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What the Hell is Vaping?
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Michael Offline
Oh, where have I gone off to...

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What the Hell is Vaping?
Vaping has taken the world by storm in recent years, and has become a "hot button" issue almost overnight. Politicians, movie stars, business moguls and people from all walks of life have gotten involved in the discussion, and it has caused a stir among smokers and non-smokers alike. The issue has been extremely polarizing, as some condemn vaping as a sinful, unregulated and dangerous addiction, while others regard it as a semi-Messianic solution to the problem of "Big tobacco" and the health risks and addictions associated with traditional tobacco products.

So what the hell is vaping?

Vaping, in the purest sense of the word, is the practice of using electronic cigarettes (or "e-cigs"). This raises another question, "what are electronic cigarettes?" To answer this, one need only to do a brief Google search to find myriad products. The basics of electronic cigarettes are as follows:

  1. A battery is used to power an atomizer.

  2. An atomizer is a coil of wire wrapped around a wick, which heats up to vaporize a liquid.

  3. The liquid (or "juice") is a mixture of ingredients that may or may not include nicotine.

  4. The liquid is held in some sort of tank or reservoir, which allows the wick to absorb the liquid.

  5. The "vaper" (as electronic cigarette users are called) inhales the vaporized liquid in an action similar to smoking.

  6. The vaporized liquid is exhaled, producing a cloud of white water vapor that can look like cigarette smoke.

Electronic cigarettes can come in a variety of styles. Some look like cigarettes, while others are simply a tube or box holding a battery. 

The concern about e-cigs stems mainly from points #3 and #6. Groups fighting against e-cigs state that since the liquid has not been approved by the FDA, it is unregulated and therefore unsafe for consumption. Early e-cigs were found to contain trace amounts of dangerous chemicals, and so we should not trust any e-liquid manufacturers. Others add that "we don't know what's in the liquid, so it's better to assume there's dangerous chemicals in it until it has been tested." Still others state that since e-liquid comes in many flavors (including fruits, desserts, and other very tasty things) it might entice children to start vaping, and therefore be a gateway to smoking. The issue with point #6 is a more emotional issue, since vaping looks like smoking and thus might cause people to smoke more, or at the very least, cause non-smokers to feel uncomfortable around vapers' clouds.

Now let's look at these arguments more carefully.

  1. The liquid has not been approved by the FDA.

     - This is true. The liquid itself has not been FDA approved. However, all the ingredients have been approved seperately, and are not known to react in any negative way with the other ingredients when combined. Also, the FDA might not be as good a source as people think. Some FDA approved compounds, such as saccharine and other sweeteners, have been shown to contribute to cancer, brain plaque, and other severe health problems, yet are still approved. The FDA also recently approved a drug that has been linked to over 500 deaths, as well as suicidal tendancies in many patients, because "its benefits outweigh the risks." 

  2. Early e-cigs contained dangerous chemicals. 

     - This is also true. Some early e-cigs were tested and found to contain trace amounts of a dangerous chemical. However, what they don't tell you is that the juice containing this chemical was immediately removed from the market, and no other juices tested have ever contained that chemical since. The early e-cigs tested contained such trace amounts that it would be impossible to find any negative effects, but the producers removed it from production anyway. In comparison, the air we breath everyday contains many dangerous compounds such as carbon monoxide, but they are in such trace amounts that it doesn't matter.

  3. We don't know what's in them.

     - This is simply not true. Every bottle of eliquid has an ingredient list right on the side. Most have four ingredients: Vegetable Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, flavor, and nicotine. Some people state that since Propylene Glycol is an ingredient in antifreeze, it must be deadly. These people have not done their homework. Propylene Glycol is added to antifreeze and other products to REDUCE their toxicity, making it safer in the event of a child or pet ingesting the antifreeze.

  4. E-liquid flavors can cause children to start vaping.

     - If this is true, then you are a horrible parent. Any sensible person should keep their vaping supplies away from children. Vape stores will not sell to anyone under 18 years of age, and if the children are getting e-cigs from someone older, they could just as easily get real cigarettes from someone over 18. Even if the flavor entices minors, it's much better for them to use an e-cig with only four ingredients than a cigarette with over 4,000 carcinogenic chemicals. The e-cigs are not targeted at minors, and there has not been a single report of any e-cig company advertising toward minors. The flavors are used to make vaping more fun for adults who might like yummy flavors better than tobacco smoke. In comparison, many mixed drinks such as pina coladas and sangrias taste great, but that doesn't mean they are targeted at minors.

  5. Vaping is a gateway to cigarettes.

     - The term "gateway" is a great example of a word with negatively charged connotations. When people hear that e-cigs are a gateway to real cigarettes, it can subconsciously stir emotions caused by the related term "gateway drug" and all that term carries. The problem is that this argument simply is not true. Of the hundreds of thousands of vapers, a vast majority stopped smoking because of it, and most of the rest were smokers who simply continued smoking while vaping. There is no evidence to support the claim that vaping can lead to smoking, but there are myriad ewxamples of it working the other way around, vaping leading people to STOP smoking. However, e-cigs cannot be marketed as smoking cessation devices, as they are not FDA regulated and would have to be treated as medical devices should they be marketed in that way.

  6. Vaping looks like smoke.

     - Yes, it does. So what? Simply looking like smoke does not make it smoke. One politican is quoted as saying "if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, walks like a duck, acts like a duck, it must be a duck." Following that train of thought, the mascot for the Annaheim Mighty Ducks can't possibly be a real person inside a costume, can he? Just because vaping can look like smoke does not mean it's smoke. It's water vapor. It doesn't smell like burning tobacco, it doesn't give cancer like secondhand smoke, and it dissipates much more quickly than smoke.

  7. It might make non-smokers uncomfortable.

     - So stick the vapers in a "vapers only" section of the restaurant. Tell vapers they can't vape in a non-smoking/non-vaping section. Or just put a sign up that says "no vaping inside." Just because it makes people slightly uncomfortable is not a reason to ban something. Seeing someone in a wheelchair makes me slightly uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean the government should ban wheelchairs. 


On the other end of the spectrum, some e-cig advocates view vaping as the end-all solution to smoking, the Messiah for our time. This is not a good perspective either. Let's all see vaping for what it is: an alternate method of nicotine consumption. It may be much safer than traditional tobacco, and it may help many people to quit smoking, but that doesn't make it God. 

P.S. - I'm sorry about this post being so long. Future FAQ threads will not be so politically charged, but I wanted to get all the argument out of the way so that all my future FAQ posts can be simply "Question and Answer" style things about the mechanics of vaping.
21-09-2014 03:47 PM
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