Smoking has two proverbial addictions attached to it. First is the obvious nicotine addiction and the second is oral fixation. Now to be specific, these two things have different medical implications so for the purpose of this discussion; let’s discuss the psychological view of how smoking is addictive.
E-cigarettes hope to fix this problem by addressing the sensation of smoking on top of keeping smoking’s action of putting something in your mouth. Since smoking is a learned behavior, so is putting in your mouth. Classical conditioning, according to Pavlov, is the automatic or reflexive learning; this basically means that when we do a certain action and it has a certain reward, our body takes the rest over without having to think it through. Thus, smoking becomes habit on that pretense: you smoke because you want to feel calm; you want a little more energy to go through your day. Before you know it you’ll associate it with stress-relief.
Smoking and Learned Behaviors
But before we go into deeper detail on how e-cigarettes fit into the equation, let’s take another pavlovian example to light: John B. Watson. Watson furthered Pavlov’s dog experiment into involving human subjects; in this case, it was Albert, an 11-month old child.
The experiment involved conditioning Albert to have fear of white mice. In order to elicit this effect, the experiment paired the appearance of the white mouse with that of a loud and fear-inducing noise. During preliminary trials, Albert was exposed to the rat without the noise, fortunately enough; it had no effect on the boy. But when he was exposed to the sound with the appearance of the rat, it caused him to develop an unhealthy fear in white mice.
Now the experiment proved a point. In relation to smoking, people don’t exactly enjoy the smell or the smoke of the cigarette. They are after the experience as much as they are with the energy boost provided with the nicotine. But to be fair, nicotine has an addictive quality so much so that they advertise it on the box. Much like Pavlov’s dog, you’re training your brain to enjoy the feeling of popping a cigarette into your mouth. Once your brain catches hold that it’s a pleasurable experience, everything goes into autopilot every time you’re exposed to cigarettes.
E-Cigarettes and Smoking
Okay, now that we understand how learned behavior works, let’s attribute it to electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes exist for one sole purpose: to create a healthy alternative to smoking by “smoking”. Since E-cigarettes don’t expel smoke or make you suck in nicotine, it basically tries to emulate the “feel” of having to smoking.
Now an e-cigarette knows it has to look the part, so it looks like a cigarette. Although this does not directly solve the dilemma of breaking off the oral fixation, it turns it into an advantage instead. By using your learned behavior, it follows its seemingly automatic routine of popping a cigarette in your mouth. Now the taste may not exactly be close to a regular cigarette, but it sates your oral fixation without having to pump your lung in with more nicotine.