A friend of mine has been trying to quit smoking for some time now. He’s attempted going cold turkey (he found this very stressful, as did whoever was sharing his space at the time!), then tried a more gradual reduction, but always found himself back up to his customary habit within a short period of time. More recently, he tried to quit using nicotine patches and gum, but found that they gave him stomach pains and generally made him feel unwell. And he continued to smoke throughout.
While his attempts have been successful to some degree, with periods of complete cessation lasting for a year or more and an overall reduction in the number of cigarettes he smokes in general, he was becoming very frustrated by what he felt was his lack of will power to make the change he knew was so important.
By now, we all now the dangers and risks involved with smoking cigarettes. But for those of us who have never smoked, or who managed to kick the habit before the turn of the century, we may not realize just how difficult it can be to quit. Nicotine, the key ingredient in tobacco, is addictive, but it’s really the least of a smoker’s worries.
Over the past 50 years, cigarette companies have dedicated huge budgets towards fine-tuning a carefully selected chemical soup of additives that are deliberately designed to make cigarettes even more addictive. Over 7,000 different chemicals have now been identified in today’s cigarettes, many of which pose serious health risks to those who smoke them, as well as to those who share their space.
Fast forward to today, and you’ll no doubt have heard the term ‘vaping’. Vaping refers to the inhalation and exhalation of vapour produced by small, hand-held devices. The devices use a heating coil to vaporize a carrier liquid (vegetable glycerine and propylene glycol) that is often flavoured, and which may or may not contain nicotine.
Vaping products do not contain tobacco, nor do they involve burning and hence the production of smoke. With the exception of the nicotine, they typically contain only a tiny fraction of the chemicals found in tobacco products, and at much lower levels. As a result, there are significantly lower health risks for vaping as compared to cigarette smoking. Because vaping products come with precise doses of nicotine (from 0 to 18 mg), the devices can be used to gradually reduce the chemical addiction to nicotine in a similar manner to patches and gum.
My friend decided to invest the money in purchasing a good quality vaporizer (alternately called an e-cigarette), and some blueberry flavoured ‘vape juice’ with 6 mg of nicotine. He finds vaping far more pleasant than smoking (as do those around him), and is able to control his cravings for nicotine as well as for the behavioural action of smoking a cigarette, something that patches, gum and going cold-turkey can’t provide. While it’s still in the early days, he feels confident and happy about his ability to finally kick the cigarette habit, an attitude which will no doubt assist him in his decision to quit for good.
While there is no substitute for the desire and motivation necessary to give up such a highly addictive habit, early studies are showing that vaping is a safer alternative to cigarettes, and can be a useful tool in the process of quitting altogether. Combined with setting goals, establishing an effective long-term plan, and having in place the necessary emotional and social support to overcome the psychological element of the addiction, vaping may be a viable option for those looking to quit smoking.