Friday, 8 July 2016

Understanding Pleasure

There is nothing quite as satisfying after a long day, or after tackling a particularly trying problem, or simply when relaxing with a pint of beer in the pub, as kicking back with a long relaxing vape. In years long past, I would have said the same about having a smoke. It too gave that long lasting relaxing vibe as I attempted to tune out and chill. But five years ago, I discovered vaping and changed my life, quitting the smoke and the couple of hundred chemicals contained therein, for the same relaxing vibe with few of the risks.

Nicotine is a much maligned substance. In large enough quantities, it can be deadly. However, in the quantities found in cigarettes and ecigarettes, it is a rather enjoyable stimulant on a par with the equivalent potency and harm profile found in a typical cup of coffee. In recent years, nicotine has been found to be useful in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimers. There have also been instances of nicotine being used to treat migraines. The reason for this is that nicotine boosts dopamine signals to the brain and in the case of Parkinson’s and Alzheimers this means that the nerve cells used to communicate with other parts of the brain  can be both protected and boosted.

Of course, for vapers (and smokers), the important part is that dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps  controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centres. That nicotine boosts the dopamine levels in the brain is what gives them the relaxing pleasure.

Caffeine has a similar affect as, like nicotine, it is also a stimulant. Like nicotine, it speeds bodily functions, brings about temporary feelings of enhanced energy and vitality and boosts the reward and pleasure centres. So anyone who regularly drinks coffee ‘should’ understand what has been dubbed by vapers as ‘The Pleasure Principle’.

Anyone who has attended any Public Health seminars or symposiums will know that such events are usually awash with coffee and tea, which are eagerly consumed by the attendees. But while those in Public Health and Tobacco Control are happily indulging their ‘Pleasure Principal’ with coffee, they will expend all their breath telling us the nicotine is ‘addictive’ and ‘bad’. They are wrong on both counts as recent studies have proven that nicotine on its own is no more addictive or damaging than its caffeine counterpart.

The difference is in the way in which we choose to consume nicotine and caffeine. Caffeine is normally drunk (from tea or coffee), whilst nicotine is inhaled when vaped or smoked – though it is possible to perform both the other way around.

For Tobacco Control and Public Health people, herein lies the problem. Whilst they see nothing wrong with drinking a drug like caffeine, Vaping is far too close in appearance to smoking to make inhaling nicotine in that form acceptable - even without the smoke. They are driven by their hatred of tobacco and as a result cannot get past the similarity between vaping and smoking – even while privately acknowledging that vaping is vastly safer than smoking. It also means that they cannot ‘publically’ acknowledge that vapers and smokers get as much enjoyment from nicotine as they do from caffeine.

So, they must learn to understand the ‘Pleasure Principle’. It is no coincidence that ‘Vape Lounges’ are almost as common on the high street as coffee shops. That’s because both practices are not only pleasurable, but they are also best enjoyed in a communal environment – with friends.

So, if Public Health/Tobacco Control cannot understand the ‘Pleasure Principle’ then perhaps they should start looking at how they enjoy consuming caffeine – and get off their high horses. It will certainly help them to understand why vaping is so popular.

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