If you were to Google "What's the best way to quit smoking," one of the top entries is a TIME magazine interview with Dr. Michael Fiore, a professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, an expert in smoking cessation, and founder of the school's Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention.
The Interview begins:
TIME: "How can people know what the most effective methods are to help you quit smoking?"
Fiore: "The good news is that the United States public health services have reviewed the scientific literature on ways to quit smoking and has incredibly thoroughly, systematically and impartially analyzed those methods. They actually reviewed more than 8,000 scientific articles and they pulled them together to give what are called meta-analytical results, so not just one single story or one anecdotal report, but rather, the whole body of research on the most effective ways to quit smoking."
Dr. Fiore then goes on to explain the three core components to successfully quitting. First: Find a good counselor as a coach. Second: Systematically identify smokers when they visit health clinics, have a system in place in those clinics to help them quit, and bring up quitting smoking each time they visit. The third scientifically proven therapy is to either use nicotine replacement in the form of the gum, patch, lozenge, nasal spray, or inhaler, or the use of the prescription drugs Zyban or Chantix. The recommended course of therapy lasts anywhere from eight weeks to six months.
There is no mention in the article of how much eight weeks to six months of treatment could cost or what the actual success rate would be if one were to follow Dr. Fiore's guidelines. Well … I've been to counselors, I've been identified as a smoker and nagged at by my doctor, and I've tried the patch and the gum. My own personal best was a 100% failure rate at quitting smoking using those methods.
I started smoking cigarettes 44 years ago. I rapidly became a pack-a-day guy. The first time I tried to quit was 36 years ago. Not only have I tried the patch and the gum, I've gone on a special diet, bought a couple of gizmos that were supposed to help me quit, tried acupuncture and acupressure, and ended up spending $400 on a hypnotist for the most expensive naps I've ever had.
I didn't try the drugs because Zyban's side effects may include anxiety, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, stomach pain, insomnia, vomiting, and the ever-popular impotence. The warnings on Chantix describe serious neuropsychiatric events, including, but not limited to depression, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and completed suicide that have been reported in patients taking the drug.
Though suicide is one of the most effective ways to quit smoking … I was looking for a more positive outcome. When I first started smoking I thought I was bulletproof. Later I was delusional enough to think that the heart attack-stroke-emphysema-lung cancer deal would happen to somebody else. I'm now of an age where I am definitely aware of my own mortality … and I don't want to check out any sooner than I have to. I started chewing the gum again last September. Nicorette had a new flavor. Cinnamon Surge. I had previously tried their mint-tile grout flavor. Cinnamon-tile grout tasted much better.
Nicorette's ad campaign says: Quitting Smoking Sucks … A Lot … Make quitting suck less with Nicorette.
Since September every waking hour sucked. But with Nicorette it didn't suck as much as it could have. Hoo-Freakin-Ray.
Then One Day … I was listening to the radio when a commercial caught my attention. It was about an electronic or "e-cigarette." According to the announcer it feels and tastes just like smoking a cigarette but since you are only inhaling and exhaling water vapor … no harmful anything!
I wrote down the 800 number but before I called I went googling for product reviews on that particular brand of e-cig. And found them. All bad. But the idea of an e-cigarette was compelling enough to Google further. After reading a product review on a different model of e-cig on an e-cigarette forum I decided to give it a try.
I ordered the "Starter Kit" on March 3rd and it arrived on the 6th. I put the e-cig together, took a drag, exhaled, took another, exhaled, and immediately knew that this was not going to be a replay of The Patch or The Gum.
This Was Different. It felt like smoking … tasted better than smoking, but without tobacco or combustion products, thereby eliminating virtually all of the health hazards associated with smoking. And no second hand smoke worries because there is no smoke to begin with.
An e-cigarette, slightly longer than a regular cigarette, consists of a cartridge, containing a heating element and nicotine liquid, attached to a battery. The "e-liquid" comes in a variety of nicotine strengths and flavors. I prefer the tobacco flavors while my sister likes the Cappuccino. When you take a drag you inhale the vapor created when the element heats the liquid. What you exhale looks like smoke … but it's just water vapor. It's been over 6 weeks now and I haven't wanted or smoked a cigarette. My lungs are healing and I've saved over $300 by not buying and smoking almost a thousand cigarettes. The price of a starter kit is $45.90. My new habit costs about $25.00 a month. You don't need a calculator to do that kind of math.
After a few days of "vaping" instead of smoking it was time to get evangelical and call everybody I knew who smoked and tell them about my e-cig experience. They all ordered one and everybody quit smoking the day their kit arrived in the mail. I'm talking about people who've smoked anywhere from 30 to 55 years! And quitting effortlessly. It's one of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed. As far as I'm concerned the greatest inventions in the history of mankind are Fire, The Wheel, Disposable Diapers, and E-Cigarettes.
After the initial giddiness of quitting smoking without going insane died down somewhat I looked further into The Big Question on everyone's mind which is: How Safe Are These Things? I first talked to "Dr. Vapor" as he is known on YouTube and the e-cig forums. He uses e-cigs and has prescribed them for his patients. According to the studies he's researched, using e-cigarettes for 40 years is less harmful to the body than smoking for 30 days.
Professor Carl Philips of the University of Alberta School of Public Health, where much of his research focuses on tobacco harm reduction, said in an interview, "The health benefits of switching [from smoking tobacco cigarettes] are almost exactly the same as the health benefits of quitting, and this applies to electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and pharmaceutical nicotine. If a smoker can manage to switch from smoking to one of those other products the benefits are approximately the same as quitting - they lower their cancer risk, they lower their cardiovascular disease risk, they get rid of acute symptoms of lung and airway problems, a risk that comes from smoking for pulmonary diseases and so forth. Switching is so close as good as quitting that from a health point of view there is no point in worrying about the difference."
We all know the statistics. Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of illness and death in the United States. Every 8 seconds someone dies from smoking. Quitting Is Hard ... and 75% of those who quit relapse. The success rate for quitting using the patch or the gum is around 7%. E-cigarettes are a safe effective way to effortlessly switch from smoking. I've personally experienced it, all my smoking friends have quit, and you can read scores of testimonials from ex-smokers on the e-cig forums.
Now who in the world would be against E-Cigs? Oh … the usual suspects. Big Tobacco and Big Pharma. That makes sense. I'm certainly not going to be buying packs of Marlboros, or boxes of gum or patches anymore. But The American Lung Association, Anti-Smoking Groups, some state governments, and the US Food and Drug Administration all want to ban e-cigarettes.
What do all these groups have in common? Let's just say they're not concerned with your health … and like everything else … It All Has To Do With Money.