Is vaping replacing one addiction for another?
This may surprise you, but the answer to all of these questions is no. In fact, the idea that smoking e-cigarettes is akin to smoking addiction is one of the worst arguments people use against e-cigarettes. There are two main reasons for this.
How addictive is nicotine?
You will find many people who claim that nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. This certainly sounds shocking; after all, these are famously addictive drugs. Add to that the fact that people who try to quit smoking actually have a lower success rate than people who try to quit heroin, and it's easy to see where this idea comes from.
Not so fast, though. Yes, cigarette smoke is very addictive - but there's a lot more to cigarette smoke than just nicotine. In fact, there are at least 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, and scientists aren't even completely sure what they all are. Many of them are known to be toxic or to cause cancer, and others have some interesting effects.
One of the most interesting things in cigarette smoke is a class of chemicals called monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs. these are commonly used as antidepressants and are very good for treating post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder and Parkinson's disease. The problem with their presence in cigarette smoke is that they interact with nicotine, which is also an antidepressant.
MAOIs are not addictive on their own, but combined with nicotine, they do become very addictive. It's this combination that makes smoking so addictive; the latest evidence suggests that nicotine itself simply doesn't have the same effect. We're all used to the idea that nicotine is extremely addictive, but research shows that it's anything but. Patients in medical trials used high-intensity nicotine patches daily for six months without becoming dependent on them; scientists have found it almost impossible to get rats to take nicotine when they could be replaced with sugar cubes.
Clearly, if nicotine is not actually very addictive, then smoking nicotine is not as addictive as smoking is ......
Does it matter anyway？
There is another problem with the addiction theory as well. Not only is it wrong, it is completely irrelevant.
How often do you hear someone say "I really should quit" or "I've bought a book on quitting smoking"? Probably quite often. Now, how often do you hear someone say "I want to end my nicotine addiction"? Likely never. There's a reason for that.
Many smokers want to quit for many reasons. They're worried about the health risks; they don't like the stale smell of smoke; they're shocked at the cost of smoking. But these are all problems with smoking. None of them have anything to do with nicotine, or addiction. They are all consequences of putting heavily taxed cigarettes in your mouth and lighting them up several times a day.
Anyone who thinks that smokers are "still addicted" is not just making a mistake, they don't even understand what is being discussed. The reasons for quitting smoking are all practical and have to do with improving quality of life. The arguments about continued addiction to smoking are not practical - they are moral. And morality is a personal opinion. If someone thinks it's immoral to continue using nicotine after switching to vaping, that's their own business, but they don't have the right to impose their opinion on others. It's just their opinion, which obviously means it's not a valid argument against smoking.
Many smokers start with high nicotine liquids and then gradually reduce the strength, usually to zero - this is not difficult and supports the view that nicotine is not actually very addictive. Others like the stimulating effects of nicotine and make no effort to cut back. Both options are good because the point of switching has nothing to do with releasing one's sinful addiction; it's simply about stopping smoking.
The difference between addiction and dependence
"Addiction" doesn't mean what most people think it means. When they say "addiction," what they really mean is "forming a dependency. For something to be addictive, it's not enough that people find it hard to stop using it; it actually has to be harmful, too. If you need to use something, but it's not causing you any real harm, you'll become dependent on it - but you're not addicted to it. A good example is chocolate, which many people seem to be "addicted" to (but aren't).
At the levels found in e-cigarettes, nicotine is simply harmless - meaning that, at worst, smoking creates dependence. This essentially renders the addiction argument meaningless. Even if e-cigarettes are as hard to quit as smoking (which they are not), does it matter? At a fraction of the cost, and with at least 95% of the health risks eliminated, it's a change worth making.