The Last Cigarette

juicesI 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:

  1. 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.Β  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Tweet me if you want advice or support.


The thin stick is my first starter kit - the Aspire K1, which is easy to use and and carries a charge that lasts me all day. It's filled with a delicious juice called Lime Cola. Quite limey with just a hint of a cola taste. Very refreshing to use all day. The bigger beast produces bigger clouds of rich, flavoured vapour. It's an Aspire Nautilus tank, on a Innokin 'Disruptor' variable wattage battery. The golden liquid in the chamber is called Rosso - a rich, tangy blood-orange, sweet honey, and blackberry. My favourite breakfast vape.

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.

  18 comments for “The Last Cigarette

  1. September 16, 2015 at 12:17 am

    I quit ten years ago and I *still* miss the physical act of smoking. Dropping the nicotine habit was much easier than losing the thing in my hand. I loved (and love) the way cigarettes felt. I wish vaping had been around when I stopped because I suspect I’d have had a much easier time of it. Thank you for writing this – I haven’t been a smoker in ages but it still resonated. I have to admit that, even now, part of me is tempted to try vaping if only when I work. I’d chew through fewer pencils if I did.

    • September 16, 2015 at 12:25 am

      You can vape non-nicotine juices, you know. πŸ˜› Just sayin’

      • September 16, 2015 at 11:39 pm

        I spent way too much time online at Vape Emporium last night. I think I know what I want for Christmas πŸ˜€

  2. September 16, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    I commend you. I have been smoking since I was 13 (yes, almost 45 years) up to two packs a day. Since starting my back and forth to Vegas I have managed to whittle it down to about 5 a day…but we both know that is still two many. I tried vaping – first with the cheap cigarette type, then with a friend’s kit. It’s okay, but too heavy and cumbersome for my ‘something to do with my hands and mouth’ habit…which seems to be a more important part than the nicotine. Cigarettes make a great shield between myself and the outside world, vaping not so much. But, perhaps, I should try it again πŸ˜‰

    • September 16, 2015 at 5:42 pm

      too many, not two many *sigh* and that’s what I get for typing on my tiny phone at the ass crack of dawn πŸ™

  3. September 16, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    I just switched from smoking to vaping a few months ago and totally prefer it. Love the way you’ve written about it in your post, especially in the last paragraph: “It’s luxuriant and super-sensual. It’s all about satisfying the desire to taste, to ingest, to float.” πŸ™‚

    • September 16, 2015 at 6:56 pm

      Yup. Frankly, I find it really erotic. All those scented billows.

  4. TFP
    September 18, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Interesting essay and suggestions. Having grew up in a house of smokers and frequenting establishments where smoking was the norm, cigarettes were simply a part of life. I have mixed emotions concerning smoking, I’m very happy people see the negative effects the practice has on ones health and the potential harm to others. Yet at the same time its a bit discomforting to see laws being layed down banning it, for the common good. I drive by the local bowling alley and see the rebels outside lighting up. Tides turn, now marijuana is becoming legal, strange world…

  5. Kristina Brooke
    September 20, 2015 at 6:33 am

    I smoked from 15 – 26 with occasional relapses when I was teaching. But I have been completely smoke-free since 2009. I liked smoking, but like you I did not like the taste of cigs nor do I like the smell (in fact my neighbors smoke about two packs a day each outside and I can no longer sit on my patio or open my windows because of this). I still crave the movement and now you have made me interested in vaping.

    • September 20, 2015 at 3:17 pm

      It’s a very sensual pleasure. And you can get 0 nicotine liquids, too. πŸ˜€

  6. Caitlinn
    September 22, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    I’m going to try this as a smoking cessation aid though my GP isn’t keen on the idea. I was off cigarettes for a month using patches until I developed a reaction due to hypersensitive skin (ha), being poisoned by those fuckers is no joke. I went back on them again once I couldn’t use patches. The gum is vile. Smoking, even amongst addictions, is one of the hardest to break in my experience. Fair play to you for quitting after 35 years, keep it up.

    • September 23, 2015 at 2:45 pm

      I strongly recommend you start with a good kit – not those cheap things that look like plastic sticks. It really helps. And make sure you buy liquids that contain enough nicotine to match your cigarette intake.

      • Caitlinn
        September 23, 2015 at 8:35 pm

        I will do, thanks πŸ™‚

        I’ve been researching and I think I’m going to go with the Kanger EMOW kit with some ‘milk and honey’ by Cosmic Fog. I usually smoke around 10-15 a day but I was started on Step 2 patches (14mg) and those caused problems so I’ll have to experiment with that.

  7. Korhomme
    November 29, 2015 at 3:59 am

    I’m living in a temporary rented favela; smoking isn’t permitted. And lurking outside in the garage as winter approaches isn’t fun. I’m on the pipe, as you know. I’ve just discovered a vaping shop nearby, and I’m trying a couple of their products. It’s nothing like the same, but I’ll persist for a while.

    And, well done you!

  8. March 31, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Thank you for this. I’ve been smoking for about 6 years, not as long as you, but still an addiction is still an addiction. I’ve tried vaping, but it actually makes me more sick than cigarettes do. I’ve been trying to quit for the past 3 months. I’m just at the point if someone talks about a cigarette or I see someone whether in life or on TV/internet I’ll crave one. I’ve gotten better at cutting back, but some nights its back to smoking an entire pack. I don’t know what I should do. I feel like I’d been to tweaky if I did it cold turkey.

    • April 1, 2016 at 12:34 am

      Don’t give up on vaping. Experiment with different nicotine levels, different formulations, different gear. It took me a while to find a combo that worked for me.

  9. May 16, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    Just saying thank you. Was fighting the urge to change from my jammies into my jeans and run to a the local Seven Eleven. You know what for.

    You saved me.

    But the math problem I had to work out to complete this comment almost did me in. πŸ™‚

  10. Journi
    November 12, 2016 at 11:22 am

    I just discovered your site (the first of this genre for me) and am enjoying. Thank you very much for posting and sharing your talent for writing! I had read only one story and was looking around when I found this post. Congratulations! I too, VAPE regularly, and it has been a lifesaver. I’m so glad you have not only discovered vaping but are taking the time to share your positive experiences with others. Hopefully, all smokers will discover vaping and tobacco usage will become a thing of the past. Keep on sharing the word.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 × two =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.