This is another one of those “something on my mind” type posts where I’m going to try to clarify some thinking, and maybe organise the thoughts rumbling through my addled brain. It may also bring together some threads from previous posts that I’ve mentioned but not expanded upon.
Nothing really prompted this post as such, just a bunch of thoughts that need to be emptied out to make room for more. Time for a rewind.
What is an e-cigarette?
Simply put, an e-cigarette / vapouriser is an electrical device that heats a liquid that usually contains PG, VG, Nicotine and flavourings to create a vapour or aerosol which is then inhaled, either via a mouth to lung action (similar to smoking a normal combustible cigarette) or inhaled into the lung directly.
What is a ‘Vaper’?
Again, simply put a vaper is a user of an e-cigarette / vapouriser. Just like a “smoker” is a user of combustible tobacco.
What is “Cessation”?
Cessation. In all honesty, it’s not a particularly pleasant word but in a nut-shell, it means to “cease use of”. Stop. Finito. End of. Fin.
What about “efficacy”?
Another word I truly loathe. Means how effective a particular medicine is. The “capacity for producing the desired result or effect”. The word originates from the Latin efficācia.
Why you telling me this?
Ah, the reason for the post. See, the thing is there’s a whole bunch of questions still surrounding vapourisers and vaping and most of them, in this bloggers inane opinion, are pretty pointless. Safety is of course of paramount concern, we don’t want the things blowing up in our faces or as Lorien put it:
If the e-cig isn’t going to blow up in your face, then it is going to jump out of your pocket and poison everyone within a mile radius! If either of those two things don’t happen then it is going to fill you so full of formaldehyde that Damian Hirst is going to be banging on your door demanding to split you in two and hang you in a perspex box!
So we want a nice, relatively safe device. One that we can use with confidence that it’s not going to do stupid things whenever we press that fire button. But, do we really need a device that is bullet proof? You know, absolutely zero chance of it ever failing, drop-kick against a wall safe? Let’s face it, anything electrical can (and often does) fail in the most spectacular of ways. Sometimes it’ll fail with a pop and smoke, other times it’ll just fizzle out with nary a sound.
So what’s the problem? The problem, as I see it is that because of where vapourisers are positioned (as an alternative to, or a way out of smoking) certain folks want to make them dull and dreary cessation devices. Hence the chatter about “efficacy”. On the flip side of that, we do of course want a device that will actually work in delivering the sensations and effects that we, as former smokers need.
Of course, this is where it starts to fall apart a bit. Individuals. Each of us has a different “requirement” from our devices. Which brings me to a slight side-bar.
Vapourisers aren’t the only product out there. Snus has been around far longer than vapourisers have, it didn’t particularly appeal to me, but it does for plenty of others. Chewing tobacco, again been around a while. Doesn’t appeal to me, but many still use it. These are both alternatives to smoking.
Meaning, that Snus & Chewing tobacco are possibilities or another choice instead of the more traditional form of cigarette (or other form of combustible tobacco). Now we have another alternative, “Heat not Burn” products (HnB), which isn’t a particularly new thing having been tried before (Marlboro having tried “Accord” back in the 90’s and RJR tried “Eclipse” in ’94 both of which flopped). Of course, technology and science has moved on a bit since then so you would expect the latest iterations (Revo & iQOS) to be a bit better than their 90’s counterparts.
Options, options. Cigarettes, HnB, Smokeless and Vapourisers. There’s something for everyone if they want it. That brings me back to the “requirements”. Everyone is different, some want to smoke. Some want a similar experience and sensation with all the taste yet without the combustion and associated harms, so they have HnB. Smokeless for others and vapourisers or nothing.
Each of these options give the user a different overall experience and in some instances there’s additional options within the subset for the choice of the user. So where does the problem lie?
The “problem” as such, is the positioning. Heat not Burn, Smokeless Tobacco and Vapourisers can all be classified as “harm reduction” products where the use of such a product exposes the user to a degree of less harm than that of traditional combustible tobacco. You can expect, therefore to not do as much harm to yourself if you chose to use a HnB product instead of combustible tobacco. Same with Smokeless Tobacco and Vapourisers. Each of them offer a reduced risk to the user; hence the phrase “tobacco harm reduction”.
Trouble is, by using one of these products some “experts” claim that they are “cessation” devices and so must go through the rigorous, and overbearing “efficacy” and “safety” tests, clinical trials and so on to ensure that they pose no risk whatsoever (not just a substantially reduced risk compared to the product they are replacing, but *zero*), which is utterly ludicrous. We as human beings don’t live in a completely risk-free world, unless you live in a hermetically sealed building with padded walls and no sharp objects risk is always present. How an individual balances those risks to make a choice is part of being human.
Are these THR products “cessation aids” as some view vapourisers to be? Not strictly no. They can be viewed as a cessation aid, but that isn’t and never was their primary purpose or function. These products were developed and designed as alternatives to combustible tobacco. One in an array of many choices available. Applying the word “cessation” to any of them implies that they can be immediately put in the “no-fun, dull-as-fuck” therapy group, which is not the original intention of any of these products.
If they aren’t the no-fun, dull-as-fuck therapies, then what exactly are they? If we look at the legal definition of a “consumer product” (as defined by the US Consumer Product Safety Act):
CONSUMER PRODUCT.–The term ‘‘consumer product’’ means any article, or component part thereof, produced or distributed (i) for sale to a consumer for use in or around a permanent or temporary household or residence, a school, in recreation, or otherwise, or (ii) for the personal use, consumption or enjoyment of a consumer in or around a permanent or temporary household or residence, a school, in recreation, or otherwise; but such term does not include— (A) any article which is not customarily produced or distributed for sale to, or use or consumption by, or enjoyment of, a consumer
Vapourisers, Snus, HnB and tobacco products can be identified as a consumer product as the term “for the personal use, consumption or enjoyment of a consumer“. I’ve said it numerous times, I enjoyed smoking, and I enjoy vaping. Ergo, the product is clearly a consumer product. Or is it?
Another definition. Lifestyle. As previously discussed on this very blog, smoking and by extension any of the THR Products could be classified as a habit.
By that definition, these products could also be classed as “lifestyle products”. But, as an adjective the lifestyle (of a drug) designed to treat problems, which affect a person’s quality of life. Smoking ins’t a problem, it can cause problems but it isn’t the problem.
Trouble is, with the confusing possibilities in the different definition applications to vapourisers specifically, it’s easy to see how the product has gone from being a “consumer product” to a “cessation aid” which has led to the whole debacle currently being played out in public health circles with researchers on both sides engaged in determining the actual truth.
Trouble is, some of those researchers are forgetting us. We’re often collateral damage in the ongoing debate, or more specifically, the general public are. One side doesn’t appear to care about the perceptions they continue to propagate, the other side takes it’s time to present the information in clear, concise, no-nonsense ways.
We the consumer have driven the market, but who or what has been driving us?