When I see someone vaping, I see a nicotine addict getting their fix or a smoker who isn’t smoking. E-cigarettes are both a boon and a bane. These are a blessing for smokers who are trying to quit smoking but are like a plague for new users (mostly teens and young adults) who use it for recreational purposes.
Invention of e-cigs:
Hon Lik a pharmacist and inventor from Hong kong invented e-cigs in 2003, primarily to help people quit smoking, little did he know that his invention will be abused. E-cigarettes were created to save smokers from the deadly business of big tobacco but in U.S. teenage vaping has turned into an epidemic. In schools everyone vapes and adults are practically in crisis mode. Currently there is an amalgamation of views about e-cigarettes, good and bad both. The device is helping some people yes, but in the hands of American teenagers it is creating a new generation of nicotine addicts.
Decline of smoking:
Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in U.S. but in last 5 years, smoking rates have fallen by about a quarter. People say this decline happened due to:
- Gruesome PSAs on cigarette packs
- high taxes, and
- a no advertising policy
In reality, the biggest factor contributing to the decline of tobacco products is E-cigarettes or vape. These products have proven to be hugely beneficial in helping people quit smoking. Stopping smoking is one of the most difficult things that one can do. People who smoke are acutely addicted to nicotine. It is almost impossible for people to quit smoking without:
- Without standard care
- Nicotine replacement therapy
- Behavioral support
With standard therapy measures, most people quit the quit smoking program just after 4 weeks but with incorporating e-cigs to the whole program the success rate increased to 70% which is remarkable.
Dawn of E-Cigs:
In most countries, e-cigarettes were aggressively marketed, in U.K. Leicester stop smoking services, an NGO that helps people quit smoking started giving free e-cigs to smokers to help them quit smoking and get their daily fix of nicotine. Public health departments in different countries are putting out information that electronic cigarettes of vapes are over 95% safer. Transitioning from smoking to vaping has seen as a success but the truth is e-cigs aren’t completely safe either. But compared to smoking, where half of the lifelong users of a product will die directly by its use, you can say that vaping is much less harmful.
Quit smoking programs for pregnant women:
There are programs for pregnant women who smoke where they are given e-cigs combined with behavioral support to help them quit smoking. These programs are really popular as millennial women are more cautious now when it comes to their children’s health. When you’re pregnant, your baby will have whatever you’re having. If you’re smoking, your child is going to be directly affected by the harmful chemicals you’re putting in your body, the carbon monoxide, in addition to destroying your lungs, will directly harm your baby. Vaping is like choosing the lesser evil. Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke is one of the most harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke. That cause:
- Low birth weight
- Miscarriage, and
- Sudden infant death
e-cigarettes are helping women to get their fix of nicotine without exposing their babies to harmful chemicals from cigarette smoke. Carbon monoxide levels in women who started using e-cigarettes during pregnancy were found to be really low (almost to the safer limit).
Juul, the 4th Generation of e-cigs:
E-cigarette market in U.S. is ruled by Juul (with almost 70% of market occupancy). Juul is the 4th generation of e-cigs that was created by two smokers, to get fix of nicotine almost equal to a regular tobacco cigarette which was not possible by regular vapes (they had a lower concentration of nicotine). This device was primarily marketed to smokers, to help them quit smoking, but was aggressively marketed towards teens and young adults. The clean design and prefilled (refillable) Vape Cartridge packaging was the most appealing feature to younger generation.
Altria Deal with Juul:
E-cigarette market was flourishing until Jull made a deal with Altria (parent company of Phillip Morris USA). Until now Juul was considered an ethical product, manufactured for genuinely helping smokers quit smoking. The Altria deal was an ethical loss for e-cigarette market. If you claim that your product cares about public health, you shouldn’t be shaking hands with the exact tobacco industry you said you were fighting against. The financial incentive motives are clear as the value of Juul suddenly increased to 38 billion dollars making it more valuable than Delta airlines, Ford or target. As big tobacco co-opted their biggest rival, e-cig market lost its credibility.
Still there is Hope:
There are lessons for us from this whole situation. We have both case scenarios where E-cigarettes have helped people quit smoking and live a better life and where it has created a generation of young nicotine addicts. E-cigarettes have a potential for reducing death and disease from tobacco, when delivered by doctors after scientific research, with serious constraints on the marketing of the product. Absence of restrictions and regulations leads to the kind of wild-west we have seen among teenagers in U.S. An average teenager spends a $1300 a year on Juul or vaping, which is absurd.
There are people out there who will always find a reason to not encourage people to not vape. In simple words the comparison is like this, if you have option to choose between fresh air and e-cigarette, choose fresh air; if you have option to choose between smoking and vaping, choose vaping. It is as simple as that. Think of vaping as a treatment, not entertainment.