General Question

mattbrowne's avatar

What are reasons that prevent smokers from switching to e-cigarettes?

Asked by mattbrowne (31557points) September 24th, 2013

Instead of inhaling thousands of different chemicals from burning tobacco (many of them being very harmful), there are only very few chemicals involved in smoking e-cigarettes.

Inhaling nicotine from e-cigarettes results in (almost) the same kind of satisfaction, unlike gum and patches.

There might be some harm involved, but compared to the daily exposure of thousands of chemicals, it’s highly unlikely that there is greater harm.

E-cigarettes also save a lot money.

I’m not a smoker, but I’m still curious: Why not?

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46 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

Isn’t the fundamental question this:

Knowing that cigarette are dangerous and ultimately will kill the smoker, why do people smoke in the first place?

E-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes are just subsets of the same irrational habit.

mattbrowne's avatar

@elbanditoroso – When people try out smoking, mostly at a young age, they do not think about the dangers, for the same reason they do not think about the dangers when driving a car (higher risk for young people). Once they are addicted to nicotine, smoking isn’t irrational, it’s rational, because if they don’t smoke, they feel miserable.

mattbrowne's avatar

@snowberry – I heard about those studies and they are important. But tobacco contains far more carcinogens, doesn’t it? See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cigarette_smoke_carcinogens

My question is about the lesser of the two evils. Do we want Putin or Stalin?

elbanditoroso's avatar

@mattbrowne

I understand that they feel miserable, and that smoking is seen as an addiction. But there are million of people that have had the self-control and motivation to STOP smoking, which suggests to me that smoking is a voluntary action that can be – with enough self-control and motivation – be stopped.

So if it’s a rational thought, as you posit, then it is controllable. If they choose not to control it and cease smoking, despite the ample evidence that smoking is going to kill them, then they are acting irrationally.

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso Are you saying smokers are much more irrational than the average non-smokers? People all around me eat foods that will probably shorten their lives, are they just as irrational?

mattbrowne's avatar

@elbanditoroso – The effect of self-control depends on the level of addiction and there seems to be significant genetic influence that can explain why it is so hard for some to beat their addiction. Many do try. And they do try very hard. And some still fail. So my point is, if all the alternatives don’t work (cold turkey, gum, patches etc.) it would seem rational to limit the toxic intake. Nicotine is still harmful to the human body, and so are some of the few other chemicals of the e-cigarette, but eliminating 2000 chemicals is a big step in the right direction in my opinion.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@JLeslie – in essence, yes. Every now and again I will stop at McDonalds for a quarter pounder burger. I know it is bad for me – full of calories and unhealthy. Yet I stop there and buy it. Am I acting against my best interests? Yes. Am I acting irrationally? Yes again. Could I control this urge to have a burger? Of course.

marinelife's avatar

No one knows the long-term effects.

“Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-powered devices that provide doses of nicotine and other additives to the user in an aerosol. Depending on the brand, e-cigarette cartridges typically contain nicotine, a component to produce the aerosol (e.g., propylene glycol or glycerol), and flavorings (e.g., fruit, mint, or chocolate) (1). Potentially harmful constituents also have been documented in some e-cigarette cartridges, including irritants, genotoxins, and animal carcinogens (1).”

Despite that, their use is growing, especially among young people.

“During 2011–2012, among all students in grades 6–12, ever e-cigarette use increased from 3.3% to 6.8% (p<0.05) (Figure); current e-cigarette use increased from 1.1% to 2.1% (p<0.05).

Source

elbanditoroso's avatar

@mattbrowne – with regards to your last answer (that begins: the effects of self-control).. – I 100% agree with you. E-cigarettes are a big step in the right direction.

mattbrowne's avatar

@elbanditoroso – Even your self-control has limits, like that of all humans, as the scientist Roy Baumeister has clearly shown. There are situations when you are no longer able to control some of your urges.

mattbrowne's avatar

@marinelife – I see the danger that the existence of e-cigarettes makes some people smoke, that otherwise wouldn’t. But this isn’t my question. It’s about people who already smoke and who would like to limit the damage. What could be long-term damages of e-cigarettes smokers will avoid when sticking with tobacco? I agree that long-term studies will best answer the question. But educated guesses might still be valuable.

rojo's avatar

A family member says “It’s just not the same”.

When I asked why she could not give any concrete examples as to why this was just that it didn’t do for her what cigarettes did. She was not sure whether this was a physical thing or mental one but thought the latter.

gambitking's avatar

Seems like a lot of speculative answers, with some references to facts and logical conclusions here (i.e. the whole “smokers are irrational to keep smoking” thing). Also the answers seemed to have swayed from the question a bit. So let me chime in with some relevant input (being that I’m a smoker and I have an e-cig that I don’t like to use).

Firstly, we know that nicotine is a highly addictive substance. So smokers suffer from a very tightly bonded addiction (and the longer they’ve had it, the tighter the bond). It really is like being enslaved to the substance. (In fact, the word ‘addict’ comes from latin and early Roman verbiage meaning “slave”).

Furthermore, let’s not forget that addiction is a disease and that in many cases, the person has tremendous difficulty overcoming the illness. Thus it cannot always be so easy to simply dismiss a smoker’s habit by saying “oh they just aren’t mustering enough motivation, they’re being irrational”.

Now then, I can tell you that smoking an e-cig is nothing like an actual cigarette. In fact the only similarity is the nicotine. The draw is different, the taste, the feeling and the ‘smoke’ experience is different. The e-cig is heavier and bulkier as well, making it sometimes a chore just to hold the thing. Especially the giant ones with buttons on them. It’s no surprise that e-cigs aren’t shoe-in substitutes for most smokers.

E-Cigs are simply not a good cessation aid, (especially since they’re still feeding your addiction) but they are a good tool for those who need a nicotine fix they couldn’t otherwise get in a certain situation.

drhat77's avatar

I think that even if they’re proven not as harmful, they are probably only acceptable as a nicotine replacement therapy (@gambitking‘s comments not withstanding) . The problem is people might think of them as safe cigarettes, and think it’s suddenly cool to smoke again. So smoking and related diseases may start to go up again after a pretty steady decline.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@gambitking – since you’re here and join in the conversation -

Why did you smoke, even after you knew it was harmful?

Why do you continue to smoke e-cigs today?

Could you have stopped, or is/was the addiction too strong?

drhat77's avatar

@elbanditoroso Dennis Miller said in one of his bits that the cancer warning does noting. You could make a cigarette called “deathsticks” and smokers would still line up to buy it (this was before goths, so now it would probably be immoral to call them deathsticks).
Addiction so thoroughly rewires your brain that you cannot think of long term consequences. Well you can, but they just do not amount to much given how much your brain needs that chemical right now. Cancer later, but nicotine now.
The reason this is is because although we like to think of our thoughts as energy waves or something, but they are in fact chemical transmitters that regulate how and what we think. Although most biologic transmitters are designed to last a second, if that, nicotine last for many many many minutes, and our brain just LoVeS that. Try throwing in a focused assault of ones and zeros into your cpu and see just how logical it can be.
I’ve known doctors that have quit smoking that say quitting was way more hard than medical school and residency.

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso Giving up smoking is not just the physical addiction to the chemicals, it is a psychological addiction also. Addictions like smoking, alcohol, drugs, food, gaming, the list goes on and on, giving it up is like losing a best friend. It can create a whole myriad of emotions. The addictions are distractions.

ucme's avatar

Just a guess here, but maybe they prefer the look/feel/smell/taste of the real thing.
Rather like humping a blow up doll, okay in theory, but, well…just but!

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Aethelwine's avatar

<——- ex smoker. I quit 10 years ago, cold turkey.

I’m thinking the same as @rojo. It isn’t the same. E cigs weren’t around when I was a smoker, so I’m only guessing, but they don’t sound appealing. If I’m going to smoke I might as well smoke the real thing. I feel the same with other products. If I’m going to drink a beer I’d rather have alcohol in the beer, not non-alcohol beer. If I’m going to drink a Pepsi (I rarely do) I want regular Pepsi, not diet. If I’m going to drink coffee it better have caffeine or I won’t drink it.

gambitking's avatar

Firstly, yes I agree with @drhat77 , addiction rewires the brain (as do the chemicals we all intake throughout our lives, even nonsmokers). Your summary of those consequences seems accurate to me.

As for those other questions, I started smoking out of the same reason many smokers start, peer pressure, the thought that it’s “cool” and a heaping helping of youthful stupidity. Doesn’t take long before the addiction kicks in and you go crazy without nicotine.

I smoke e-cigs rarely, it’s a “backup” just in case, and I only use it if I don’t have actual cigs. I do not see e-cigs as a cessation method. They are replacement only, because in order to quit, the smoker needs to allow the nicotine to leave the body and deal with the withdrawals. Every time you reintroduce nicotine (which e-cigs do), the addiction cycle starts back over. So I don’t see it as an effective means of quitting. Which I can attest to. If all you want to do is drop cigarettes and maintain your nicotine addiction, e-cigs will help.

I am still finding it incredibly difficult to quit, although I want to quit. I’ve tried various methods and read lots of stuff. I know I will soon succeed, because I refuse to give up on trying to quit, but it won’t be through e-cigarettes.

jerv's avatar

For myself, it has to do partly with dosage and partly with the draw.

I smoke American Spirit rolling tobacco; no chemicals, just dried leaves and flax paper. But AS “Lights” contain as much nicotine as Marlboro “Reds”, regular AS has double that, and my rollies have more.

Also, the small hole on an e-cig feels like an asthma attack while my rollies draw freely, allowing a deep inhalation.

bea2345's avatar

Back in the seventies, I tried to end smoking by using a patent filter. It worked by removing some of the tar and nicotine. Over time, the advertisers claimed, the craving for nicotine became less and less. On the contrary; what I found was that I smoked more in order to keep up my nicotine consumption; and of course, filters had to be replaced from time to time. I have no reason to believe that the E-filter is any improvement, but I am open to correction.

flo's avatar

“There might be some harm involved, but compared to the daily exposure of thousands of chemicals, it’s highly unlikely that there is greater harm.”
Excuse given by people who have been usuccessful at quiting cold turkey or gradually.

The reason is, it is less harmful but still harmful.

jerv's avatar

@flo Given how many smoke natural tobacco well past their 100th birthday, I suspect it has more to do with what they do to tobacco these days rather than smoking itself.

drhat77's avatar

@jerv burning produces carciongens, which is way charring meat is more cancerous than other cooking methods, but yes things like the stay-lit chemical they put in cannot be god for you either

jerv's avatar

@drhat77 True, healthier doesn’t mean healthy, but I have my suspicions about e-cigs as well, just as I was skeptical of Nutrasweet long before they found out about that.

mattbrowne's avatar

@gambitking – My question isn’t about e-cigs as a nicotine cessation aid, but as a “thousand chemicals elimination” aid. But you and others offered several reasons (taste, weight of e-cig. etc). This is what I’m looking for. Thanks!

jerv's avatar

@mattbrowne I eliminated the “thousand chemicals” thing just by switching brands.

jerv's avatar

We have a Crusader…

@flo I live in a city and, as a car owner myself, contribute to the issue. I use electricity, electronics, and plastic products, so my consumer demand causes other pollution. We won’t get into what I’m exposed to at work.as a machinist.

Also, it seems that you overlooked my previous posts regarding additive-free tobacco that, while not completely healthy, is better than the stuff you get in most cigarettes and rolling tobacco that has things even I can’t pronounce added in.

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mattbrowne's avatar

How about e-cigs being Putin, @jerv‘s additive-free tobacco being Brezhnev, and standard cigs being Stalin? It’s a discussion about lesser evils. Non-smokers would classify as JFK.

jerv's avatar

@mattbrowne Considering that some non-smokers would like to commit genocide (“the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, caste, religious, or national group”) against us smokers, I don’t think JFK is fitting. Pol Pot maybe. Or possibly Omar Al-Bashir.

bea2345's avatar

@jerv – I am not one of those non-smokers. Remembering my struggle to stay on the wagon – I stopped cold turkey – smokers who wish to stop have my sympathies. My last cigarette was in 1986.

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augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Please remember: This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

mattbrowne's avatar

How about e-cigs being Putin, @jerv‘s additive-free tobacco being Brezhnev, and standard cigs being Stalin? It’s a discussion about lesser evils. Decent non-smokers would classify as JFK.

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