E-Cigarettes: a fake puff with real consequences

Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

“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.

Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

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.


  1. Allow me to introduce myself.

    I am presently interim director for the non-profit association Tobacco Harm Reduction Association of Canada (THRA).

    On behalf of the thousands of smokers/non smokers who are using electronic devices (e-cigs, PV’s personal vaporizers) we urge you to approach your mission in an unbiased way and research. The reasoning behind this statement is simple – many lives are at risk. A negligent approach would place too many lives at risk by driving those that use electronic cigarettes back to a known health hazard: smoking.

    The official website for THRA is: http://www.thra[dot]ca where we have our position statement on fruit flavours. There are a number of for you at the site that lead to independent research and reports by world leading scientists and researchers. Take a few minutes of your time to understand that smokers have been deceived in recent history by the tobacco industry. We are the ones that understand suffering. We are the ones who focus on our own health concerns and share our stories of success and overcoming the odds against us. We deserve a voice in the matter of smoking versus vaping.

    There is no smoke. There have been no deaths or illness related to vaping since the inception of these ingenious lifesaving devices. That alone is just cause towards unbiased research.

    Many of us vapers have researched exhaustively because our life depends on it. Mine certainly does. I have been diagnosed with advanced emphysema with a spot on one of my lungs and vaping was a life or death decision. It has now been fourteen months since I was given less than six months to live.

    I urge you again, please make informed decisions before implementing the laws and regulations you propose. Do that before it is too late to reverse the damage.

    To conclude I have linked a very real and recent study on the benefits of nicotine itself. It is only 4:00 minutes long but the benefits for this young lady are a lifetime of change. Meet Karen Machon https://www.youtube[dot]com/watch?v=2kEConQsF50

  2. If second-hand smoke is harmful to health, should any person who doesn’t smoke (even if they did so in the past) be told to go stand in the smoke-filled zone?

  3. The best way to take control over people and control them utterly is to
    take a little of their freedom at a time until these changes cannot be

  4. While I agree with most things in the article there is one thing that pisses me off:
    ” If you’re an e-cigarette smoker” – E-cig users are NOT smokers.

    Vape in public! Don’t hide.

  5. I disagree…Vape in public! Dont hide because someone Might think its smoke. Carry info cards encourge people to accept the fact there is a healthy alternative.
    By not vaping in public you ate welcoming be treated as a Smoker and I for one will fight that. i vape in the grocery store waiting for the train, for coffee anywhere I care to;Do I blow big clouds ,no. But i am not going to stealth unless I know I shouldn’t be vaping but I going to vape in public.
    And i will NEVER stand outside in the cold with a bunch of people inhaling death. Nonsmokers rights have gone far enough I am a vapor and proud I made a switch Grow a back bone and Fight do not let them bunch tbis miracle into “clean air” BS…this attitude is NOT what we need…sure be respectful but Not cowardly!

    1. To Me this article says…vape but accept that you are still a smokers…Abide by those rules, but dont smoke because thats worse.
      Those type of acceptance will lessen Vaping’s potential impact on the world. It follows everything the ANTI’s want;To make us feel guilty for doing something they do not want Individuals to do.
      The title is what it is. The content is whats troubling. It does their work for them…

      1. I just feel that vaping should be regulated only by social means and customary cultural etiquette, rather than by legislation. I’m happy to accommodate a complainer over having big brother’s boot on my face.

        1. We do need standards…for Juice and bottles, but I do agree it should be etiquette that holds where we can vape…but there is always going to be the one that causes a problem…

          1. Hi,
            I live in Belgium, and here it is not permitted to vape in any place where smoking isn’t allowed.
            I honestly don’t realy mind, but I agree to both you and the author of the article in a way.
            We should be mindful of our surroundings. We want non-users to feel comfortable around vapers and we won’t achieve it by using our boomsticks everywere we want.
            But, like you say, we shouldn’t just bow down to every little thing they tell us to do, because, in my opinion, every little rule makes a realy big one in the long run.
            be mindful of your suroundings and treat others with respect, the same way you would have when you still smoked, but keep people informed and friendly. Let the world know there is a good altyernative.
            Good luck on your personal quest, everyone, and vape on!

          2. I am sorry that the Fight to vape there is Hard already there. That is the reason why I do my best to leave comments Everywhere I can to not let a sweeping ban go into place anywhere.
            That being said, respectful vaping shouldn’t need to be preached we are adults! But would rather be told children is what we are to act like, when dealing with something looking like something its not.
            You have to fight for All future vapors that are being lead my these type of articles that say “it maybe safer but its not right to do in public so dont….because it is still “smoking”.

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