I had been using an e-cig for over a month and it was obvious that this was the best option for quitting smoking I had ever tried … because IT WORKED. After 36 years of trying to quit … I had finally Quit Smoking. I then entered my “evangelical” e-cig phase. I told Mike Malloy about my experience with electronic cigarettes and he gave the okay to write a couple of pieces for the show. Here they are. Nine years later … I’m still passionate about introducing wanna-be-ex-smokers to vaping.
E-Cigarettes Part One
Broadcast on The Mike Malloy Show April 22, 2010
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.
I’ll get into that next time.
E-Cigarettes Part Two
Broadcast on The Mike Malloy Show April 23, 2010
A Quick Recap: Quitting smoking was the hardest thing I’ve ever consistently failed at until I discovered E-Cigarettes. The transition from smoking to using an E-Cig was effortless. From a health point of view the benefits of switching are essentially the same as quitting. I think that’s remarkable. To be able to reap the rewards without having to endure the insanity that goes along with quitting is a couple of notches past astounding and just shy of miraculous.
So where can a wanna-be-ex-smoker buy one? You can find over-priced E-Cigs at kiosks in mega-malls or at your local smoke shop. In the Real World you can easily spend 2 to 3 times what you would on The Internets. Beware of scams where the company gives you a “free” E-Cig but automatically whacks your credit card $70 a month forever. After clicking around in The Google I happened upon some great unsolicited reviews of cigeasy.com where the starter kit with shipping comes to $45.90.
The other company I’ve done business with is vapor4life.com. They carry the same models of E-Cig and a slightly wider variety of e-liquid flavors in various nicotine strengths. Both companies provide great customer service, quick delivery, and the American Lung Association, Anti-Smoking Groups, some state governments, and the FDA all want to shut them down.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Some Anti-Smoking people have a strange Puritanical-Calvinistic Anti-Smoker attitude that I find just plain weird. The criticism I’ve received since taking up the E-Cig from some of these people doesn’t make sense. When I tried the nicotine gum and the patch there was cheerleading, but using the E-Cig brought disapproval. Y’know why? I’m not suffering. Because I was stupid enough to take up such a vile loathsome habit, quitting shouldn’t be easy. There ought to be punishment involved. That’ll teach me. Some groups say the E-Cig should be banned because of the “stress and confusion” caused when the poor innocent public thinks someone might be smoking. Well … somebody quick call a Waah-mbulance for these people so they can be sedated before they find out that SpongeBob Squarepants isn’t a real person.
The name of the game here is Harm Reduction. My objective wasn’t to achieve an absolutely pure lifestyle. I wasn’t trying to get into heaven, I just wanted to stop smoking. Sure I’m still breathing in nicotine vapor but I’m not inhaling … or exhaling … tar-filled smoke consisting of over 4,000 chemical compounds at least 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Nicotine, without the smoke, can still raise your blood pressure … about the same as a cup of coffee. Big Deal.
A spokesman for The American Lung Association has declared that electronic cigarettes are designed as a ploy to encourage people to smoke regular cigarettes.
That’s Insane. You shouldn’t have to rebut that kind of lunacy but it has to be done. That’s just a sample of misinformation put out about E-Cigs.
Another goofy argument is the different e-liquid flavors will entice children to get hooked on E-Cigs. That’s right. Kids will see the chocolate mint flavor on a website somewhere, sneak out Dad’s credit card, and order an E-Cig. I’m sure that happens all the time in the alternate universe where kids somehow haven’t figured out it’s easier to steal cigarettes from their parents.
Since 2008, the FDA has been trying to prevent e-cigarettes from entering the country. Shipments have been seized and E-Cig vendors have gone out of business. In 2009 the FDA warned that E-Cigs were harmful. Their analysis of the made-in-China products found carcinogens and toxic chemicals.
Well that sounds scary doesn’t it?
The FDA condemned E-Cigs on the basis that their lab detected carcinogens (tobacco-specific nitrosamines) in the cartridges of E-Cig manufacturers. The FDA held a press conference in which it attempted to scare electronic cigarette users into discontinuing e-cigarette use. Anti-smoking groups, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and American Lung Association, called for a ban on E-Cigs due to this carcinogen scare.
Like friend of mine says, “Though I was born at night, it wasn’t last night.” I think it’s wise to be somewhat skeptical of the government agency that accepted fudged and falsified data and gave us all Nutrasweet. Just Google the side effects of Aspartame sometime when you’re looking for late night scary ghost story reading.
The FDA (and the anti-smoking groups), failed to mention that when extracting nicotine from tobacco, some tobacco-specific nitrosamines come along for the ride. The level of these nitrosamines present in electronic cigarettes is at the trace level, measurable in parts per trillion, and are comparable to the levels found in the nicotine gum and patch which are FDA approved.
I wonder why the FDA would lie by omission by leaving that out? Maybe it has something to do with money.
Ten years ago the combined sales of the nicotine patch and gum was $570 million. I haven’t been able to determine currently how much drug maker GlaxoSmithKline makes from Nicorette but they’re spending 30 million dollars this year on advertising their gum. Big Tobacco rakes in $300 billion a year in sales. There are approximately 47 million smokers in the U.S. who buy 30 billion packs of cigarettes each year.
Obviously E-Cigs have the potential to carve out big slices from the Big Tobacco and Pharma profit pie. But who are the other interested parties who could potentially have their income streams reduced if E-Cigs really took off?
In my state a smoker pays a $3.00 “sin” tax on a pack of cigarettes. This cigarette tax varies from state to state but the loss of that kind of revenue during these economic hard times might be the motivating factor to pass legislation banning the sale of E-Cigs. Four states are currently working to pass such a ban. I thought I had come to the end of the “Follow The Money” road until I read a quote from an R.J. Reynolds spokesman buried in a BBC News article regarding the economics of tobacco, “The US government makes seven times more money from the sale of a pack of cigarettes than the cigarette maker does.”
Previously I thought that outside corporate pressure was behind the FDA’s misinformation campaign to ban E-Cigs. With 300 billion a year behind you … you can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel with your bare hands, or make the FDA jump through hoops like a circus dog. But … the government is also a player with billions at stake. It’s equally valid to conjecture that maybe this time internal pressure is at work. Or maybe it’s like the ending of Agatha Christie’s, Murder on the Orient Express … All the suspects did it.
I didn’t know when I got my E-Cig in the mail that I’d end up following a story like pulling the thread on a cheap sweater. I was just happy to get off cigarettes. Now I know there are hundreds of billions of dollars in play and the odds aren’t in the smoker’s favor. And in a year or two E-Cigs will probably be banned for the aforementioned billions of reasons. Almost half a million people die every year in the U.S. from smoking cigarettes. Too bad for them. This is just another case of Profits Over People.
But … I still exhort everyone who smokes cigarettes to try an e-cigarette. I think they’ll find that it is possible to quit smoking without going nuts … and later they might want to pick up some extra batteries and empty cartridges. Anyone can easily obtain everything needed to make their own e-liquid. So when E-Cigs are banned … well … as Frank from cig-easy says, “Happy Vaping.”
E-Cigarettes Part Three
Broadcast on The Mike Malloy Show May 14, 2010
After the two-part piece about e-cigarettes aired in April, over 100 listeners went to SuperBeans.com/quitting, clicked on a link, and ordered an e-cigarette starter kit from CigEasy.com or Vapor4Life. I asked the vendors for email addresses from orders generated through the SuperBeans link, and when I thought that everybody had received their kits, and had been using the E-Cig for 3 or 4 days, I sent out a survey. I was curious to see how everyone was doing during the first few days of making the transition from smoking tobacco.
I could have waited but I thought the first 3 or 4 days are the most critical. Everybody stops smoking the day they slap on the patch or start gnawing the gum. I think the real test is to check in after a couple of days to see if people have gone nuts … or not.
Here’s what I found from the returned surveys:
88% smoked for over 20 years
76% smoked a pack or more a day
88% had tried quitting multiple times and 72% had tried nicotine replacement therapies or drugs.
And after using an E-Cig for a few days …?
68% stopped smoking tobacco cigarettes completely, and the remaining 32% had cut their cigarette consumption way waaaaay down.
And … no one reported any of the white-knuckling-wall-climbing-jumping-out-of-your-skin insanity that happens when you try to quit smoking.
Here are some excerpts:
“I just feel no need to smoke cigarettes now and I don’t think I’ll ever go back.”
“I don’t stink of smoke, my breathing is easier, and my self-esteem has acquired six-pack abs.”
“I have more energy, my returned sense of smell and taste is exhilarating, and the shortness of breath and cough is gone.”
“The ecigs were delivered Saturday afternoon. I opened the package and put them together … and I have not smoked a cigarette since! It’s nothing short of miraculous.”
“[After receiving the starter kit] I haven’t had, wanted or craved a cigarette since. I am stunned! I keep thinking “it couldn’t be this easy”. To have 27 years of guilt, shame and anxiety about my health just lifted away in a matter of seconds! Words cannot describe the huge relief I feel! Even better I ordered a kit for my niece, who suffers from asthma, and can’t wait to get her off the cigarettes.”
“Just a little note of continued THANKS! Since getting the e-cig starter kit for my Dad he hasn’t picked up a cigarette and is no longer smoking 3 packs a day after more than 40 years of trying unsuccessfully to quit. Just like that … he quit.”
Up to 500,000 smokers have switched from tobacco to e-cigarettes over the last two years.
Dr. Joel L. Nitzkin, MD, MPH is the Chair of the Tobacco Control Task Force of the American Association of Public Health Physicians. On April 2nd 2010 he wrote, “AAPHP favors a permissive approach to E-cigarettes because the possibility exists to save the lives of four million of the eight million current adult American smokers who will otherwise die of a tobacco-related illness over the next twenty years.”
Dr Murray Laugesen of Health New Zealand is one of the few researchers to have carried out an in-depth analysis of the contents of the e-cigarette. In a May 2009 interview Dr. Laugesen said, “We would rate the Ruyan electronic cigarette two to three orders of magnitude safer (100 to 1000 times safer) than a tobacco cigarette.”
The inevitable question is … Why have health advocacy groups joined the FDA in trying to ban something that is ten times more successful than the nicotine patch or gum in helping people quit smoking?
I’ll try to condense a two hour conversation with Bill Godshall, Executive Director of Smokefree Pennsylvania, and two weeks of research to answer that.
Anti-Smoking groups had prevailed. Smoking was banned in the workplace, bars, and restaurants. Cigarette advertising aimed at young people was stopped and cigarette taxes were raised on the state and federal level to defray smoker’s health costs. Harm reduction was the goal but tobacco prohibitionists slowly took control of the movement and Anti-Smoking became Anti-Tobacco. The words were changed from “Smoking Kills” to “Tobacco Kills” even though smokefree tobacco products are 99%(+/- 1%) less hazardous than cigarettes. By lying about smokeless tobacco the prohibitionists proved they were more concerned with stamping out all things tobacco than with people’s health.
The Pharmaceutical industry only wants one story in front of the public: The only way to quit smoking is by using nicotine replacement products or drugs. The industry found willing mouthpieces to push that story in the Anti-tobacco movement and the extremists found a steady flow of cash.
The FDA is also hooked on Big Pharma cash. For the first 86 years of the FDA’s existence all funding came through the U.S. Treasury. We paid our taxes and the FDA received appropriations out of the budget. But in 1992 a law was passed that said for a large proportion of the work done by the FDA on new drug applications, the money’s going to come directly from the industry. In 2009 the Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex funded the FDA to an estimated 600 million dollars. Because of this direct funding, the FDA looks upon the industry as their client … instead of the public and the public health, which should be the client.
It’s not a new story. Corporate cash manipulates extremist “grass-roots” movements while pressuring the government to do its bidding with even more cash. Wherever have we heard that tune before?
But this time we have hope that it’s not going to play out like they want. Legislation was derailed in some states attempting an e-cigarette ban because E-Cig users showed up and debunked the FDA’s exaggerated claims and outright lies. This is one instance where letters and phone calls to elected representatives made a difference. And there are actions you can do right now to help.
The American Association of Public Health Physicians (AAPHP)is trying to get the FDA to reclassify and regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products, thus keeping them on the market, instead of banning the products by classifying them as drugs or devices. You can submit a comment urging supportive action by the FDA online.
The bottom line here is if you’ve had a positive experience using e-cigarettes … tell somebody! Write a letter to your elected representatives and to the editor of your local paper. But above all … tell your friends who smoke cigarettes. You can join The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association and sign and mail in all available petitions. Links to everything can be found at SuperBeans.com/quitting.
The main thing that gives me hope is this: E-cigarettes have become a political issue. But it has not devolved into a partisan issue. Reason can still prevail because people are still listening to one another.
The News Of The Day completely overshadows the relatively insignificant fact that a couple of weeks ago a hundred people were able to get out from under their cigarette addiction. But it’s those small sparks of progress that enable us to continue to deal with … The News Of The Day.