Addiction Without Consequences
Let’s Push The Underwood Theory
If you don’t know who Francis Underwood is, stop reading this, go to Netflix, and watch House of Cards. You’re welcome. If you do know who Francis Underwood is, he said that in Season 2, when Claire gets mad at him for vaping in his bedroom, thinking he was “cheating” (they both smoke on the show and had quit smoking at the time). He sets her straight, explains that vapor isn’t smoke, and encouraged her to try an e-cigarette herself by referring to it as “addiction without consequences”. They end up going back to traditional cigarettes by the end of the episode, but it is that idea I want to discuss, because in my opinion, it is very important. This idea, that vaping is an addiction without consequences, should inform the vape debate going forward.
Addiction to Cigarettes
When we think of being addicted to nicotine, we all still think cigarette smokers, and I don’t know about you, but when I think about the addiction and consequences of smoking, the commercial with a woman smoking through a hole in her throat pops into my head. That, for many of us, is the consequence of addiction to smoking. We all know that if you smoke, you will likely die of lung cancer, stroke, or some form of COPD. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide (more than 480,000 people in the United States alone die annually from smoking-related diseases, and almost six million die worldwide every year).
Then, all of a sudden, for so many of us who have struggled with nicotine addiction and were unable to quit no matter how terrifying the consequences and how many times and ways we tried, vaping came along like a knight in shining armor. And it has the potential to save so many lives, if the public health community and government would support it as the lifesaving technology it is. But so far, it is being lumped in with tobacco products and regularly maligned in the public health world, the government, and the mainstream media.
Vaping is not Smoking
Vaping is not smoking; all of us who vape have said this more than once, to family members, friends, co-workers, and in the comments section on the Internet. But for those who don’t vape, smokers and non-smokers alike, it looks like smoking. It is one of the things that attracts smokers to try vaping in the first place; finally a way to try quitting smoking that actually seems as gratifying as smoking (and it is)! The general public just sees someone using a disposable that looks like a cigarette, or someone with a mod and tank that expels clouds which resemble clouds of smoke. Even though there is no smell, vaping looks like smoking, and it is counterintuitive for non-vapers to believe it can be harmless (or at least 95% safer than smoking cigarettes). It does not appear to be an addiction without consequence.
Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The War Has Always Been With Tobacco, Not Nicotine
The anti-smoking movement has always been one against tobacco, not nicotine. While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, it is the tobacco which has all of the carcinogens and other chemicals. E-liquid does not contain tobacco. Nicotine, while addictive, is not unsafe to vape. It is also not unsafe to absorb through a skin patch, through a lozenge, or through chewing gum, and all of those methods of smoking cessation are supported and encouraged by the public health community and the government. So why isn’t vaping treated the same? Because it looks like smoking. Instead, scientists search over and over for expelled carcinogens or harmful chemicals by testing e-juice under conditions no human would ever vape under, trying repeatedly yet to a large degree unsuccessfully to find harmful chemicals which will support the nonsensical vape bans being enacted all over the country.
Vaping is Close to Addiction Without Consequence, Contrary to Popular Belief
Nothing is completely harmless, but on the scale of 0 to flakka (the drug that allegedly turns users into zombie-like creatures), nicotine should be considered more like caffeine than tobacco. This is the point that needs to be hammered home repeatedly; switching from smoking to vaping reduces your risk of harm by 95%. The most recent scientific evidence also indicates that secondhand vapor is harmless. And that is the status of our scientific knowledge: vaping is 95% safer than smoking and presents no dangers of secondhand vape. There is also no evidence to suggest vaping is any more dangerous (or even as dangerous) as drinking alcohol, taking over the counter or prescription drugs, or even being addicted to sugar. The problem is in the perception and how vaping looks.
How Can the Perception Be Altered?
Partially it is just a matter of time. Vaping is still new, and has proliferated rapidly over the past few years, way ahead of public understanding. As time goes on and people get more accustomed to seeing vape pens yet not smelling any smoke, stances will soften. As the scientific evidence continues to mount, and the vape industry works to make e-liquids as safe as possible, public opinion will come around. Until then, all of us who are involved in the vape world; shop owners, manufacturers, marketers, bloggers, and even consumers, must do our part to educate those around us. We must continue to reinforce the point that vaping is not smoking, and that while there might not be such thing as addiction without any consequence, we are talking coffee, not crack. Until next time, Keep Calm and Vape On!
Julie Selesnick is the president of The Happy Vapor Company, , and a contributing columnist for Spinfuel eMagazine. You can expect to see much more from Julie in Spinfuel eMagazine