In the year 2003, a Chinese pharmacist by the name of Hon Lik developed what he hoped would be an acceptable alternative to the practice of smoking tobacco. By the end of the year, the first smokeless cigarettes hit the market, and the company for which Hon Lik worked changed their name from Golden Dragon Holdings to Ruyan, a Chinese word which means “to resemble smoking”. Currently, these items are growing in popularity, especially in North America.
Many people have tried one or more of the wide variety of electronic smokes that are available for purchase from a great number of manufacturers and distributors. The reasons for this experimentation vary from person to person, but among the most popular reported reasons the idea of breaking free of a nicotine dependency tends to be quite high on the list. While these items are not really marketed or sold as cessation aids, the fact is that many people have found that they are able to control and perhaps even eliminate their addiction in this way. Part of this has to do with the variable strength of the nicotine solution, and the fact that it can be reduced as desired by the smoker.
Essentially, these are vaporizer units. They consist primarily of a rechargeable battery which will last several hours before needing to be juiced up again, a small reservoir wherein the nicotine solution is held, and a mouthpiece through which to inhale the resultant vapor. Nearly all models come equipped with a small button to control the heating element.
What can you expect from one of these devices? That really all depends on which of the many styles you select.
Some are deliberately constructed to resemble real smokes while others look more industrial and functional. Some models are designed to be disposable, but the vast majority are built so that the owner can replace the parts which wear out. As far as the actual vaporizing experience goes, there is an awful lot more to it that just drip, heat, and inhale.
For one thing, most retailers who sell these electronic smokes also offer a wide range of flavors. The available tastes can range from traditional tobacco flavor (even mimicking particular well-known American brands) to more gourmand notes of chocolate, vanilla, apple pie, and even wild berries. Some of the more outlandish attempts at interesting gustatory and olfactory properties include cognac, tiramisu, and even a flavor which purports to taste like bubble gum.
Because of the nature of the vaporized liquid, many different concoctions are quite possible. The fluid itself is either going to be a propylene glycol or glycerin solution (sometimes also vegetable based for those who have intolerance or allergies) which has either been adulterated with a flavor compound or left entirely tasteless and without odor. To this glycerin or propylene glycol compound is added a concentrated, and therefore slightly hazardous, nicotine solution.
When the button is depressed, the heater kicks in. This vaporizes a small amount of the fluid mixture, creating an aerosol mist which is then inhaled precisely in the same way as regular tobacco smoke. The nicotine is delivered to the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat as usual, and the physical craving for nicotine can be addressed without the associated toxic constituents of burning plant matter.
Debate exists as to whether or not it is strictly proper and responsible to market these electronic smokes as cessation aids. There is little argument that the elimination of tar, cyanide, carbon monoxide, and other really quite awful pollutants is a much more preferable way to go than ingesting those contaminants as well as the nicotine, but the fact remains that nicotine is itself an undesirable poison which is better left outside the body.
While this is undeniably true, it is also the case that lots of people who choose to use these devices also do so with the intention of eventually stopping altogether. This is made possible by the idea of variable strength nicotine solutions. If someone is determined to quit smoking but has had no luck in the past with other methods, they might decide to try to wean themselves off slowly with an electronic version. They can start with a normal strength nicotine solution and then gradually reduce the dose until they are down to a zero milligram cartridge.
Many people have discovered that the lower nicotine levels are much less noticeable when they do it this way. The prevalent thinking is that, since the electronic device manages to maintain the manual and oral sensations of smoking, a large amount of the addiction is allowed to remain intact. Just not the poisonous part. There’s no real health risk with being addicted to holding a pen shaped device, nor any long term problems associated with inhaling through a straw every once in a while.
It is possible that prolonged use of these little machines will present its own set of health related concerns, but to date there have been no conclusive reports of serious risks if used correctly and according to all instructions. Part of the reason for this, however, is that the products have really only enjoyed a couple of years on the market. There simply has not been enough time to conduct any sort of rigorous study.
Because the exhaled vapor is primarily just water, there are significantly reduced health risks to nearby persons as well. This is not to say that they will appreciate your compassion and outlook on your respiratory health simply because you are puffing out great clouds of peach scented steam in the restaurant rather than noxious tobacco smoke. Using one of these smokeless cigarettes is not a license to act cheeky and puff it in all kinds of places where smoking is prohibited. The average viewer isn’t going to know or care that you are merely exhaling steam, and they will probably tell you off or call someone else over to make you put the thing out. You can try to explain if you want, but it’s going to be so much easier if you don’t whip it out all over the place.