I thought long and hard about where to put this post. Normally I’d put any post that wasn’t either a piece of creative writing, or a blog post on some subject aligned with writing practice on my Order of Turbulence blog, but it doesn’t get nearly as much traffic as this one gets. And this, being something of an evangelistic post, I decided the more likely it was to get read the better. However, if you don’t smoke or love anyone who is seriously addicted, this post really doesn’t pertain to you.
If you’ve met me in person, or followed me on Twitter or Facebook, or even read my fiction, you’ll know I’ve been a hardcore smoker for years. Calculating it, I’ve been smoking for about 35 years – over a pack a day and sometimes two. I tried twice to kick it and both times I failed spectacularly. On one of the attempts (armed – literally – with nicotine patches), I was told by people who love me to have a cigarette before they never spoke to me again. Not only did I turn into a ragingly mean, distracted, crazy person but, inside, it felt like I was severing a limb. If you’ve never smoked seriously, you are never going to understand that.
Habit is a laughably inadequate term. While I’m undoubtedly addicted to the nicotine, that wasn’t my main problem; just finding another way to deliver nicotine (through patches, gum or inhaler) did not work. Over the years, the physicality of the act, the way I used my hands, my mouth, my breath, had been shaded by smoking. Time – the way I partitioned up the day – from the first ciggie with coffee, to the last one before I headed to bed, had been shaped by smoking. Thinking, reasoning, creating, writing were all intimately bound up with smoking. It’s not an exaggeration so say that smoking was integral to my persona on even a subconscious level. And more than that, I have kept company with cigarettes for longer than any lover, any place, any job, any pet. Cigarettes were my oldest companion, my most loyal, most reliable friend.
Even as I coughed more and more, even as I had to pause in the middle of running just to get enough oxygen, even as I began to detest the smell that permeated my clothes, my hair, my house – part of me still couldn’t even conceive of what being a non-smoker would be like.
But in the space of one week, I have quit cigarettes completely. I switched to vaping.
I had tried using an e-cigarette of the tiny, cheap type about a year ago, but it tasted foul, burnt my tongue and lasted less than 2 hours. If you have tried using one and threw it away in disgust, it’s hardly surprising. They don’t feel, taste or work like a cigarette. It was Molly over at Molly’s Daily Kiss who persuaded me to give the e-cigs another go, but to face the fact that I would have to buy more serious kit if I was to succeed in switching over. Before I traveled back from Spain to London, I ordered a sort of mid-range starter vape kit from Aspire and a few e-liquids so that everything would be there waiting for me when I got home. I fired it up the next day.
Within one hour into using it, I knew it was going to be possible to switch and never smoke another cigarette. Although it draws slightly differently to a ciggie, and it can taste like pretty much anything you’d like (with the exception of cigarette tobacco – I haven’t found a liquid that came close): it delivers the hit of nicotine; the warm, thick inhaled cloud; the throat hit and the pleasurable exhaled plume at the finish. It’s deliciously oral, giving me something to nibble on while I sit at the computer and think, and occupies my hand. It actually doesn’t seem to matter that it doesn’t taste like a cigarette. In fact, it’s only now I realize that I’ve hated the taste of cigarettes for years.
Okay, I don’t want to sound like a born-again Christian. I just want to say that, if you smoke and you want to quit, please consider making the switch to vaping. It’s not as good as quitting cold turkey, but if you could have done that, you would have already. You still get nicotine, but that in itself is not terribly dangerous for your health. There is emerging data from creditable studies that estimate vaping is 95% less dangerous than smoking. Second hand vapour contains about as much nicotine as two spoonfuls of eggplant.
If you’re interested, here’s my advice on switching:
- DO NOT EVEN TRY one of those ‘looks like a cigarette’ plastic electronic pen-type things. Get yourself a decent starter vape kit – the cheapest are the eGo CE4 kits and the VapeSticks – they’re fine for starting. The Kanger EVOD and the Aspire K1 kits are more expensive. You want something that has a) a rechargeable battery, b) some kind of atomizer to vaporize the liquid, and c) a tank or receptacle to have the liquid in. Believe me, after a while, you will probably want to move up to something you can tweak to your liking more, but these are all good baseline starters.
- I very strongly suggest you don’t buy an e-liquid that is tobacco flavoured. And Molly warned me about this. I found them all very disappointing and, quickly realized I didn’t miss the actual tobacco taste. Buy a few of the smallest bottles of good quality e-liquid, and start at a pretty high nicotine level – between 12 and 18 mg. Pick flavours you enjoy in tea, or drinks or food. Someone suggested that aromas that meant something to you as a child and give you a smile are really powerful. Toffee, or apple & cinnamon or gingerbread or strawberries and cream. You don’t believe me now, but vape juices can make you strangely happy.
- Don’t tell yourself you are quitting. Tell yourself you’re getting into vaping. If you crave a cigarette, make yourself vape for 5 minutes before you light the cigarette. If you’ve got a reasonably good vape kit and a couple of nice tasting juices, you’ll find that you forget to have the cigarette more and more.
- Keep your vape stick close to you and your cigarettes far away. Make it easier to vape than go find a ciggie and smoke it.
- Vaping is this whole weird subculture. You’re entering into a slightly deviant but far healthier way of inhaling clouds. It is a little cultish.
- Go visit your closest vape shop. They can give you advice when you want to upgrade, but in the meantime, you can try juices there without buying a whole vial of them. Get someone in the shop to suggest flavours, because the taste of something ‘vaped’ is different to eating it.
- Tweet me if you want advice or support.
The thin stick is my first starter kit – the Aspire K1, which is easy to use, produces a satisfying quality of valour and and carries a charge that lasts me all day. It’s super portable and inoffensive. It’s filled with a delicious juice called Lime Cola by a company called CRFT: quite limey with just a hint of cola. Very refreshing to use all day.
The bigger beast produces bigger clouds of thicker, richer flavoured vapour. It’s an Aspire Nautilus tank, on a Innokin ‘Disruptor’ variable wattage battery. Don’t let the details intimidate you. They only matter once you feel the need to explore more. The golden liquid in the chamber is called Rosso, also by CRFT – a rich, tangy blood-orange, sweet honey, and blackberry. My breakfast vape.
I find that I prefer fruity, sharp favours to richer, heavier ones, but as you can see from the image at the top of the post, I’ve got a fair few more ‘dessert’ flavours which I like after eating or with coffee.
I want to offer a shout-out to the nice people at the Vape Emporium up in Hampstead. They were super kind to a newbie and gave me great advice and suggestions. But even more, there was that comradeship of meeting eyes with someone who has also given up smoking and has that insanely relieved look on their face and the little naughty grin that follows it.
Because the thing about vaping is that it’s deviant as hell. ‘Nice’ people don’t do it. It’s luxuriant and super-sensual. It’s all about satisfying the desire to taste, to ingest, to float. It just won’t give you cancer.