By Sophia Lucente, A&E Editor
Published in print Feb. 25, 2015
A decade and a half into the 21st century, Americans have mastered the art of sleek technology and trendsetting via sharp, shiny advertising. The drugs we put in our bodies are no exception to these practices.
It’s easy to pick up one of those silvery, tobacco-free suckers and feel swayed – even charmed – by its hi-tech finesse. It’s lightweight. It doesn’t carry that recently-dead-and-burned-in-a-fire potency that lingers within one’s flannel pockets. Its butt even glows a sexy aquamarine.
It isn’t hard to see its proposed practical purposes, either; those who have developed long-lasting addiction to cigarettes claim the new inventions are highly effective in helping them quit.
But that isn’t surprising. Every smoker probably reaches the point where smoking isn’t cool, where it hurts and where it breaks the bank. The whole process is certainly part habit – although the chemical effects are even nastier, and deceptively so.
Nicotine itself is an alkaloid poison derived from the tobacco plant that works as both a stimulant and a depressant. The most damaging and immediate repercussion a human suffers upon nicotine consumption, according to health studies on Livestrong.com, is vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels.
What’s most annoying about e-cig devotees is their “that was easy” demeanor when it comes to their departure from cancer-stick land. Like it’s any wonder that sucking on a miniature bubble-gum hookah everywhere they go compels them to give up something that tastes a lot worse and turns their teeth yellow. Of course you quit smoking run-of-the-mill cigarettes. Of course it is easy to continue your nicotine consumption, especially now that there are fun colors and flavors.
There is currently a nationwide, commercial push towards the glorification of e-cigarettes. Ads on television aren’t very common; they faced criticism and bans in both the United States and the U.K. following e-cig marketing initiatives in 2014. But that hasn’t stopped radio time, which has featured increasing numbers of smoke shop gimmicks, especially in the Triad. Sultry voices advertise knowledgeable staffs, hundreds of flavors to choose from and personalized accessories.
Tell me again that e-cigs are simply a tool to quit smoking.
There is a strange culture that has emerged and engulfed a significant portion of the smoker community – and it is largely about affirming one another that they’re normal and O.K. to use.
In reality, they’re nothing more than a glaring indication that you might be too lazy or too weak to liberate yourself from small, consistent highs and whatever image of yourself you’ve conjured up as a result. (See: People who wear e-cigs on necklaces – what the hell is that?) It shows that you’ve chosen to buy into a trend, in spite of the health risks you might face. On one hand, such a behavior isn’t uncommon in a country where we’re constantly being reminded that chicken nuggets are good and that drinking Coke is one of the most American things you can do. People don’t do their research; if they do, they run into too many sources and too many opinions and find that in the end they have responsibilities to attend to and bills to pay, so they might as well do what feels good.
“The biggest concern about e-cigarettes,” said Pennsylvania State public health professor Joshua Muscat in a letter to the New York Times editor, “is their potential to increase nicotine addiction among young smokers, especially children, who would not normally try tobacco.” Indeed, this moment in history – soon after the realization that tobacco is unhealthy and that public spaces deserve clear air – is a particularly bad time to pioneer a glitzy and widely misunderstood “alternative”.
A true alternative to smoking or vaping is – who would have guessed? – not smoking or vaping. It is self-education and honest reflection on one’s own insecurities. It is adaptation to new habits and new interests. It’s finding out what flavor gum you might always keep on your person. Chances are it’s cheaper than an e-cig refill.