Nudging the Boundaries


Fresno, California, US
April 11
Writer, Registered Addiction Specialist, civil rights/civil liberties activist


JANUARY 3, 2011 4:41PM

Electronic cigarettes for quitting smoking

Rate: 6 Flag

Tom Cordle posted a wrenching piece about cigarette smoking and his wife’s newly discovered Stage III lung cancer this morning, and I feel compelled to write about an excellent smoking cessation method even for those who may not think they’re ready to stop smoking or have failed other methods. (See Tom's post here:

Let me start by saying that no one is completely ready to stop using an addictive substance. In recovery, counselors say one must “hit rock bottom” in order to be ready to stop.  Addiction doesn’t work that way. “Rock bottom” can mean terminal illness as in Tom’s wife’s case. It can mean COPD, as in the case of my friend Georgia, who uses supplemental oxygen at night because rock bottom didn’t come any sooner.  And still she smoked.

Procrastination will kill you, but if you’re like most people, you’ll keep putting of quitting smoking until the new year, or the first of the month, or until Monday, or after you find work. You may want to wait until your divorce is finished or your spouse is ready to stop. These are all rationalizations, and they keep you from doing what you must do.  Call yourself on them. The time to stop is NOW.

Being a Registered Addiction Specialist means I know about how people rationalize and justify so they don’t have to do something which they find scary. I’ve been there. I am a former smoker and a former drinker. I don’t use the label “alcoholic” because I think labeling is relatively counterproductive, but I was physically addicted to alcohol several years ago. I’ve been addicted even to prescription tranquilizers a few times. I’m an excellent quitter. I know discomfort is part of the process, and I can just wait it out. Most people aren’t so “lucky,” and they agonize for a long, long time.

So here is the best secret I know: electronic cigarettes work. My spouse started smoking tobacco cigarettes again after five years of freedom from it. She was working in a new job, and things were not going well; we had moved her to Nicorette and Nicoderm, but she was still really having a hard time with it. One day while using the Laundromat next door, we saw a sign in a 7-11 store, “Electronic cigarettes now available here!” We went inside to learn more. We came back outside with a starter kit and a package of cartridge refills. She has not used real cigarettes (analogs, vapers call them) since that day, and it has been about six months.

We introduced electronic cigarettes to my friend Georgia, the one who has COPD, and she has been off tobacco cigarettes for about five months now. She had been a smoker for the vast majority of her life, and she had tried virtually everything available with minimal success. She had been about ready to cart around an oxygen tank wherever she goes, but her oxygen use has remained steady at nighttime only. Her doctors have begun the process of reducing her prednisone dosage as she doesn’t need it anymore. She has better color in her face, and she doesn’t get out of breath while talking. Although most of the damage appears to be irreversible, she will not get worse if she stays away from tobacco cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes are not the perfect solution, but they are as close as I’ve seen to one. Vapers (electronic cigarette users) still take in nicotine, so the cardiovascular stress of that drug will continue. Nicotine is hard on your heart and circulatory system, but on the whole, electronic cigarettes are far, far better for you than tobacco cigarettes, and they might just  save your life.


How electronic cigarettes work

Where and what to buy

Harm reduction and electronic cigarettes

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Electronic "cigarettes" have been around for years, but only recently made inroads into the American Tobacco market. They are sold at Mall kiosks and other likely locations.

The genius built into this product is that it utilize the proprioceptive anchor (a physical act that triggers a sequence of pre-programmed behaviors) of putting something in your mouth and sucking on it, triggering the built-in palliative of the sucking behavior which is one of the few "always good" proprioceptive anchors. No one has bad associations with the sucking mechanism since it is associated with food and the sense of well-being. (In fact, the sucking mechanism is why drinking soft drinks from bottles is more rewarding emotionally than drinking from cans, and why bottled beer still exists, even though cans are much cheaper to produce.)

Indeed, these electronic devices can be used to deliver a wide variety of medications since it essentially replicaties the functions of a nebulizer.
I've been fiddling with the electronic cigarette. It's Heavy, which is my first complaint. You can't just have it in your mouth. It's like holding a piece of lead tubing. But I'm still trying.
The succor of sucking, Merlin? Makes sense to me.
Connie, the better ones have flat-tipped cartridges that you can grip in your teeth or lips, but you're right, they are harder to hold in the mouth. Some newer models are introducing a soft cartridge for better gripping.
I am waiting until they come out with the tobacco-less pipe! Well, that and for my new upper plate, without which smoking a pipe would be an exercise in wishful thinking. That said, why can't they come up with a pipe version that provides the flavor that you get from a pipe....without the tobacco. That would be Nobel achievement.
I do plan on trying these Leslie. I am happy to see this post and the information here.
I would love to stop smoking but every single time I continue after quitting. I cannot say how many times I have did that!!
Sagemerlin, epipes have also been around since the beiginning. I searched for an image on a photostream, as I do not want to endose any particular supplier, just to show you they exist. :-)
I quit smoking 25 years ago, but have 3 smokers in my family, daughters and a sister, who I wish would try this. Actually, I would like to try it myself as I thoroughly enjoyed smoking, but I don't really need it so I won't. Thanks for the heads-up, always wondered about those. They look delightful.
Latethink, I'm going to continue posting information on e-cigarettes for a little while, so say tuned. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Leslie, As an ex-smoker I know how hard it is to quit and managed, after many failed attempts, to stop smoking using nicotine replacement therapy. There are some who argue that using NRT, in whatever form, is not tackling the issue of nicotine addiction. From personal experience I found that giving up nicotine gum was relatively easy, although it did take 6 months. The e-cigarette is a controversal product and as far as I am aware, is not considered as a smoking cessation aid by any health organisation and therefore recieves no endorsement. Frankly, I think that any product that is effective in weaning anyone off the hateful and pernicous smoking habit should get a thumbs up.

I recently set up a quit smoking web site ( dedicated to help people stop smoking and have been trawling the net looking for inspiration. I found your article well written and sensible. Please keep up the good work. I recently wrote about the e-cigarette on my site. Perhaps other members might find it useful. It can accessed at:

Thankyou for providing quality information.