Into the mist | Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | Apr 30, 2014

I’m heading out of town this week, for just a few days, but I still should probably be packing instead of writing.

I tend to approach preparing for trips the same way Charlie Brown approaches book reports that are due. Anxiety delays everything.

I’m usually prepared for the boredom, though. I load my tablet with movies, music and books, and usually I immediately put on my noise-reducing headphones and settle back for some cinema.

It discourages talkative seatmates and I catch up on movies I’ve been meaning to see.

I could watch these at home, but I’ve noticed that I tend to gravitate toward comfort. In other words, after busy days, I’ve found myself watching multiple episodes of “The Office.”

It was a good show, well written and funny, but I’ve seen them all. Many times. It just gives me comfort.

Comfort also comes into play with the type of food I eat during these watching marathons, although I certainly have arteries that might disagree. Comfort food: It’s whatever settles your soul, but I’m betting it’s not kale.

Mine tends to lean toward sugar and fat, occasionally fried, never a good idea but that’s not really the point.

It’d be nice if kale gave me comfort, though. Or, on the other hand, if, as in Woody Allen’s movie “Sleeper,” scientists discover huge health benefits from pizza and chocolate ice cream (if you don’t remember, Allen’s character is a health food store owner who wakes up in the future to learn that he should have been eating meat. A lot of meat).

Then there’s a favorite film of mine, Albert Brooks’ “Defending Your Life,” a take on the afterlife where one of the benefits is that you can eat whatever you wish, as much as you wish, with no ill effects (not surprising, maybe; you’re dead. Still. Great idea).

It’s a nice fantasy. Moderation is an asset in adulthood, a way of playing by the rules and minimizing risk, but wouldn’t it be fun if the risk disappeared?

Still, we’re dealing with human nature. It’s far less riskier to drive a car, ride a bike, or illuminate your house than it used to be, but nobody’s done much about making chocolate ice cream safer. And chocolate ice cream is human nature.

I mention this because last week, the FDA announced that it will begin regulating the e-cigarette market, finally, after years and now that it’s huge by relative standards, a multibillion-dollar industry.

One of the reasons for this is because the makers of e-cigs have strenuously avoided marketing their products as part of a smoking-cessation program, although of course that’s what they are, in order to avoid the hassle of regulation.

People have been working on this sort of thing for decades. Can we shift recalcitrant cigarette smokers over to an analog, a device that sort of acts like and feels like and creates an effect like a cigarette does, except without the smell and stains and emphysema and death?

Turns out they can, although it’s not been nearly long enough to produce significant data.

And the misinformation is so staggering, so widespread and repeated without investigation, that there are layers of opinion before much information has been gathered.

For those who aren’t following, an electronic cigarette is normally made of metal, and it contains a liquid consisting of flavoring, possibly nicotine (like gum or patches or lozenges, the dose of nicotine can be graduated for those trying to kick the habit, and some e-cigarettes have none at all), and usually propylene glycol (some use vegetable glycerin).

Propylene glycol is used in a variety of products, including vaporizers for medications or other uses. It’s not considered toxic, although drink enough of it and you’ll probably regret it.

What it does, when heated, is produce a mist. Steam. Vapor. With flavoring added, it can be sort of like inhaling a stick of gum.

There’s been a lot of noise about e-cigarettes, including in our own state Legislature.

There are concerns, particularly about the lack of regulation and the potential for children to obtain them and become nicotine addicts, seduced by the many flavors offered.

I’m not sure I buy that last part, since kids have been easily getting their hands on cigarettes since there were cigarettes, and the idea that they would move from a gentle cherry-flavored mist to tobacco, which frankly tastes pretty horrible, is hard to grasp.

But we have the FDA for a reason, and I’m glad we do.

And full disclosure: When I mentioned to an old college friend a couple of years ago that I was a recalcitrant smoker, somebody who sometimes just felt like smoking one, even though it felt stupid and was incredibly dangerous, she pointed me toward e-cigarettes.

I tried one and haven’t smoked a cigarette since.

So I have a strong bias. I think e-cigarettes are an amazing alternative for smokers who can’t quite manage to quit.

It’s possible that in a few years we’ll discover that inhaling the mist from propylene glycol is a health hazard, but nearly half a million Americans die every year from smoking-related illnesses. Seems like we might be interested, as a society, in cutting that number down.

Mostly, though, the uproar I’ve heard and read, from anti-smoking crusaders to city councilmembers, makes me wonder if some people just can’t stand the thought of someone getting a little comfort, and makes me wonder why.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.