The Savvy Smoker: Overcoming Travel Challenges

Back in 2015, The Guardian wrote about smoking bans, identifying the remaining places in which you “can still smoke in a bar.” Ten years prior, a similar article would have been inversed –– identifying places where indoor smoking had been banned. This shift illustrates that throughout much of the world, smoking restrictions have had a profound impact; at many destinations, lighting up indoors or in public places is no longer an option.

Image: Freepik

Those of us who don’t smoke tend to count bans and restrictions as positive developments –– and broadly speaking, they are. According to a report on smokers at U.S. News, only about 16% of American adults still smoke (as of 2021), and changes in policies and restrictions have a lot to do with the number being that low. At the same time, this means that 16% of Americans (and more than a billion people worldwide) still practice the habit and may thus have a difficult time traveling. The good news for those who smoke is that there are now many alternative options that can make travel more feasible.

NICOTINE PATCHES First developed in 1984 by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs in conjunction with UCLA, making them the oldest smoking alternatives to help smokers with cravings and/or quitting. Some drawbacks — they can irritate the skin; can be visible, leading to unwanted judgment; and do nothing to address the physical side of smoking addiction, whereby tactile smokers want something in their hands and/or mouths.

NICOTINE LOZENGES A slightly more modern (and to some more effective) option. Small, hard candies (think cough lozenges) developed and sold by brands like Lucy, Nicorette, and Commit, offering two benefits over patches — They address that oral fixation that can be tied to cigarette cravings; and they come in various flavors, thus more pleasant for some versus purely functional.

NICOTINE POUCHES In addition to providing a controlled nicotine “fix,” pouches, like lozenges, address the oral needs some smokers feel. In this case, however, the product is not actively sucked on or chewed but placed inside the upper lip. For some, this more passive approach is favorable; it doesn’t require conspicuous sucking or chewing, and won’t lead to the build-up of saliva (as some lozenges do). Some brands have extensive, but confusing flavor options, but VELO, a premier brand in the U.S. has taken a more customer-friendly approach. As a Prilla write-up on VELO puts it, this brand is more minimalist, offering just select, tried-and-true flavors including citrus, mint, coffee, and black cherry.

ALTERNATIVE VAPES Traditional “vapes” can be harmful and, in many cases, been banned alongside cigarettes –– so not much use to travelers. There is, however, an emerging class alternative vapes that may prove useful as discussed in a Vox article identifying “Breathe” pens and some of their counterparts (VitaminVape, BioVape, and Monq) as “vitamin vapes.” Alongside similar cigarette tools diffusing essential oils (like the emergent brand “Füm”), these so-called “wellness vapes” seek to provide smoking alternatives that don’t use harmful chemicals or nicotine. The potential issue is that the inhalation of vapor is in itself unhealthy. It’s possible that these will ultimately be found to be less harmful than vapes or cigarettes, but for now, the jury’s still out.

— David Ferris