Don’t snuff out e-cigarettes, my only solution to smoking

I am responding to the March 24 article “Sen. Lautenberg wants to snuff out electronic cigarettes.”

I am a 55-year-old woman who has smoked two packs a day for 41 years. Don’t you think that after banning us to the cold and rainy streets, raising the price of cigarettes so high you need a bank loan to buy them, and condemning us to the point that most of us have turned into closet smokers, that there is a bigger issue here?

We are hopelessly addicted. The high prices haven’t made us quit. Banning us from public places hasn’t made us quit.

I don’t know what it’s like not to smoke. Yes, it stinks — you think we don’t know that? Most people I know smoke a cigarette and then rush to the bathroom to wash their hands and rinse their mouth to hide it. Do you think that’s fun?

If we were addicted to heroin or methamphetamine there are rehabs for that and the insurance would pay for treatment. Many companies will send their employees to alcohol or drug treatment. Obese people also have treatment available. But for us? There is no treatment, no rehab. Just chew some nicotine gum or slap on a patch, or, many say, “Just quit.” If it was that easy, don’t you think we would do it?

I tried so many times to quit using every method on the market. I failed because they do not address the whole issue of smoking. It’s not just the nicotine addiction; it’s also the fact that it’s tied to so many things we do: Have a cup of coffee, smoke a cigarette. Talk on the phone, smoke a cigarette. Finish a meal, smoke a cigarette. Get in the car, smoke a cigarette. Come out of a meeting, store, movie — smoke a cigarette.

It’s also the oral gratification, the process of smoking: the taste, the feel in your throat when you inhale, the blowing the smoke out. And in some ways it’s like a security blanket. It’s relaxing. There are so many reasons a person smokes, and many reasons we fail to quit. The gum and patches just don’t address these issues.

Three months ago I found something that does address all of the issues of smoking. I found the electronic cigarette, sometimes called the e-cigarette: a little device that delivers nicotine without the 4,000 dangerous chemicals that are in cigarettes. The nicotine liquid is converted into a vapor that you inhale, and what you blow out is harmless, odorless vapor that dissipates immediately. It does not linger in the air or pollute in any way. There is nothing lit so there is no smoke filling the air. There is no secondhand smoke.

The electronic cigarette provides nicotine but also addresses the oral gratification that most smokers need, making it easier to quit. On the other hand, for someone who is not ready to quit, this is an alternative that is safer for them and others.

I have been using my electronic cigarette for three months now with no ill effects. I have gone from two packs a day down to three cigarettes a day, with my goal to be completely off cigarettes. I started with 18 mg liquid and am now using 14 mg. I will next go to 11 mg with a goal of getting to zero.

This is the first time I have been able to succeed in getting off cigarettes. I’m not there yet, but going from two packs a day to three cigarettes is a huge accomplishment for me! In fact my lungs have been clearing, I can smell better and am enjoying a lot of the effects already that come from quitting smoking.

I understand that Sen. Lautenberg wants to snuff out electronic cigarettes. He needs to leave this alone. He obviously doesn’t get it. Real cigarettes are the problem; the electronic ones are the solution. He doesn’t need to protect me, nor does the Food and Drug Administration need to stick its nose in and regulate it. We have all been getting our nicotine from unregulated cigarettes, which do cause cancer — not from the nicotine, but from the other 4,000 chemicals. You can’t regulate the nicotine in cigarettes because the smoker can just smoke more cigarettes, getting more nicotine. The user of electronic cigarettes will only use what he or she needs, and most have a goal of lowering their level. The electronic cigarettes do not produce secondhand smoke and do not violate the smoking bans. Most nonsmokers I’ve shown them to and smoked around say they do not have a problem with them at all.

So for once, do something good for people addicted to cigarettes, since we do not have rehab. Let us have the electronic ones. Leave us alone. FDA, hands off. Government, don’t tax us to death. Don’t ban this. Nonsmokers, we’re not polluting your air and we don’t stink anymore. Just leave it alone. Sen. Lautenberg, you have enough to worry about with the economy. The electronic cigarette is helping people kick tobacco cigarettes. It’s a good thing!

From Michelle Marsh, Lake Stevens, Wash.