When I visit the Life After Cigarettes Facebook fan page, I sometimes see ads for electronic cigarettes. Please be aware that I am not in any way endorsing these products.
If you’re a Facebook user, you probably know from the ads that appear on your own wall that Facebook uses demographics and the contents of your messages to pair ads with posts. If you mention your cat in an e-mail, you’ll get ads for pet products. If you’re a woman of a certain age, you’ll get ads for wrinkle crèmes. I heard of a woman who briefly changed the sex listing under her “info” tab from female to male, just to see what would heppen, and found that the ads displayed on her wall were quite different from the ones she was used to seeing. (Hint: They weren’t about face crèmes.)
So what about e-cigarettes? Although they are undoubtedly safer than cigarettes (hardly anything isn’t!), it remains to be seen whether they are enough safer to justify risking primary addiction by children and adolescents and relinquishing the hope of persuading addicted smokers to give up nicotine altogether. These products have not been approved by the FDA and require further testing before the risk-benefit ratio to the individual and society can be determined.
Electronic cigarettes, and other alternative nicotine delivery systems, are discussed in Chapter 7 of Life After Cigarettes. Bottom line: These products, especially the ones that don’t involve combustion, merit further study as a smoking cessation aid or even as a long-term substitute for cigarettes. But is this really where you want to go? And is that really how you want to spend your money? For the moment, my recommendation is to envision yourself as someone who is truly, not just technically, a nonsmoker. Leave smoking behind, if you can (and I’m confident you can!), and move on with your life.
Cynthia S. Pomerleau, Ph.D., is currently research professor emerita in the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry. From 1985 to 2009 she served as director of the Nicotine Research Laboratory, where much of her research focused on the impact of smoking on women. She is the author of more than a hundred articles and book chapters on smoking and a contributor to the 2001 Surgeon General’s Report on Women and Smoking.