E-cigarettes: a solution to nicotine addiction?

It should be mentioned at the outset that an e-cigarette is generally not intended to be a proven and autonomous means of complete nicotine withdrawal. Although many former smokers try this method and often succeed, it is closely linked to the successive reduction of nicotine levels. It is primarily a change of addiction, in which a familiar ritual is continued. Far from the equally exciting question of whether the addiction can be completely abandoned with the help of an e-cigarette. This article is devoted to the question of whether it is possible to quit smoking with an e-cigarette.

What makes you want to smoke a cigarette?

Physical dependence is mainly characterized by the fact that there is a dependence on nicotine. In a simplified form, this results from the fact that the reward center in the brain becomes particularly active due to certain metabolic changes. Everything you love is anchored in your subconscious, which is also the decisive factor in all addictions (legal and illegal). However, nicotine is not the only cause of rapid addiction. It is rather the association with other tobacco substances. So, if you come across a newspaper article that focuses on all the negative effects of nicotine in an e-cigarette, you have to make the difference. An individual comparison with the nicotine consumption of tobacco cigarettes is therefore inappropriate at this stage, because the different additives lead to a completely different behavior during combustion. This is a very sensitive subject, which is also controversial in the scientific world and has not been researched at all. But as with all narcotics, quantity makes the difference. Psychological dependence clearly shows how much our brain is involved in this process. It is the power of habit that makes it clear that a cigarette is indispensable after a meal or on a wet and joyful evening. Smokers closely associate smoking with everyday life events such as stress, distraction, socialization or stimulation. For many people, psychological dependence is therefore even more important than physical dependence, as there is still some "work to be done".

How can an e-cigarette replace this craving?

A study published in 2013 in which New Zealand researchers looked at the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a way to stop smoking. The requirements for the 657 participants in total were a minimum age of 18 years and the goal of quitting smoking. In this study, e-cigarettes with a nicotine content of 16 mg/ml, nicotine patches and nicotine-free e-cigarettes were used as substitutes for cigarettes. These were distributed among the test persons in a ratio of 4:4:1, with 292 people each having received a nicotine-containing e-cigarette, 292 people also having fun with nicotine patches, and the remaining test persons, 73 in total, having received a nicotine-free e-cigarette. This classification was random and did not take into account previous smoking behaviour. After a one-week adjustment period, test subjects were asked to quit smoking now, after one, three and six months, to indicate their smoking behaviour at that time and to perform a carbon monoxide breath test for verification. Results: The evaluation of the study, which was completed at six months, yielded an interesting result. The proportion of those tested had completely quit smoking with the respective substitutes. In addition, this proportion of test persons reduced smoking behaviour by at least half with the respective substitutes. It is also interesting to note that the probability of quitting smoking permanently with all three substitutes decreased very strongly in the first few days after the beginning of the study, but became increasingly constant towards the end of the study (six months), which is an additional indication that smoking cessation is particularly difficult to manage during this period. In addition, the likelihood of permanent abstinence from smoking was consistently higher in subjects equipped with nicotine-containing e-cigarettes than in subjects equipped with the other two substitutes.

Stop smoking with the e-cigarette

The study shows that the e-cigarette can be a useful way to quit smoking if it is too difficult for a smoker to quit completely. However, it also shows that more than 35 people tested using e-cigarettes containing nicotine failed to reduce their tobacco consumption by at least half. This may be mainly related to psychological dependence. For many people who switch to the e-cigarette, or at least for all those who try it, an e-cigarette (in its "early stages") simply cannot offer what they are used to from normal smoking. This already starts with the fact that the absorption of nicotine is much slower than with tobacco consumption. This change must therefore first be made in the mind. An e-cigarette can therefore only have an effect on physical dependence. For many smokers, it is certainly too complicated to find out beforehand about the functioning, correct use and other relevant facts that are important for the use of e-cigarettes. In addition to the familiarization phase, there is also a lot of experimentation to be done to develop the smoking behavior that is right for you. The use of the e-cigarette also requires a lot of planning. For what does a smoker do when the battery of the only e-cigarette in his personal assortment is suddenly empty and the next gas station is not far away? Tell you that it's the will that counts! It is this often absent will, which makes it so difficult to stop smoking.
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