Over 45 million Americans smoke tobacco cigarettes, but most of them really are trying to quit. Using electronic cigarettes has become one of the most popular ways to kick the habit, but is it as effective as going cold turkey?
Most of the people I know claim that quitting cold turkey is the only way to really quit cigarettes, but many of these people have never smoked in their lives. I suppose it’s easy to just judge someone and give advice when you’ve never had to fight nicotine addiction, but the fact of the matter is quitting cigarettes isn’t as easy as it sounds. What most people don’t realize is that once you stop smoking cigarettes, you begin the withdrawal period which peaks in the first five days after quitting, but can last up to six months. Physical symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal include nausea, sweating, headaches, tingling in the hands and feet, and coughing. These can be really irritating, but it’s really the mental and emotional symptoms that are hardest to deal with.
Every moderate to heavy smoker that has ever decided to completely give up smoking tobacco has experienced at least one of these symptoms: irritability, anger, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, depression, mental confusion, and even a state of near paralysis. Studies have shown that 30 minutes after smoking their last cigarette, people who usually went through a pack a day showed difficulty concentrating and completing tasks requiring attention. Others, who are prone to depression, have a 25% chance of becoming depressed after quitting, a risk that lasts at least 6 months.
Believe it or not, over 90% of people who choose to quit smoking cold turkey relapse in the first six months. That is a documented fact, not just the opinion of someone who’s never tried smoking. Which leads us to nicotine replacement therapies like nicotine patches, gum and lozenges. This particular industry has seen an important growth in the last few years, with the market rising to over $800 million in 2007, precisely because people believed these products helped them quit smoking. But recent studies show otherwise.
According to the most serious long-term research of nicotine replacement therapies ever conducted, patches and gum only help the user during the withdrawal period, after which he is just as likely to relapse as someone who quit cold turkey. Although they have been endorsed by the vast majority of clinical trials, the benefit of these products has always been controversial, and this latest study concluded the use of replacement products made no difference whether they were taken for the recommended period or under the guidance of a smoking cessation counselor. While they do help people get over the difficult withdrawal period, they don’t prevent relapse in the long run.
But what about electronic cigarettes? Suppliers aren’t allowed to market them as smoking-cessation products, but there are a lot of people claiming they successfully quit tobacco by switching to e-cigarettes. Do they fall in the same category as other nicotine replacement products, simply because they contain the addictive substance? Personally, I think e-cigarettes have a great advantage in the way nicotine is delivered.
Smokers who have been using cigarettes for decades will have serious problems giving up their daily habits and rituals, even with the help of nicotine therapy or counseling, but by using quality e-cigarettes, they won’t need to change the routine to actually change their quality of life. Most e-cigarette users agree we need to have personal vaporizers regulated by the FDA and subjected to thorough health tests, but for the time being they remain an effective last resort for smokers who are having trouble kicking the habit any other way.
Plus, there have been numerous cases of ex-smokers who gradually managed to beat nicotine addiction, by constantly lowering the levels of nicotine in their e-juice. Cessation by e-cigarettes may not work for everybody, but the same thing can be said about nicotine gum and patches.
Top photo by Tomasz Sienicki