As long as I can remember, I’ve been allergic to regular cigarette smoke. My throat tightens up now just writing these words. So, I was never tempted to light up a filtered Lucky Strike, let alone a paper-and-tobacco-only Camel. While numerous friends in high school and college experimented with Pall Malls and Kools (well, among other things), I sought open windows and outside air if any nicotine-delivery stick was set aflame.

I never preached about the ills of the habit, although I did mention to a college girlfriend who smoked that it probably wouldn’t be good for our relationship if every time she came near me I started gasping for air. Fortunately, she was interested enough to see where things were headed that she gave up smoking . . . at least around me. Since we parted ways after a while, though, she may have picked it right back up again.

I wouldn’t doubt her return to the fold. Apparently, the pull of nicotine can be exceedingly strong. I mean, from what I observed with others, the first few times you inhale, your lungs respond in no uncertain terms that they don’t want that stuff you’re forcing on them. Your brain, however, has a different reaction. It develops a liking for the nicotine and thus encourages your lungs to get with the program.

I can only understand the difficult problem of stopping the habit by relating it to chocolate, one of my five basic food groups. If suddenly I was told I had to give up the cacao bean in all its forms, I’m not certain my brain would allow me to do so – at least not without a fight. So, I can empathize a bit. But only those hooked on the nicotine buzz can truly know what the cessation battle is like.

Of course, the best way to avoid having to quit is to not start in the first place. Easy to say – especially when the cigarette manufactures are so skilled at enticement. The “coolness” factor of smoking a cigarette has been around as long as Madison Avenue has been involved.

With all the health issues proven to be connected to smoking, consumption has dwindled here in the U.S. American tobacco producers now target the foreign market for growth. Well, foreigners and teenagers, that is. At least that seems to be the audience for things such as e-cigs and vaping.

For those who aren’t familiar, in a nutshell, an e-cigarette resembles a regular cigarette but with replaceable cartridges. When the user sucks on the mouthpiece, a heating element is activated, and it vaporizes a flavored, liquid solution in the mouthpiece. (Hence, vaping.) The user then inhales the aerosol solution. That’s the nicotine delivery system.

To make vaping really appealing, one report said those liquids can also contain flavorings such as diacetyl, which is linked to lung disease; benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead. Sweet flavors can also be added, which tend to attract beginners.

There’s no smoke per se that escapes from a vaping device (Juul is a popular brand). It’s more like the blast you get from an aerosol can that dissipates quickly into the air. Teenagers apparently are keeping a Juul in their backpacks and sneaking a quick hit between classes. It seems many in that age category are unaware how much nicotine they’re actually getting.

Even without the telltale residual smells of say, alcohol or marijuana, there are some ways to tell if a younger user especially is vaping. Dry nasal passages, dehydration, dry mouth, and even frequent nosebleeds can be side effects. What’s not to like about that in the middle of a math test?

It occurs to me that if the vaping mechanisms can be used as a delivery system for nicotine and other chemicals, perhaps some other mind-altering substances could be introduced. Do you suppose science could come up with a chemical compound that creates common sense in teenagers? For that matter, many adults could make use of that mix as well.

Maybe effective diets can be controlled through vaping. Or something to make people exercise more. How about inhaling vitamins? I’d go for a chocolate hit every morning (noon and night). Oh, but wait. I foresee a small problem. If a social media giant figured out this delivery system, it may find a way to mess around with our minds even more than they do now. I’m not sure we want that.

Probably best to just fill our lungs with good ol’ oxygen. They seem to enjoy that.


©MMXIX. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer