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I am a fairly heavy smoker, and have been wanting to quit smoking for a long time. I quit easily enough, but I enjoy smoking too, and end up right back later. I had earlier tried shifting to electronic cigarettes, but it didn't work. Then, I got a better electronic cigarette from Smokefree, and it worked. Sharing what I learned, in case it is useful to anyone else. A lot of this information can be found on the Wikipedia page, which is a good starting point for references to read for further information.

Buy this one or bigger (as a general guide). With the smaller ones, you end up refilling, recharging and cleaning so often that it gets boring.

What are electronic cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes are vaporizers, that use batteries to heat liquid and form thick vapor that can be inhaled like cigarette smoke.

How safe are they?

It is not known. They are a fairly new product, only a few years old, so there is little research and no long term research. However, the general consensus seems to be that in comparison with cigarettes, they are far safer. The main base is propylene-glycol, which is already used for delivering inhaled medications. Since there is no smoke or combustion involved, any risks associated with that are gone. Some research indicates that cartridges may not be as safe as tank atomizers. Also good idea to investigate contents of liquid if you are very health conscious. While all ingredients are food grade, there is of course, no research on "inhale grade".

That said, a doctor friend was blunt. "It is much better than smoking."

How expensive are they?

The premium kit I am using comes for a thousand rupees at Smokefree. I would suggest buy spares. Either buy two kits or buy spare tank atomizer [don't buy cartridge ones - I found the frequent refilling and cleaning enough to send me back to regular cigarettes] and battery at least and a few different flavors of liquid, so that you don't end up shifting to vaping only to return to a cigarette because your electronic cigarette ran out of battery or fluid, etc. Spare battery is a must at the least for any serious plan to quit smoking permanently. Though I guess it doesn't matter if you aren't quitting cigarettes and can always have a smoke.

I would say a good initial investment to make would be around Rs.2,500/- This looks fairly expensive, but if you are spending a hundred rupees on cigarettes a day, it is the equivalent of less than a month's smokes. This purchase should be good for months. After which, the expected expense is a few hundred rupees when you run out of liquid. In the long run, it works out extremely cheap, but if you are buying to try, then it is expensive. In that case, you should try disposable ones.

How will the satisfaction from a cigarette be duplicated?

The vapor from the e-cigarette feels very similar to smoke, and if you are using a liquid with nicotine, you get the nicotine hit that you normally get with a cigarette. In my experience, the tank atomizer and a larger e-cigarette works better for this satisfaction than a slim one that looks like a cigarette. I have used several brands and find that the ones that look like cigarettes may seem more likely to replace cigarettes to beginners, but they do not deliver the kind of experience that will replace the satisfaction of smoking. In the end, if you smoke, it isn't because you like how it looks.

What kind of side effects should be expected?

I have quit several times, and shifted to electronic cigarettes several times. In my experience, the side effects were the same. A day after quitting cigarettes, I usually get a cough that lasts for several days - in either case. Additionally, I found that I get more thirsty with electronic cigarettes. I didn't experience any other symptoms. I didn't get any symptoms other than feeling more thirsty than usual from the cigarettes. However, your mileage may vary. I have not heard of anyone get any dangerous side effects, so if you feel anything alarming at all, it might be good to check with a doctor.

What are the risks to others from the passive smoke?

There isn't any smoke at all. There is no evidence of danger to anyone else.

Can I use it to quit completely?

Sure. Many people seem to. I find that my habits around smoking having changed, I end up vaping less often than I smoke. I have two electronic cigarettes and I alternate between the one with nicotine and without normally.

Any advice on how to shift from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes?

Buy several flavors of liquid. Test-smoke them when you get them, and fill your favorite for when you do the shift. Then, simply run out of cigarettes and don't buy any. When you want to have a smoke, use your electronic cigarette. Initially, it can be disorienting, as if you are a regular smoker, you automatically reach for cigarette and to light it, etc. So you keep realizing there is nothing to light and it is more like picking a pen on and off and sucking on it - and getting smoke, not to worry :p

If you don't have cigarettes at all, you will not "automatically" light one, and the new habit forms faster.

Any precautions?

Several:

  • Do NOT stand in balconies and such to smoke if you normally do. You may automatically throw away your new electronic cigarette once done smoking 😀 I have tried to stub mine out several times.
  • If you are a chain smoker, keep an eye on how much you are smoking. Since the cigarette doesn't "end", it may be possible to smoke "too much". No clue what that would be like. Buzzed from the nicotine, I guess. Not heard of it happening though and I have read considerably.
  • Drink water. Lots. I don't know if it is the vapour or the quitting smoking, but I am thirsty. Your mileage may vary.
  • NEVER EVER let your electronic cigarette run dry. Will likely damage the heating element and give you smoke full of burnt residue - if there is smoke.
  • You WILL get the withdrawal symptoms from stopping smoking, though not nicotine. Cough will happen without your regular dose of whatever chemicals in cigarettes prevent it. This is not from your electronic cigarette, but from the quitting smoking. This will happen even if you don't use the electronic cigarette, unless you start smoking again. It resolves fairly quickly - within a week.

What does it feel like?

It feels very good, actually. Four biggest changes I appreciate are:

  • I don't smell of smoke. Clothes, breath, etc stop stinking.
  • The body is allowed to heal itself and return to normal functioning. My lips became softer, most notably. They weren't rough, earlier, so it was a surprise.
  • Sense of smell. Sense of smell increases. Be prepared to smell things you hadn't noticed before. The only other description similar to this is acute sense of smell during pregnancy without the nausea. It is actually the nose starting to function better. It is noticeable.
  • Breathing becomes noticeably ligther, smoother. Other than the temporary cough.

7

I'd written about people pestering smokers, now its the government doing it. There's a whole list of "public places" that people can't smoke in, in Mumbai. Apparently, some people are more equal than others. If you don't want to inhale smoke, you don't even need to move away a little anymore. The government takes care of it for you.

I was really surprised to know that you can't smoke in the premises of the society you live in. Open air really blows all the smoke away, so where is the logic in this? Its not like smokers find vulnerable non-smokers to blow smoke in their faces, you know?

I find this quite disgusting the way some people (read government) think they can decide for an entire population. Has the number of people dying from passive smoke exceeded those dying from diseases spread by mosquitoes and flies and rats? Where are the fines for lack of pest control - not newsworthy enough?

I see India going the phobia way straight into paranoia. Everything that scares you (whether real or imagined) needs to be destroyed. Smoking causes cancer. Awesome. Get rid of smoking, quick! Project every fear of ill health out of your control and get rid of smoking and fantasize that you will now not get any illness.

A few decades ago, it was the Hindu-Muslim riots, where Hindus thought all Muslims were basically killers who would get them one day and vice versa, and went ahead to get rid of them. Look what a beauty that was.

The desi ghee that was once liberally served for promoting good health, is missing from the tables of many families I know - for good health. No one is really bothered to know how that uncle of theirs could drink a glass of it everyday and lived into a bright old age.

People want black and white. If I do this, I will always remain safe. Never mind if it is an illusion. I want it to be true.

So now, it is the turn of smoking. Something that has survived centuries is bad for your health, until the next hype hits - it prevents Alzheimers. Then I guess, health conscious people will begin smoking that one or two cigarettes a day as "medicine", like many heart patients have their glass of brandy (or whatever).

I'm feeling really disillusioned with this tendency to not just be a part of the herd, but get rid of all the non-herd possibilities.

Can we face it people? We are not immortal, there are no guarantees. We all have one life which each of us would like to live how we want. Can we stop making unnecessary rules without first researching their need, the impact of their lack and their consequences and only make them where we are convinced that their lack is a bad thing and making them will resolve the issue? For example, I wouldn't be whining so much, if I had data on how harmful my cigarette smoked in open air is to the people living in the house nearby. Don't give me guesses. Give me data. Tell me how many people in lung cancer wards are there because of the presence of a smoker in their immediate vicinity. Compare that with an estimated number of all passive smokers and give me that dangerous percentage that convinces me I'm killing people.

While you are at it, do put a ban on the religious fires with people sitting right next to them, or you'll count their victims as passive smokers and ban cigarettes again. Went to a ceremony last week, and my seasoned smoker's lungs near burned out in the smoke in that hall. I was certain I was going to faint. I actually walked out till the fire business was done. I wasn't the only one. People were heading out for a breath of fresh air at regular intervals, eyes streaming, make up washing away. So now what? Any one want to take an initiative into measuring the carbon monoxide levels in that ill ventilated hall?

6

A friend of mine was being pestered by another friend who wanted her to give up smoking. To make a long story short, this is an ongoing thing and I have come to associate the presence of that man with anti-smoking propaganda rather than a friendly conversation.

I am certainly not saying that one should or shouldn't smoke, just commenting on how tedious it can get to have a whole bunch of brainwashed individuals who think that if you smoke, that's the worst thing you can do for yourself.

I have smelled street air in Mumbai and it seems as bad as a cigarette and doesn't even pretend to relax anyone. I smoke on occasion myself, and as an outdoor person, (ab)use my body beyond what many well wishers know as possible. I have yet to find myself incapable of doing something I could before I started.

Of course, I don't deny that there are bad results that can happen from smoking, just like there are bad things that can happen if you drive. I think such decisions are personal and it is a person's choice whether the harm outweighs what they get from it or not. I don't see how anyone else can understand what my happiness is in walking for days on end in high-altitude. Surely it holds the fear of death, frost bite, natural calamities, danger from animals and humans, etc for the pleasure of being there?

And why do I consider anti-smoking enthusiasts misguided or brainwashed?

The key to that is understanding where they get their information from. No matter what the source, is it likely that such a popular occupation has absolutely no health benefits? Yet, how many of these are they aware of? I am usually suspicious of black-and-white stories and the anti-smoking campaign is one which raises every alarm I have. I find it impossible to believe that something that has lasted centuries is entirely evil, and if it is shown like that, I feel that I am being manipulated to live a decision someone else has made.

Many people feel relaxed when they smoke. Is smoking for relaxing worse than the heart attack from the stress it gets rid of? Who decides this for others?

How many of those who make these "prescriptions" have actually researched their subject in detail?

Among the people who died and reached hospitals for illness, in my acquaintance, there are three smokers (one died at the age of 63, two didn't - one got jaundice and the other had an accident). Others are completely "healthy" individuals who don't smoke, don't drink, eat carefully and sleep adequately (out of these, 17 died - aged relatives and 16 didn't). And yes, I actually sat and thought of everyone I knew who had died or had fallen seriously ill in the last 2-3 years. Part of this may be that I know more non-smokers than smokers, but certainly the difference is nowhere near this ratio.

I remember an old man from my time in Manali who was 93 years old and had lived a long and healthy life. He was mobile enough for his daily needs even then. He used to smoke. One day he had a chest pain, and the doctor told him to quit smoking. He asked the doctor, "I am 93. Is it possible that I may be dying of old age and not smoking? Smokers aren't immortal until nicotine kills them, you know?" He continued to smoke, and as far as I know, was alive and well for 2 more years at least until I left the mountains to come and live in Mumbai 5 years ago.

I would be interested in the results of surveys of the percentage of smokers among the patients in a hospital and see if they are the same as those in the outside world. My hunch is that they are far less. Yet we blindly believe that smoking is what will land us there.

Smoking may be bad, but it certainly isn't the only bad thing humans indulge in.

This certainly doesn't mean that I suggest that you start smoking. What it means is that I suggest that you stop bugging smokers.