Is smoking defined as the inhalation of nicotine, the use of tobacco, the exhale of smoke-like vapor/smoke, the ritual and emotional attachment of things one does as a smoker, or a combination of all those things? Who decides, and once decided, what happens next?
Electronic Cigarettes: More Questions than Answers
The use of electronic cigarettes is an evolving situation, one in which treatment protocols will change as new information is revealed. Currently, research is limited. The effects of long term use have not been studied, product safety is unknown, and e-cigarettes lack quality control oversight. That means marketing claims about e-cigs may not be/are not correct.
Depending on how one defines smoking, using an E-cig may or may not be considered smoking. The act of vaping is behaviorally identical to smoking, minus the tobacco and the smoke. E-cig manufacturers have declared their use a safer form of smoking. Some employers, states, towns, and insurance companies consider vaping to be smoking, and people who use the E-cig will test positive for nicotine. On the other hand, those who quit smoking tobacco cigarettes and use the E-cig often consider themselves quit.
Some establishments allow E-cigs only in designated smoking areas. Others allow their use in areas where smoking traditional cigarettes is prohibited. An increasing number of states are passing E-cig use and age of purchase restrictions. E-cig marketing promotes 'restriction-free' smoking among many other claims that may not be true. Nicotine free E-cigs may not really be nicotine free, but if they are that adds further question to what is or is not considered smoking.
From a tobacco treatment standpoint, the main components of a successful quit involve breaking the behaviors, habits, and emotional attachments surrounding the act of smoking. Letting go of nicotine is part of the quit process. Many E-cigs contain nicotine. All the FDA approved quit support options are designed to help a person quit smoking while breaking their lifelong behaviors associated with smoking. Lifestyle change is a necessary part of remaining a nonsmoker. By comparison, E-cigs are for the most part 'smoking to quit smoking'. Use of them does not offer room for new habits, new behaviors or new emotional coping tools. Depending on the E-cig chosen, it may not even remove inhaled nicotine from the equation.
Some people might quit smoking tobacco by using E-cigs. While vaping is currently believed to be safer than smoking a traditional cigarette, that is not the same as saying vaping is safe or healthy. E-cigs may or may not have a place in smoking cessation. There are no statistics available that measure actual quit success rates, relapse rates, or the number of would be quitters that now use E-cigs in addition to regular tobacco products. E-cig users may have a higher potential for relapse, given the perpetuation of smoking attachments and behaviors.
If you are contemplating using an E-cig to quit smoking, established research demonstrates your chance for success increases by choosing NRT, Zyban or Chantix instead. If you are already using an E-cig, it is wise to work towards becoming completely nicotine and cigarette free. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. There is no safe way to smoke. The smartest choice is to stop inhaling from any type of cigarette.
Vikki Q CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist