The Miracle of WTA
WTA, or "Whole Tobacco Alkaloids," is a relatively esoteric product in the vaping industry. E-cigarettes have been available since around 2006-2007, but WTA only became available in 2011, in an attempt to answer the lack of satisfaction that many found with regular, nicotine-only eliquid. Many vapers still don't know about WTA, or even if they do know of it, they may know little about it: exactly what it is, what it's for, and why and when its use is indicated. I used it myself for well over a year, so I had the opportunity to learn a great deal about what it is, what it does, when to use it, and why -- and also, when NOT to use it, and how to stop using it without inducing the same kind of suffering that "cold-turkey" smoking cessation nearly always causes.
WTA: What is it?
Commercial tobacco typically contains alkaloids at levels between 2% and 4% of total dry weight, with nicotine accounting for about 90%-95% of the total alkaloid content, and it was thought for a long time that simply replacing the nicotine would enable a smoker to quit without suffering the usual very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms -- hence all the pharmaceutical Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs). But, as has been shown and experienced repeatedly since the introduction of NRT, those NRT products are not very effective -- Big Pharma may have known right from the start how ineffective it would be to replace only the nicotine, but their goal is to make money, not help people quit smoking, so the less effective it is, the more money they can make from it, as people try over and over to quit, using NRT, and fail repeatedly -- hence all the commercials and ads that say things like "Don't quit quitting" -- as if the fault is that of the smoker, rather than the ineffective product.
When e-cigarettes first became widely available, although they helped a fair percentage to quit or significantly lessen their smoking, some found them as unsatisfying as the pharmaceutical NRT products. ECF-users DVap, Kinabaloo, Tceight, and others were active in discussing the limitations of nicotine-only eliquids, and in September 2011, aromaejuice.com brought the WTA product to the market.
Tobacco smoke contains, along with nicotine, the minor alkaloids anabasine, anatabine, and nornicotine, as well as the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) harman and norharman, which significantly decrease MAO activity in smokers. MAO enzymes break down neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, three brain chemicals which are crucial for a personal sense of well-being. It is thought that the powerful interaction between the MAOIs and the nicotine is responsible for most of the addictive properties of tobacco smoking, along with the fact that a person long-accustomed to the intake of even trace quantities of MAOIs will suffer symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other adverse sensations, if those MAOIs are abruptly withdrawn.
- Anabasine is present in trace amounts in tobacco smoke, and can be used as an indicator of a person's exposure to tobacco smoke (along with cotinine, a metabolite (break-down product) of nicotine).
- Anatabine is one of the minor alkaloids found in plants in the Solanaceae family, which includes the tobacco plant and tomato, among others; it has been studied in animal models and in cells to see if it might be useful for treating nicotine addiction and inflammation, and has been studied in models of diseases characterized by inflammation, such as Alzheimer's Disease, thyroiditis, and multiple sclerosis.
- Nornicotine is an alkaloid found in various plants including Nicotiana, the tobacco plant. It is chemically similar to nicotine, and is a precursor to the carcinogen N-nitrosonornicotine that is produced during the curing and processing of tobacco.
As stated above, nicotine accounts for about 90%-95% of the tobacco alkaloids; in WTA, the other 5%-10% of trace alkaloids are also included.
Does It Work?
Many find that adding WTA to their eliquid makes vaping a great deal more satisfying than vaping without it. For myself, I can tell you that it absolutely works, both to eliminate or greatly reduce cravings, as well as eliminating or greatly reducing the emotional/mental dysfunctions commonly associated with smoking cessation.
When I quit the first time, at the end of February 2014, I did not suffer much at all with cravings; the e-cigarette was simply so novel, and such a seemingly-miraculous placebo for smoking, cravings never troubled me. However, it is commonly understood that there is a "Rule of Threes" which applies in smoking cessation -- 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months -- and at those times, many people often succumb to smoking because of emotional issues -- depression, anxiety, a general lack of focus, generalized stress, and/or a feeling of sadness, which feels like grief for the departed smoking habit: like losing your best friend. Those times correspond to the time-periods in which significant quantities of those trace alkaloids and MAOIs are departing the body. In my first attempt at quitting using e-cigarettes, I suffered this myself, a feeling of depression and alienation, at both the three-week and three-month points, but because I was suffering no cigarette cravings, I thought perhaps it was best to abstain from WTA, which might serve to complicate my cessation of smoking.
However, after I briefly returned to smoking following my appendectomy in June 2014, I wanted to give myself every possible opportunity to make my second quit-attempt "stick," so I ordered some WTA e-liquid from aromaejuice.com, so that when I neared the 3-week point again, I might mix it with my regular e-juice. This turned out to be a very fortunate purchase, as when I had been smoke-free for ten days, I began to suffer extreme cravings; so extreme, I feared I might not even make it to the 3-week point, so I went ahead and added the WTA much earlier than I had planned -- and the cravings completely left me. After I had been successfully smoke-free for two weeks, I slightly increased the amount of WTA I added to my e-juice, so that when the 3-week point approached, I sailed right through it without a single emotional disturbance -- indeed, on the day that I had been smoke-free for three weeks, I was singing and dancing in my kitchen while cooking dinner, delighted to have managed to quit once again, and be suffering no cravings, no depression, no anger, and no sadness.
Weaning/Cessation of WTA
I continued using WTA (24mg/ml WTA) throughout 2014 at the same level, 10% of my DIY recipe for my eliquid. Starting in January 2015, I began lowering that percentage, which required a little trial-and-error to get it right -- at first I tried using half as much WTA as I'd originally been using, but that was too large a reduction, too fast. What I finally arrived at was to lower it by only one percentage point per month -- so my first successful reduction (in that I suffered no cravings) was to 9% of my mix. I did feel a bit out of sorts for a few days, till my body became accustomed to that new, slightly-lower level, but before the month was out, I was back to being completely without cravings or emotional distress.
So, in February 2015, I reduced it slightly again, to 8% of my mix -- and again, for a few days I was a little crotchety, but nothing serious, and it passed within a week. So I stuck to that scheme of reducing it by just one percentage point each month... until I got to 4%, and realized that if I dropped a full percentage point to 3%, that would actually be a 25% reduction -- rather faster than I thought I could handle. So at that point, I began dropping it by one-half a percentage point, for a couple months -- until I got to 2%. At that point, I began decreasing it by just .2 of a percentage point, but I did the reduction every two weeks, rather than monthly. When I reached 1%, I began decreasing it by just .1 of a percentage point, but reducing it weekly... but I confess, I stuck to .1% in my mix for several weeks, to make sure I could really, comfortably, get by with so little WTA in my vape, because I knew the next step was to eliminate it entirely.
As of March 2016, still happily smoke-free, I finally managed to completely wean myself from WTA, and felt very little, if any, discomfort -- perhaps a little "snippiness," but nothing very significant, so I was finally free of the need for tobacco alkaloids -- for the first time since 1975, when I began smoking.
But I kept a full 15ml bottle in the freezer, for "emergency" use -- I've been prone to depression and anxiety my entire life, and should I ever again succumb to extreme depression, I would far rather vape some WTA than ever return to smoking cigarettes -- because my relapse in June 2014 illustrated very clearly that cigarettes will always be able to seduce me into pack-a-day use, no matter how long I've been smoke-free. In the nearly two years since I liberated myself from regular WTA use, I have resorted to adding a drop or two of WTA to my vape when I became very stressed out about anything... and it helped a great deal.
I now have a bit less than half of that last 15ml bottle remaining, and I doubt I'll buy anymore, because I no longer seem to need it at all; in 2017, I suffered the terrible flu that was mowing down the country, and I didn't vape at all for close to two weeks -- and felt no withdrawal nor cravings nor even a smidgen of longing for my vape -- until I started feeling human again.
Why/When Would WTA Be Necessary?
For someone just starting to vape, I DON'T recommend starting right off with WTA; most smokers find that replacing the nicotine and the behavior itself is perfectly adequate to enable them to successfully quit smoking, with little to no "withdrawal." This was certainly the case for me, my first time around with vaping in February 2014. I did experience a little sadness/depression around the three-week and three-month points, but nothing very serious, and I felt no cravings for smoking.
The ONLY things that WTA can do are: 1) relieve cravings, and/or 2) relieve/prevent the severe emotional distress that smoking cessation sometimes causes. If you start out using WTA, it won't seem a bit different from regular, nicotine-only eliquid, and considering that WTA is quite a bit more costly than regular eliquid, that's simply a waste of money -- particularly since MOST don't require WTA.
WTA will NOT provide the motivation to quit smoking, nor the determination and commitment necessary to achieve it; that has to come from within the smoker, and there is nothing that can substitute for it.
However, if you have already put down the cigarettes and not smoked AT ALL for at least a week, and you begin to experience deep cravings, and/or severe depression/anxiety/lack of focus, then WTA may be exactly what is needed to get you through the worst of the suffering that goes along with smoking cessation.
Also, those who suffer from serious auto-immune/inflammatory disorders, such as RA, or IBD, who have traditionally found smoking cessation very difficult if not impossible due to the exacerbation of their symptoms, may find WTA very helpful -- as noted above, some of the minor alkaloids do have anti-inflammatory properties, which is why WTA may be very helpful for those suffering those types of problems. I am just about certain that the inflammation in the aftermath of my appendicitis/appendectomy is why I suffered such terrible cravings, and why WTA was so very helpful for me.