“Vapours” might be harmless, but that isn’t a free pass.
Electronic cigarettes have been in the news a lot lately. It all seems unbelievably biased and almost short-sighted in nature: the reports of them being a gateway to smoking (or even harder drugs), or that they’re marketed to children, have created a campaign of fear-mongering by some media outlets.
Let’s start with some science: an e-cig is essentially a battery that sends power to a coil, which heats up and atomizes a liquid. What is inhaled is made up of propylene glycol (commonly found in medical inhalers and food), vegetable glycerine (used in food and shisha), food flavouring and – of course – nicotine. Minus the food flavouring, these are medically proven to be safe for inhalation. Pretty simple, right?
The liquid itself varies in strength, going from no nicotine at all to strong doses like 24 milligrams per millilitre. It’s important to note that a single cigarette holds roughly 18 milligrams of nicotine. Obviously, the math becomes a little more complicated down the line, but there’s nothing grossly unsafe about the practice.
As it stands, the new hobby supposedly helps many kick the habit, by progressively stepping down the intake of nicotine. Better yet, it helps users purge the added “bonuses” of standard cigarettes like tar, all while being much cheaper. So what exactly is the problem here?
All things considered, there’s a big market for smoking in the West – and not just from those picking up the habit, but also from those quitting it. Pharmaceutical companies are making millions on quit smoking aids and the government is raking in its fair share of taxes, too. Just like dieting “supplements,” the best way to secure returning business on quit smoking tools is to ensure that they have a reasonable chance to fail. But when something new comes in (with standard sales taxes applied, rather than the ludicrous increased taxes on cigarettes to “encourage people to quit”), it becomes clear that this is a business being disrupted. After all, who can out-monopolize the people in charge of regulating against monopolies?
Conspiracies aside, there’s still a lot of discussion to be had regarding those who are making the switch, and it all boils down to etiquette. A lot of shops and places will flat out say that you can use e-cigs any and everywhere, because it’s not really smoking. This holds a degree of truth: the “vapour” produced is relatively harmless according to several studies done on the subject. The smell generally reflects whatever flavour the user has, but more importantly it dissipates fairly quickly. This is all well and good, but there’s still the issue of respect to keep in consideration.
I’ve been using e-cigs for a year and haven’t really used them indoors unless permitted by the establishment either openly, or after some enquiries. Not so cool, though, are the fellow students I’ve seen using them indoors on campus and the random folks puffing away on the metro and in the bus. Don’t get me wrong, I get it: it’s fairly stealthy and can be pretty unnoticeable. But to be honest, doing this is going to harm the case for e-cigs far more than help them in the long run. If the market needs to do any convincing to keep from being locked and shut down, then it needs to start being mindful of non-smokers, too.
At the end of the day, it’s not healthy. There’s no point in saying it is. But e-cigs are sold as a tool for harm-reduction. Being able to get a nicotine fix anywhere isn’t in the books, nor should it be. I don’t miss the days of smoky bars and night clubs, and I’m fairly sure that most people would be inclined to agree. If you’re an e-cigarette smoker, head outside during your breaks like everyone else, or check with the establishment to see whether or not they’re okay with it first. It’s common sense, just like kicking the habit altogether.