Depending where you’re coming from, there might be a variety of different answers to the question, “What are e-cigarettes for?” The original, still prevalent, one might say official, answer is of course: “To help people quit smoking.” Now, perhaps inevitably, comes a device that promises to help people quit vaping.
Just as the earliest e-cigs mimicked the look of traditional cigarettes, the Capnos Zero superficially resembles a vaping device. All it offers to deliver, however, is a shot of flavoured air. Zero smoke (or, indeed, vapour); zero nicotine; zero charge (electrical charge, that is, you’re not going to get the thing for free).
The premise is in fact, as the makers’ own publicity has it, “stupid simple”. It assumes that most vapers – and, they suggest, most smokers – have a behavioural addiction to the act of vaping (or smoking), an “oral fixation” rather than an actual physical addiction to nicotine. Or, as they say: “Sometimes, all we’re really craving is something to inhale or fidget with.”
This is undoubtedly true, to a greater or lesser extent, of a great many people – many of whom may well believe they have a nicotine addiction when really it’s just the habit and the paraphernalia that have them hooked. There’s really no telling how many people this applies to – certainly no way of verifying the assertion that it’s two out of three vapers – but for those it does, puffing on flavoured air may provide a satisfactory alternative.
An anonymous testimonial on the Capnos website claims: “Me & my roommate have been vaping for 3+ years and were shocked how similar the Capnos was to the sensation of hitting a vape.” We’ll have to take your word for it.
That word “roommate” may give away the type and age-group of people this is primarily aimed at – Capnos founder Brendan Wang is himself a youthful-looking student at Michigan State University.
The smaller print below admits: “This product may or may not help you quit vaping. Results vary by user.” Which is fair enough. And really what they are obliged to say.
A few of the claims made do ring a little tinkle of alarm, however.
Much as the makers of many vaping products tell their own stories of trying to quit smoking to explain the roots of their involvement, Wang says: “I struggled with vaping for 5 years…” (Did he struggle with combustible cigarettes first? He doesn’t say.)
The story becomes more contentious when he continues: “My friends started dying from vaping in late 2019, so I knew something had to be done.”
If this is true at all, then his friends – and one wonders how many actual friends he’s talking about – were victims of the highly publicised lung-injury outbreak of that year (EVALI), which we now know had nothing to do with conventional e-cigarettes and everything to do with cannabis vapes laced with vitamin E acetate. Wang must surely know this, which makes his story wilfully disingenuous at best.
The way the cookie crumbles
And then there’s the tricky question of that all-important flavour, the very thing that makes many e-cigs problematic.
Capnos says: “Our flavoring is made from all-natural, food-grade essential oils. (The stuff grandma makes her cookies with.)”
Well, that’s OK then – “food-grade” must be perfectly safe, surely. Hang on, though. Vitamin E acetate is approved as safe too – in food. In fact, it occurs naturally in many common and wholesome foods. But what’s safe to eat isn’t necessarily safe at all to inhale.
This is not to say that the Capnos Zero is unsafe. But to say that the flavourings are safe as food doesn’t tell you they’re “absolutely safe” to draw into your lungs.
We’re not about to proclaim the death of vaping. And no one around here is about to start inhaling grandma’s cookies.
– Aidan Semmens ECigIntelligence staff
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