3 Reasons Why:

E-Cigarettes Work as Tobacco Harm Reduction

This week at The Influence, Associate Editor Sarah Beller explored the debate around vaping. Read the full story at The Influence, and check out the 3 big reasons why former cigarette smokers ❤ vaping below.

With the release of new FDA rules regulating e-cigarettes expected to come any day now, our attitudes to these devices — and to tobacco harm reduction in general — matter more than ever. A debate over whether they should be viewed as a danger, as a lesser evil, or as a miracle, is splintering both the public and private realms, creating unexpected alliances and enemies. It is no exaggeration to say that millions of lives may hang in the balance.

Presenters at the first ever US Tobacco Harm Reduction Conference on April 21, 2016, highlighted three interesting reasons why e-cigarettes may work better than other forms of nicotine delivery to help people quit smoking:

1. Drug Use as Ritual
 Conference organizer and Influence contributor Helen Redmond works in supportive housing for people with a range of psychiatric diagnoses. “When it comes to drug use,” she said, “ritual is very important. For people who use drugs and particularly for people in some kind of psychological distress, the sensory aspects are really powerful.” Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University’s School of Public Health talked about this sensory aspect as well: E-cigarettes are the first product, he said, “to mimic smoking” in terms of the “oral stimuli, throat-hit, vapor cloud and inhalation,” thereby maintaining smoking associations. Smoking cigarettes is also often “a social activity; vaping mimics this aspect as well, with things like “social support, vaping clubs, and vape fest.”

2. Vaping Is Fun
 “Vape fest”? Sounds pretty fun, right? That’s another point for e-cigarettes. Dr. Christopher Russell, Ph.D., a researcher from Scotland, where the attitude toward e-cigarettes is much more receptive than in the US, highlighted this. He said: “People used to think of quitting smoking as a terrible time in your life you have to grit your teeth and get through.” But with vaping, it can be a “hobby.” There are different flavors, ways to experiment with mixing and matching e-cigarette parts and juices and “neat devices.” There’s also “skill formation.” He quoted a vaper who said: “I learned about the different bases and juices. There’s so much knowledge out there and I became a nerd. And it became a hobby.” Julie Woessner, executive director of CASAA (the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association), echoed these sentiments. She showed the audience different versions of e-cigarettes that she likes to carry with her: “I love those puppies when I’m traveling — they’re fun,” she said. “The fact that we’re enjoying what we’re doing doesn’t detract from the fact that we are enjoying significant health benefits.”

3. Identity
 Smoking cigarettes can become an identity for some people, and with the patch or gum, Dr. Siegel explained, “you’re not really getting a substitute” — there’s not a vibrant community of people who identify as patch-users. Siegel quoted one vaper who illustrated how vaping, in contrast, fills the void: “You know, for years, I loved being able to carry around my pack of cigarettes and my Red Sox lighter. I miss carrying my Red Sox lighter. I still could but it’d be stupid. That’s how you feel about your [vape]; it’s your Red Sox lighter. It becomes who you are.”

Read the original feature at The Influence…and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sarah Beller is an associate editor for The Influence. You can follow her on Twitter: @JulesBesch.

Originally published at theinfluence.org on April 27, 2016.