Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The State of Smoking

The dangers of second-hand smoke are well documented, with public smoking proving to be an absolute nuisance in some areas. For smokers, it isn’t much of an issue – the smoke you inhale from smoking a cigarette yourself is far greater than what you might inhale through second-hand smoking – but for non-smokers, it can drive you out of an establishment, and pose a health risk. To combat this risk to non-smokers, as well as to discourage individuals from smoking by providing further impediments and inconveniences to smokers, a number of smoking bans on a municipal, county, state, and in some cases countrywide basis have come into effect.

At first, only a few restaurants and other establishments banned smoking out of concern for the interior (smoke can do quite a number on the walls, ceiling, and furniture over the years) and for patrons who are disturbed by cigarette smoke. Over time, however, this spread to other public areas and even bars, that great haven of smokers. Today it can be difficult to find a place you can smoke outside your home (if you aren’t in a non-smoking apartment, anyhow!). Now you can see smokers standing behind shops and on the streets, shivering in the rain and snow, smoking their cigarettes miserably.

Health effects of second hand smoking.
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Coming Inside 

Why be one of them, when you can dodge smoking bans entirely? E-cigarettes are a brilliant invention for many reasons. They fill a need that has existed ever since the ill health effects of smoking were made public: the need to stop inhaling the thousands of toxic chemicals contained in cigarettes. Many have tried and failed – gum, patches, injections, tablets, lozenges, and many other nicotine treatments were tried to help smokers break their addiction, to little effect. However, e-cigarettes often succeed where current cessation devices fail because they also provide the physical sensation of smoking that has come to be associated, in a Pavlovian manner, with the nicotine addiction of smoking.

A new need has been created, though – the need to indulge in a nicotine fix while still being able to remain indoors, eating, drinking, and generally engaging in merriment! With more and more locales banning smoking in public places, you simply can’t expect to be able to smoke. An e-cigarette, of course, gets around this whole problem. An e-cigarette smoker can smoke in a restaurant, a bar, or even a museum. You could smoke in a hospital, in a school, or just about anywhere else where, for the past few decades, it has been absolutely forbidden to smoke. And best of all, you aren’t even threatening the health of anyone around you – you’re being totally safe and responsible!

Seeking Acceptance 

There are some countries that oppose e-cigarettes. After all, they’re a new technology that threatens a multi-billion dollar industry; namely, the tobacco industry. It is unsurprising that business interests are working to oppose e-cigarettes, blocking them from entry in some countries.

Certainly, e-cigs should continue to be tested and examined by scientists; as with anything else consumers take into their bodies, there is always the potential for new developments in science and technology to see problems with e-cigarettes that were previously unknown. As it stands, however, e-cigarettes are remarkable alternatives to cigarettes (which in some countries, receives more acceptance than e-cigs!).

The fact, however, is that as concern for citizen health grows, acceptance of e-cigarettes – the active encouragement of their use by governments and health organizations – is going to become more and more common. This isn’t at all surprising, as the cost to society of smoking is considerable. The health impact of smoking can cost quite a bit, with citizens taken out of working condition sooner, and stricken with cancer and other ailments more often. This puts a strain on the medical system and other care systems that doesn’t have to exist… if only e-cigarettes and other effective techniques for curbing smoking were more widely known and accepted.

Once upon a time, it was rare to see someone using an e-cigarette. They were strange, and probably caused more than a few double-takes. It isn’t hard to get behind the idea of quitting smoking – quitting the phlegmy mornings, the constant ill feeling, the regular bouts of bronchitis, the high cost of cigarettes themselves, and the need to go outside whenever you want to relieve your desires. Today, anything else seems crazy!

When There’s No Harm in Smoking…

For smokers looking to save their own lives, their skins, and let’s be honest, their wallets, electronic cigarettes have been a godsend. It is said that once you become an addict, you are always an addict, even after you have ostensibly “quit” what you are addicted to; every day is then another battle against relapsing into old, bad habits. Yet what is largely bad for you about cigarettes isn’t the addictive substance itself, but rather the byproduct or your drug of choice: the many toxic chemicals produced by smoking tobacco.

Here’s just some of the 4000 chemicals you take into your body when you smoke a cigarette: Benzene, formaldehyde, pesticides, TSNAs, vinyl chloride, arsenic, cadmium, lead and polonium (radioactive materials), ammonia, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen cyanide. Of course, the key component in all of this is nicotine – the addictive substance in tobacco that keeps you coming back to cigarettes again and again.

Inside E-Cigarettes 

Or did, anyway, until the advent of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, as they’re known. E-cigarettes work by storing nicotine in a cartridge, loading it into the e-cigarette, and then having the nicotine vaporized for inhalation. The only dangerous chemical you then inhale is nicotine – which, admittedly, can be used as a pesticide in high concentrations. In this watered down form, however, you simply receive your addictive hit of nicotine, free of the carcinogens, poisons, and other materials that can cause cancer and other illnesses in smokers.

 Of course, the cartridges don’t only contain nicotine; a capsule of pure nicotine is actually a little on the dangerous side! Instead, the nicotine is dissolved in propylene glycol, or perhaps vegetable glycerin, both of which are common food additives with no serious side effects. While nicotine concentrations vary (think of it like the difference between smoking filtered and filterless cigarettes), you can also choose to have particular flavors and smells for your e-cig. Various fruity flavors are available, as are less typical flavors like pina colada and birthday cake!

Chemicals in Cigarette Smoke
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The Machine Behind the Miracle 

An e-cigarette itself is a rather simple device, though as users get deeper and deeper into the culture of it, they tend to get more and more elaborate e-cigarettes. Your basic model, however, is made up of a mouthpiece, atomizer, battery, and a few other electronic components. The mouthpiece is also called the cartridge, and it is typically fixed onto the end of a tube with an absorbent material that is drenched in liquid solution containing nicotine.

The atomizer is the heating element which heats up your liquid, vaporizing it so that it can be safely inhaled by you, the user. These need to be replaced on a fairly regular basis, unlike the battery, which is typically a lithium-ion rechargeable battery. Though of course, like any battery, it needs to eventually be replaced depending on how often you use it, what type it is, its size, and the environment in which you use it.

Some e-cigarettes have a button on them which, when pressed, activates the vaporizing process; newer models, however will sense when you are “sucking” on the end and vaporize automatically, simulating the smoking experience.

The Act of Smoking


 Ultimately, a big key to the success of the e-cigarette in helping smokers move away from smoking actual, poisonous tobacco is in how easily it simulates the act of smoking. It isn’t just the nicotine itself that smokers become addicted to, after all; otherwise, nicotine patches and gum would work like a charm! You also become addicted to the smoke breaks, to the gestures of smoking – it’s nice to have something to do with your hands – and to the oral element of it. (You wouldn’t say you have an oral fixation, but…)

E-cigarettes are designed to look and feel exactly like an actual cigarette – at least, insofar as they can look and feel like that while still housing electronics! This allows you to satisfy all of the rituals associated in your mind with smoking, rituals that you have become addicted to just as much, if not more, as you have the nicotine itself.

With time, some e-cigarette users ratchet down their intake of nicotine, to the point where they eventually have no nicotine in their e-cigarette at all. After that, it’s just the act of smoking they enjoy, and there’s no harm in that!

Six Movies Where Smoking Steals the Scene

1. The Graduate

Mrs. Robinson probably wouldn’t look quite as demure – and, well, let’s say it: seductive – without a cigarette dangling between her fingers.

2. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It can seem like Blondie is chewing on the same ratty cigar for the entirety of the film, but nothing punctuates a shoot-out like that single, swift readjustment at the end of this scene...

3. Pulp Fiction

 It’s easier to punctuate sentences in that awkward silence with a cigarette. You’ll note that it’s sometimes important for actors to have something to do with their hands – we don’t want things getting too awkward, after all…

4. Goodfellas

 De Niro doesn’t get anything in this scene except a cigarette, his eyes, and a badass tune. That’s all the master needs, though.

5. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

It’s hard to imagine Depp’s Hunter S. Thompson without a massive cigarette holder clenched between his teeth, seemingly never smoking it, just holding on from start to finish like it’s the only thing of permanence in the entire film.

6. Girl, Interrupted

Cigarettes do a lot in films – here, Lisa Howe introduces herself, and we get to see a little bit of sociopathic behavior, all over a cigarette.