Do you remember the first time you saw someone using an e-cigarette? I don’t have a very precise recollection of it, but I have a vague one that many will be familiar with. You, like me, may not have been aware that this technology was anywhere close to hitting the streets. Then all of a sudden, you were walking down the street and saw someone smoking. Except… they weren’t smoking. They were using some strange gadget that glowed when they put it in their mouth. Somehow, it was emitting vapor. What the heck is that thing?
Of course, before you know it, you were seeing them everywhere. And, still assuming your experience was like mine, you found that even some of your friends were using them. And they all seemed to have known forever what these things were. The electronic cigarette. You thought such a thing could only ever be the stuff of dreams or sci-fi movies, but here it was. Finally, an alternative to smoking that looked and felt like smoking but is completely harmless!
Not out of the woods yet
Or, at least, that was what everyone was saying, at first. Many people flooded to these electronic cigarettes under the impression that they were harmless. They weren’t paying attention to what the people who made these devices were saying: It’s not a toy! It still delivers nicotine! It’s supposed to help you quit! (That’s the point!)
E-cigarette companies have been upfront about the fact that these things aren’t exactly healthy. (Unlike the cigarette industry before it!) After all, they are still a method of delivering nicotine to your body. And when some people worked this out, they seemed to get angry. Some were almost disgusted at the industry, perhaps trying to compensate for the fact that they ever thought nicotine could be 100% safe. But e-cigarettes help by removing the really harmful stuff and decreasing nicotine intake. In this way, it’s like many of the other quitting methods.
The rise in popularity
Here’s one of the strangest things about the e-cigarette phenomenon. No-one is quite sure why there was a sudden explosion in their popularity! Many of its users seem to think that it was because the e-cigarette wasn’t actually available until the early 2010s. But, in fact, the e-cigarette first hit Western markets all the way in 2004.
Attempts by analysts and reporters to locate a specific catalyst for this rise in popularity have largely been fruitless. Sure, its novelty would have helped attract so many people. But if it was just that, they would have taken off much earlier. It’s not just the “wow” factor of “smoking” a gadget. Perhaps it can be attributed to a rising awareness of the damage smoking does. It seems like the negative effects must have been made clear to everyone who has lived at any point during the past fifty years. But was the message actually getting through to people? It’s entirely possible that all that anti-smoking advertising actually started to pay off big time in the early 2010s.
Celebrities, adverts, and juice
Of course, what probably didn’t hurt was the sight of celebrities using the device. Much attention had been paid to Leonardo DiCaprio’s smoking habit since the early 90s. (How could that Titanic heartthrob possible be a smoker!? It’s just not right!) Every week, there seemed to be new photos of him out on the street puffing away at a cigarette. Until one day he was caught using an e-cigarette. Soon enough, Katy Perry and Johnny Depp were caught with them, too. And then, all of a sudden, Snoop Dogg was endorsing a special “Snoop Dogg vaporizer pen”.
What is certainly helping at the moment is the fact that advertising laws on e-cigarettes are pretty loose. The marketing of tobacco is highly constrained in many areas of the world. The United States has taken measures to make tobacco adverts as unexciting as possible. The United Kingdom banned tobacco advertising altogether around a decade ago. But e-cigarette advertising is legal and widespread. After all, they’re usually advertised as a method of quitting smoking. Governments are usually the ones who have to pay for anti-smoking adverts. They’re probably a little relieved that there are now corporations willing to, in some respects, foot the bill!
But let’s not forget the thing that eventually makes everyone a little curious about trying these things out. I’m talking, of course, about the abundance of different flavour available for e-cigarettes. I know I’ve given in to someone’s cherry-flavoured or strawberry custard-flavoured e-cigarettes. (Yeah, strawberry custard. How do they even do that?) The abundance of VG e liquid on the market have helped these devices take off big time.
Should I switch from real cigarettes to an e-cigarette?
The short answer? Probably. I quit smoking back in 2011, before they started selling by the millions here in 2013. It was a tough process. I certainly would have used an e-cigarette had I been more familiar with them at the time. It is now often cited as one of the most, if not the most, effective way of quitting smoking.
Really, the best thing for your health is to stop smoking completely. Of course, quitting cold turkey very often results in failure. Suddenly cutting off the body’s supply of any drug is going to have some adverse effects, and this case is no exception. Many people do find the negative effects to be minimal. But it’s often the case that people trying to quit cold turkey end up feeling ill and highly irritable. Sore throats and mouth ulcers are also fairly common. (As ridiculous as it sounds for there to be more problems with your mouth and throat when you stop filling them with smoke!) You should definitely give cold turkey a try to see if you can do it. But, generally, people find it much easier if they cut down their cigarette use gradually.
This method, too, often comes with its own problems. Sometimes, the grip of addiction is just a little too strong. Even when you’re down to two or three a day, cutting down further can seem like a tremendous task. Perhaps it’s because you’re so close to zero a day. In any case, simply cutting down isn’t a guarantee of success. People have found it much easier by complementing this cutting down with the use of an e-cigarette.
Do e-cigarettes foreshadow a smokeless future?
One of the more interesting aspects of this trend is that fact that many aren’t only using them to quit. Many people actually see the e-cigarette as a viable long-term alternative to smoking. A lot of smokers have switched not so much for health reasons but because of the displeasure they’ve come to experience from smoking. Even some of the most fanatic smokers get sick of lighting a small fire and breathing in the smoke. Of fiddling around with lighters and running out of cigarettes. Of the yellowing of their nails and the smell of ash on their fingers. And over time the expense of smoking becomes almost offensive.
The e-cigarette is popular not just because it helps people quit smoking, though it has certainly done just that. It’s also popular for the same reasons that regular smoking became popular in the first place. People like the aesthetic, the feel of inhaling and exhaling something. The “cool” factor is certainly dropping when it comes to cigarettes. Many were worried, a few years back, that e-cigarettes would forever seem a little dorky and awkward. But e-cigarettes now seem to carry their own brand of cool.
So, in short, the e-cigarette is no mere fad. Will it replace smoking outright? It’s very doubtful. It will certainly keep on catalyzing a decrease in the sale of tobacco for a long time yet. And if it could help you quit, then you should be willing to give it a try.