Question: I have wanted to quit smoking cigarettes for years. I know they're bad for me, but quitting the habit is tough. What is the story on the electronic cigarettes? Do they work? Are they safe?
As a non-smoker, I have to rely on experience of other folks sometimes. I have learned to be thankful for my smoke allergies that removed all temptation to either smoke or associate with smokers, as they only made me sneeze and cough more. Seriously, it affected my choices of friends because my allergy was that bad.
You are right about the difficulty in quitting. Nicotine has been shown in some studies to be more quickly addictive than heroine. It is a powerful stimulant drug that increases heart rate and causes blood vessels to narrow, promoting higher blood pressure. It greatly increases risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and lung disease, as you know. Also, as you know, a pack per day will cost you nearly $2,000 a year for cigarettes alone.
The electronic cigarettes are becoming a popular option for many who seek freedom from their habit. The one with which I am most familiar is comprised of a cartridge (inhaler, liquid container and vaporizer are built as one piece) and rechargeable battery with indicator light. There are small and graduated doses of nicotine available so that you can literally wean yourself off the addictive drug. They even come in regular and menthol flavor.
There are oral drugs (pills and chewing gum) that can also help you wean yourself from nicotine, but many report that the act of putting something up to the mouth is itself a habit that is hard to break after years of doing it. The electronic cigarette offers the opportunity to slowly break the physical habit as well as the chemical habit.
I was introduced to this product by Tim, one of our patients who came to see us one day to say goodbye. Tim had been a lifelong smoker, up to two or three packs per day, and was facing surgery for a throat lump that was nearly certain to be cancer. His heart and lungs were ruined, so chances of making it through surgery were slim. Even then, a malignancy loomed as his reward for his habit.
Tim sported a new electronic cigarette, though, and proudly stated that he had kicked the habit that had ruined him. He had to travel all the way to a truck stop to get his supplies, though, because no one in Griffin had them. He demonstrated that he could inhale normally as the electronic cigarette delivered a measured dose of nicotine and mist. He exhaled harmless water vapor. It looked and felt realistic to him, but there was no smoke and nothing to give him cancer or make me sneeze.
On Tim's recommendation, I researched this product and ordered some. We have tried them with some patients with great success. I can't tell you how great it is to hear of people breaking this habit and turning to health. We hear from them as they begin to breathe better, taste food again, and even smell flowers that they could not enjoy as smokers.
One told me just this morning that she is already going to the smaller dose of nicotine on her way to breaking the addiction altogether. Her next order of electronic cigarette filters will be nicotine-free, and she will have kicked the habit. Her lungs will begin the long process of self-cleaning and repair after the assault they have sustained.
If you need help to stop smoking, give us a call or drop by the clinic for coffee and a chat. I will be glad to drop everything except patients to talk with you about how you can quit and do it cleanly. By the way, you'll save a lot of money that won't go up in smoke.
And Tim's tumor was benign—this time.