An Introduction to E-Cigarettes

Over the last year the use of electronic cigarettes has grown exponentially. More and more people are using them either to help reduce smoking or to get around smoking restrictions. If you look into the topic in any detail you will find two camps. One group condemns them as unsafe and unregulated, the other praises them as a safe alternative to tobacco. Both of them point to scientific research to prove their point of view. So who do you trust?

I have another page explaining How Electronic Cigarettes Work.

Electronic cigarettes are a revolutionary technology, and I use that term in its political sense. Standard Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) uses products that are created by the pharmaceutical industry. They are regulated for quality as medicines (or close — I'm no legal expert) and they deliver a fixed dose of nicotine. These are seen by the establishment — doctors and the pharmaceutical industry — as good and vital qualities. Doctors like drugs to be given in fixed and known doses, it's how they do stuff.

However electronic cigarettes came in through the back door. They are not regulated like NRT, and they are not controlled for quality other than as consumer goods. They do not deliver a single fixed and known dose of nicotine, and they have not been tested as drugs. That horrifies anyone in the industry or medical services. It seems insanely dangerous. However the important fact to remember, is that nobody is suggesting that electronic cigarettes should be used by non-smokers. Electronic cigarettes do not have to be absolutely safe. They only have to be safer than smoking. And they are. Don't take my word for it, here's a leading expert on tobacco addiction.

Self-determination is the key. Cigarettes are a drug that the user controls. They decide how much they want and when they want it. With NRT, that control is taken away. Smoking cigarettes, especially when hand-rolled, are a ritual. Smoking is even a hobby, ask any smoker with a Zippo lighter, a painted tobacco tin or a rack full of pipes. Smokers are a community. NRT addresses none of that. Electronic cigarettes addresses all of it. Users of electronic cigarettes call themselves "vapers". They have forums to chat on. They have vaping equipment to buy either cheaply or at vast expense. And they have rituals every bit as engaging as a pipe smoker cleaning and filling a pipe. But most importantly, they are in charge of what they vape, how much they vape and when. They self-medicate, in a dosage that they determine. They are in control of their own destiny.

Electronic cigarettes are available over the counter in newsagents and chemists. But I don't recommend you use those, at least in the longer term. By all means try them out to see if you might be able to use them, but they are proven to be inferior. The manufacturers do not need to ensure that they deliver a reasonable amount of nicotine, just as the anti-lobby suggests. But there is an alternative. Electronic cigarettes are now available that are governed by market forces in the shape of informed and knowledgeable vapers. These e-cigarettes are high quality and proven to deliver nicotine in the same quantities as smoking cigarettes. Every piece of the electronic cigarette is available mix-and-matched to visible standards of quality and their contents are listed and of definite provenance. In the case of electronic cigarettes, the free market works, and works well.

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