Sunday, November 25, 2012

Addiction Is Harmful

Lately, I've been made aware of a new fad, known as the electronic cigarette. Here in Bellingham, there's a business ( which sells such products across the street from the place where I do my banking. The claim is that electronic cigarettes are not carcinogenic (which is saying something, if true, since cancer can even be caused by sunlight, which is normally considered to be health and desirable, and also by charred steak or burnt toast).

The electronic cigarettes can be flavored with all kinds of flavors (banana split, for instance) which were never associated with tobacco cigarettes. See this page for more information.

Long ago, when stores sold candy cigarettes, people objected to them on the grounds that they were clearly aimed at kids, and they made smoking seem harmless, and they therefore seemed to increase the chances that kids would pick up real cigarettes when they were old enough to do so. But they were not available in anything close to the flavor range now being offered with electronic cigarettes, and as candy, they pretty much failed, although in fairness, they tasted as good as the was lips which were also sold to kids.

Let's say that e-cigs are not carcinogenic. Does that mean they're harmless? Virtually all of the companies which sell them feel obliged to put a disclaimer or warning on the package, stating that they are addictive. Of course, some people get addicted to coffee or cafeinated drinks, and that doesn't stop people like me from drinking such things (partially because I have never noticed any particular addiction to such things to the point that I felt a craving or an unpleasant sensation related to not getting my coffee or cola fix).

If you can use electronic cigarettes without any noticeable detrimental effects, and if you can afford them, I say go for it. But never allow anything (even the natural act of sexual intercourse or the normal act of shopping) to become such an addiction that it hinders your ability to control your life and your budget.

Fortunately, when I was a kid, my parents' opposition to smoking kept me from ever doing anything other than to try them a few times. (FYI, the experience mystified me, since I wondered why anyone would want to do something which caused him or her to cough heavily, the way I'd seen my smoking paternal grandparents do when they visited us). But some people were not that fortunate. Even my own brother became a smoker to the point that he was addicted, although some would argue that that was the least of his problems vis-a-vis addictions, since he also became an alcoholic.

If e-cigs can help people like my brother to withdraw from the aptly named cancer sticks, in a manner similar to nicotine patches, then that would seem to me to be a good thing. The anti-smoking ads run before some videos on rented DVDs may be a bit over the top (and possibly ineffective, since anyone who's ever seen The Bucket List is very likely to think that the characters played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson looked mighty good for people who were ostensibly dying of cancer), but I grew up hearing horror stories from my mother, about people who'd had to have holes surgically cut in their throats (i.e., a tracheotomy) because they had gotten lung cancer. So an avoidance of tobacco cigarettes is definitely a good thing.

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