In which I’ve quit smoking!
I started smoking at 16. I’m 47 now. That’s 31 years.
I was down to smoking less than a pack a day, usually less than half a pack, but my lungs felt dry and tight. I was having difficulty breathing.
Every morning, I decided not to smoke. Every evening I smoked anyway, because the power of habit is massive. I’ve tried keeping my regular behaviors and just ditching the smoking part, but it’s hard. I’ve gotten up, put on my coat, grabbed my ebook, stepped outside and not smoked, just to keep up my normal routine, but it doesn’t really work. Before you know it, you’ve bought yourself a pack of cigarettes.
You need a substitute. And no, not for the nicotine. The gum and the patches are worthless; I’ve tried both. For the smoking.
Luckily, here in the future, we have such a thing! It’s called vaping.
A well-controlled trial has recently been carried out by Dr Grant O’Connell and colleagues working for the vaping manufacturer Fontem Ventures. They asked 15 smokers to give up altogether for five days, 15 to vape only for five days, and another 15 to mix vaping and smoking for five days. They measured the harmful and potentially harmful constituents in the urine, blood and breath of each group, and the results were striking. After five days, the vapers’ carboxyhaemoglobin levels—an indication of how much carbon monoxide they had in their systems—had dropped by 83%, which was an even bigger drop than in the cold-turkey cessation group, whose levels dropped by 75%. Even the dual users had seen a drop of 23%. The amount of carbon monoxide they exhaled had halved in both the vapers and the cessation group. Much the same was true for all the other biomarkers except, of course, for nicotine.
So I bought a Vuse at the corner gas station. It was a piece of shit and just as sketchy as the first ecig I bought a decade ago and it was so awful it basically drove me back to cigarettes. (The Vuse is by RJ Reynolds. There is speculation that they were specifically designed to drive smokers back to cigarettes. They taste bad and they’re incredibly inconsistent, delivering either burnt-tasting air or a massive hit of lung-scorching, scaldingly hot vapor. Each replacement cartridge costs at least as much as a pack of cigarettes, if not more.) The Vuse would be an acceptable experience only if you were a hard-core smoker locked in an airport or hospital for days with no other way to deal with your discomfort.
Then I bought this sciencey-looking little Pro Tank II for only $20 at the ecig store over on Lake Street, and I haven’t had a cigarette since.
It screws together. The whole bottom section is a rechargable battery, with a button you push to send power to the coil; the tank is Pyrex and holds e-juice, which is vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol with flavorings and nicotine, and contains a coil, which is what actually heats up and turns the juice into vapor; and then the tip is the part you inhale through. There’s an utterly bewildering variety of these things, but all of them are basically made up of these three components.
An old Fairfield friend saw my interest in ecigs on Facebook, and kindly sent me his unwanted stuff (he’s discovered a favorite brand of tank, and no longer uses any of this):
That’s hundreds of dollars of equipment and ten flavors of juices! That he was just going to throw out! A Vaporfi kit, a Nautilus tank, an Aerotank Mega, a Halo Tracer kit, a second Vaporfi tank, and coils!
Now I have tons of everything. Batteries and chargers, tanks, tips. Most of the parts are interchangeable, too, so you can mix and match and make devices that look cool and draw, due to adjustable air flow rings on the nicer tanks, exactly the way you want them to. These are the two I’m into right now:
I’m into the 6% blueberry and 3% cocoa flavors right now. (I hate even typing that because it sounds so douchey, but it is what it is! Blueberry! Cocoa! I’m a twat!)
I started with 18% juice, but I don’t think I need it. They tell you that nicotine is incredibly addictive, but I’m perfectly comfortable with 6% and 3% juices. I do have a tank loaded with the 18%, but haven’t used it much in the past two days.
I haven’t gone five days without a single cigarette in years. I’ve gone one, two days without a cigarette, sure; I’ve gone days only smoking one or two. But zero cigarettes? For five days? In a row? No, not in years.
With low-nicotine juice and a device that works well, one can enjoy the activity of ‘smoking’ almost to excess, and yet wake up in the morning feeling better than she has in years. It’s fucking wonderful.
While I doubt vaping is a zero-harm activity (after all, what is), it’s definitely lower harm than smoking cigarettes. It’s almost therapeutic-feeling; inhaling mist into dry, damaged lungs actually feels good. (Turns out that juice uses the same base used in asthma inhalers and nebulizers.) And apparently my carboxyhemoglobin levels have dropped by 83%.
The devices themselves probably last for quite a long time, being made of Pyrex and stainless steel. You have to replace the coil, the part that heats up, and the juice, but from what I can tell that’s much less expensive than 3.5 packs of cigarettes every week.
There’s a bunch of negative hysteria around e-cigarettes, but it appears to have been deliberately manufactured by pharmaceutical companies involved in nicotine replacement therapies and cigarette companies. The recent FDA regulation binge was brought on by these lobbies, apparently. Of course. Since so much money is generated by the luxury taxes on cigarettes, anything that threatens the market is worrisome… even if it’s a technology that is reducing harm and by extension probably saving lives.
The bulk of the evidence so far leans heavily toward vaping being much safer than cigarettes, and much more effective than NRT in helping people quit smoking.
– E-cigarette studies, research and reports
– E-cigarettes save lives
– UK doctors urge wide promotion of e-cigs to help smokers quit
– Smokers Urged to Switch to E-Cigarettes by British Medical Group
– Vapers Helping Smokers to Quit
So, the take-away here is that we’re seeing research showing that vaping is much less harmful than smoking, and that if you wish to vape, you need to buy a decent piece of equipment and avoid shitty disposables made by cigarette companies. The vapor, even from low-nicotine juices, is so satisfying that you don’t even want cigarettes. Vaping is credited with helping tens of thousands of smokers quit.
“In the case of addictions, where people find it genuinely very hard to resist temptation, harm reduction surely makes sense,” said Viscount Ridley. And I agree. Being against vaping because it’s not zero-harm is ridiculous. If we expected driving to be zero-harm, we’d never build another car again. But as far as risk management goes, vaping is safer than smoking by orders of magnitude.