E-Cigarettes Poised to Take Over the World!
Amazing discovery! Now you can enjoy poisoning yourself with nicotine without doing yourself any harm at all! Guaranteed 95% safe! You can get the same satisfaction as smoking cigarettes without the tar!
I can’t get-no satisfaction…a man comes on to tell me…but he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me…’cause you see I’m on a losing streak…
These lyrics by the Rolling Stones (1965) are not, perhaps, in the Nobel prize league, but they do make a point, although probably not the one they intended.
It’s hardly necessary to paraphrase the words, but I’m going to anyway as I warm to my theme:
You can’t be a man unless you smoke and if you do you won’t get no satisfaction and you’re on a losing streak.
My theme today is the news that British American Tobacco has offered $47 billion (sic) to take over another cigarette maker, Reynolds American, with the aim, apparently, of consolidating their hold on the emerging e-cigarette market which is reported to be worth $4.1 billion in the US alone in 2016. On top of that, of course, are much bigger profits to be made from the continuing sale of cigarettes.
With eye-watering figures like these, industry-watchers are all agog. And in the meantime the debate rages on, with some analysts noting a fall in sales of e-cigarettes because of consumers’ health concerns over vaping, resulting in them relapsing to using ordinary cigarettes, and so forth.
Let’s cut through all this and see what the issues really are:
Do e-cigarettes –
- Help smokers quit ordinary cigarettes?
- Result in the long-term use of cigarettes as well (dual use)?
- Encourage children or young people to start vaping or smoking who otherwise wouldn’t?
In addition, there are these two important questions:
- Are e-cigarettes safe for users and bystanders?
- Would the world come to an end if e-cigarettes and/or normal cigarettes were banned?
As far as I am aware, in spite of vociferous claims being made on both sides of the debate, the evidence so far is incomplete; so the short answer to questions 1, 2 and 3 is that we don’t know. To question 4 the answer is probably not – although in twenty years’ time it could turn out to be a disaster – and as for the last question I shall leave it to up to my readers.
Now let’s move on a bit further. Apart from the Rolling Stones’ lyrics, in regard to smoking and vaping the word ‘satisfaction’ occurs rather often. What does it mean?
If you’re hungry and eat a nice meal it’s perfectly understandable if you were to say you felt satisfied. But in relation to using nicotine in some form, what does it mean, if anything?
It means that before the smoker or vaper (vapeur if you’re French) smoked or vaped, respectively, he or she was feeling dissatisfied by the deficiency or inadequacy of something (as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it). The ‘something’, clearly, is nicotine. Miraculously this feeling is immediately relieved – to some extent if not fully – by smoking or vaping, as the case may be, when the deficiency of nicotine is made up in the person’s bloodstream and brain.
Nicotine use, as I have previously mentioned, is a self-perpetuating activity: each dose results in mild withdrawal symptoms which are quickly but temporarily relieved by the next dose, and the cycle repeats indefinitely – unless you do something about it. And the something you can do about it – if you wish to be free of nicotine addiction – is to cease putting nicotine into your body by any means.
So what do people get out of using nicotine? I have asked hundreds of smokers (but not so far any vapers) this question, and these are my observations: it’s usually claimed that it’s enjoyable or helpful in some way, or both. (This is fully explained in my book, Stop Smoking: Real Help at Last, and the following is the bare outline.)
It’s often difficult for smokers to say exactly what they mean by saying they enjoy smoking. Is it the taste, the smell or the nicotine ‘hit’? What emerges is that the claimed enjoyment is illusory – it’s merely the relief of the dissatisfaction or discomfort of the withdrawal symptoms of the nicotine provided by the previous cigarette; this relief is perceived as enjoyable.
As for the helpful cigarette, this means that smokers find it appears to relieve stress or assist concentration. Again, when one looks into the matter in more detail, these are also illusory benefits; nicotine withdrawal symptoms are mildly stressful and distracting so it’s the cigarettes themselves which cause stress and thus difficulty in concentrating.
How nice it must be not to have the dissatisfaction in the first place!
Text © Gabriel Symonds