Thursday, June 20, 2013 I smoked cigarettes since I was a teenager. In the 1980s, while I was in my early 30s, I underwent a physical exam in the process of applying for a job at a major newspaper company. (The physical was arranged and paid for by my prospective employer.) The doctor urged me to quit smoking and gave me Nicorette gum (something new at that time) as a quitting aide. While I did get the job, I was unable to quit smoking using Nicorette (it nauseated me, besides). On one occasion since then (also still in the ??80s), I made an attempt to quit smoking cold turkey and failed. From then on, I smoked approximately one pack per day (more on the weekends). To address my worries over the health hazards of smoking, I settled on smoking ??ultra-light? cigarettes. Two/three years ago, I saw an advertisement online for an electronic cigarette and ended up buying a starter kit to try one out. The cigarette looked identical to a regular filter-tipped cigarette, and had a light at the ??ash end? that glowed as you drew on the ??filter end.? It also had refillable cartridges and thus was more economical and environmentally friendly than those that used disposable cartridges. I wasn??t particularly impressed with its performance, however??not enough ??smoke,? for one thing. I never used it as a replacement for smoking regular cigarettes, put it away, and continued to smoke tobacco as usual. Five weeks ago to this day (the 2nd Thursday in May), I stopped smoking. At a routine doctor??s appointment on April 30th??my first appointment with him since I turned (a youthful) 60 in March??my doctor told me it was time think about quitting. (He knew about my cigarette habit but till then had never brought up the topic of quitting.) First off, he mentioned going on Chantix. I then brought up using electronic cigarettes in lieu of real ones and related my past experience with them. Somewhat to my surprise, my doctor knew a lot about them??he even informed me that the ??Blu? brand had been bought by a tobacco company (something I was unaware of)??and said that according to what he??s read, they appeared to be harmless enough. He told me that some of his other patients were using them to their satisfaction in lieu of smoking, and that using an electronic cigarette was by far preferable to using tobacco, what with cigarette smoke being so toxic. He said that if I could find an electronic cigarette I liked??and we both agreed that the technology would have advanced over the past few years to the point it was more likely I??d be able to find an e-cigarette that was satisfying for me??I should definitely use that instead of smoking tobacco. Meanwhile, I??d just bought two cartons of my ??ultra-lights? but immediately started researching online in an attempt to find a satisfying electronic cigarette. I learned that the batteries in the cigarette-shaped e-cigs are generally not powerful enough to produce the amount of ??smoke? I desired, and knew I had to find a device with a larger battery, i.e., something that did not look like a regular cigarette. So I found and bought a refillable device with a battery purportedly 3?« more powerful than those in the smaller, cigarette look-alikes. I also bought a supply of e-liquid from the same vendor (some with nicotine, some without), and began using the electronic cigarette alongside my regular tobacco cigarettes. The electronic cigarette mimicked almost exactly the experience of smoking tobacco. On the night of Thursday, May 16th, I ran out of tobacco cigarettes and switched to using the electronic cigarette exclusively. I??d been afraid I might panic when I woke up the next morning and would rush first-thing to the nearby convenience store for my ??ultra-lights,? but I didn??t, and have not smoked a regular tobacco cigarette since that Thursday night. I??ve since switched to an e-cigarette with an even more powerful battery and a clear refillable ??tank? so that I can monitor the level of the e-liquid. So far I??ve been using e-liquid with medium-strength nicotine. Immediately upon ceasing smoking tobacco, I no longer coughed up tar in the morning. Meanwhile, some food tastes better (and some worse) and I??ve put on some extra weight (maybe 10 lbs.). (But I??m sure I can get that back under control.) Also, my dental hygiene has improved. (My dentist and oral surgeon will be glad to know I quit; they??d told me years ago that I would have dental problems so long as I continued to smoke.) I refer to this article from The Economist (??No smoke. Why the fire?/The world should welcome the electronic cigarette?): Nicotine is, after all, a poison (its real purpose is to stop insects eating tobacco plants), so there may be some residual risk to users. But nicotine poisoning is pretty low on the list of bad things that ordinary cigarettes are accused of. Some researchers reckon nicotine to be no more dangerous than caffeine, which coffee plants similarly employ as an insecticide. I think it??s time that health insurance companies recognize the electronic cigarette as beneficial to one??s health (vs. smoking tobacco) and not penalize e-cig users for ingesting nicotine, as they do smokers. It isn??t realistic or fair.