facts (i.e. national morbidity/mortality statistics, that is to say epidemiological data), no statement regarding the safety of e-cigarettes can be made at this time. Clinical trials, no matter how many there are, cannot provide proof of anything, simply evidence to support a theory; proof is provided by facts such as mortality statistics.
Polls show that 7% of ecig users at any time are zero nicotine consumers. We don't know how many quit totally as that is not of interest. E-cigarettes are not a smoking cessation method. If the Snus results are replicated by ecigs, and indications are that they will be, then there is no clinically-significant difference for smokers between switching to e-cigarette use or total cessation. Therefore there is no significant need to quit.
Individuals however must take note of their specific circumstances: in particular, we don't support switching to e-cigarette use in the case of smokers with severely compromised lungs. Those with a family history of stroke would do well to closely control their nicotine consumption. There may be other similar factors; risks for individuals are going to be mostly related to existing medical conditions or family health tendencies, otherwise known as a genetic predisposition.
One of the principal values of THR or substitution is that it is the only proven way of reducing smoking past the 20% prevalence point: where smoking has been reduced to around one-fifth of the population, then no further significant progress can be made by the continued use of the same methods used to reduce it thus far (e.g. education, high cigarette tax). This is called the 20% Rule; only Sweden has progressed past it to any significant degree (by allowing unrestricted purchase of Snus, the local smokeless tobacco).
Section 8: Smoking cessation methods and issues
Highest proven success
1.The Allen Carr organisation has the highest proven success rate for smoking cessation at 53%, demonstrated in one trial. However, access to this option is limited by geographical constraints as it is a mentored attendance programme.
2. Snus can have a 45% success rate, as shown in Sweden. Only about 11% of Swedes smoke, averaged across male/female smokers, compared with the usual 20% in comparable countries. For all practical purposes this is also equivalent to a 45% reduction in smoking-related mortality as Snus does not elevate risk for any disease, with the exception of a marginal increase in risk for stroke that is not statistically significant.
The success rate for males in particular is exceptionally high, with a reduction in smoking prevalence among Swedish men of 55%, with only around 8% of Swedish men now smoking. These very high success rates depend to a certain extent on cultural acceptance and a fairly long timescale, as Snus has been available in Sweden for a very long time but only recently were dramatic falls in smoking prevalence seen.
3. According to all surveys of successful quitters - ex-smokers who reported successfully quitting - in countries other than Sweden, the most successful method of all is 'cold turkey': stopping by motivation only and with no assistance of any kind. All such surveys consistently show that the single largest group of ex-smokers is the cold turkey quit group at about 75% of successful cessation attempts; and that the other successful quitters were split between assorted methods such as hypnotherapy, acupuncture, motivational sessions, pharmacotherapies, and more. Pharmaceutically-assisted quitters are a small group, at a fraction of the size of the no-assistance group. Self-motivation is thus shown as by far the most successful method in the real world, which you might note is in direct contrast to the marketing publicity for pharmaceutical interventions. There is no real-world evidence for any assertion that pharmacotherapies (NRTs and psychoactive drugs) are effective, or are better than self-motivation. In fact all the real-world evidence (in contrast to manufacturer-funded studies and especially the press releases that accompany them) strongly demonstrates the opposite.
4. Pharmaceutical interventions are proven beyond doubt not to be safe and effective for smoking cessation. The only factual basis for statements in this area is to measure the proportion of successful quitters who used pharmacotherapies. Every survey that has ever been carried out reported that the number of successful respondents using pharmaceutical interventions was very small, and most other methods were considerably more successful; in particular, the zero-assistance method ('cold turkey') was clearly more successful than pharmaceutical interventions. Most clinical trial results for NRTs and associated drugs do show a higher success rate, but have been demonstrated to be the single largest group of trials with manipulated results in existence. Independent clinical trials (those not funded by the manufacturer) show a success rate between 0% and 2% for NRTs at 20 months - which aligns with the facts, i.e. the surveys of successful quitters.
5. The most effective pharmacotherapies for smoking cessation are not NRTs but psychotropic drugs. These have a poor success rate of around 8% - 10% at 20 months (an estimate, since this figure has never been published as far as we are aware), which is marginally clinically significant although very poor compared with other solutions (Snus has a proven 45% success rate and no elevation of risk for any disease). However such pharmacotherapies cannot be described as safe, since there are significant risks. Chantix for example has a 1 in 30 risk for cardiac events ('heart attack') shown by two separate clinical trials, and has been responsible for hundreds of deaths including those from severe psychotic events leading to murder and suicide. The FDA have confirmed 272 deaths at Q4 2012, which indicates that the problem is significant, and some have suggested that the total is likely to be much higher (the true figure may be as much as four or five times higher).
6. E-Cigarettes are not used for smoking cessation as they are a harm-reduction solution, and in effect a way to keep smoking but without the elevated risks of smoking. In terms of the success rates for switching to an e-cigarette (which is not generally recognised as quitting, since inhalation of materials still takes place and nicotine consumption by inhalation still takes place), there is a 31% success rate at 12 months shown by one published clinical study (under the worst possible set of circumstances), and an anecdotal 80% success rate claimed when all factors are optimal. This refers to all options and influences, such as: persistent expert mentoring; unhindered access to a full range of hardware; unhindered access to a full range of liquid types, flavors and strengths; and unhindered, correct use for an ecig as opposed to a tobacco cigarette. Prevention of access to expert support, or access to incorrect inexpert advice, or prevention of access to a full range of equipment options, or incorrect use regimes will all dramatically reduce the success of e-cigarettes.
The role of e-cigarettes
E-cigarettes, introduced at about the same time as Chantix, have caused no deaths despite millions of user-years, and the lowest success rate in smoking avoidance reported by clinical studies is 31%, with no mentoring, management, advice or help at all, while using the least-efficient equipment available. Use of an optimally-managed program would probably at least double this rate, together with the fact that no disease vectors are apparent (absent the risk to ex-smokers with severely compromised lungs).
A Harm Reduction approach - that is to say a consumer-managed process dependent on unobstructed purchase decisions - is proven to be the only assisted method to successfully reduce population smoking prevalence significantly beyond the 20% mark (see The 20% Rule), as evidenced by the Swedish experience. E-cigarettes appear to be more popular than Snus and to have approximately the same health profile, and therefore it is tempting to think that ecigs will eventually outpace Snus in terms of smoking reduction and lives saved, at least in localities where unobstructed purchase of e-cigarettes is possible. In essence what this means is that many more lives are saved by consumer purchase decisions than by medical interventions, and that difference may even equal an order of magnitude.
Even so, it remains to be seen whether anything can eventually equal the success of basic self-motivated unassisted quitting in countries other than Sweden, as according to the actual end results in these countries (all the surveys of ex-smokers), this is by far the most successful approach. There is certainly no real-world proof that pharmaceutical interventions are any more than marginally effective; the 'cold turkey' method clearly outperforms any other, at a repeated 75% measured percentage of successful quitters; and substitution (replacement of cigarettes by other consumer products, as a Harm Reduction strategy) is the next most successful generally available method, with a proven halving of smoking prevalence where fully legal and unrestricted.
Section 8: Update history
- added note on smoking cessation and autoimmune disease presentation
- added note on Aspartame that parallels the Syntroid / thyroid meds issue
- moved notes on cessation methods to a new section
- added note on blepharospasm
- added caution re. glycerine from biodiesel production (Jatropha toxins)
- added section: Purpose of e-cigarettes
- recategorised by section
- reorganised section: Areas of interest
- added note on antidepressants
- added emphysema caution
- added more info to thyroid issues section
- added diabetes note
- added NSAID caution
- added thyroid issues link; more info on nicotine consumption.
- various edits
Latest update: 2011-09-09
- added new section on tachycardia, insomnia, cardiac dysrythmia
- added new section on VG intolerance
- added new section on COPD
Moderator in charge of this section: Rolygate.
Updates and additional information are invited.