Going smokefree? Gone smokefree

Break out the party balloons, those crazy assed poppers where you find the streamer stuff and end caps for years afterwards. Let’s have some jelly and ice-cream, trifle, and maybe, just maybe we’ll have some beers or cider if you prefer.

It is time for a little celebration! Why am I in such a good mood? Well, grab a drink and I’ll tell you. Might want to turn the music down a bit first.

Twelve months ago, on this very day I made a choice to switch from smoking to vaping, and I’ll tell you something; it’s been one hell of a ride.

Say hello to my first piece of vape hardware – a VW Ego and a CE4. As I mentioned in my story, a close friend of mine loaned me some hardware, mixed some basic juices and gave me some much-needed advice. I started out with 18mg/ml nicotine juice in that CE4, a blue one in case anyone was wondering, and set about reducing my daily cigarette intake. Looking back on those early days, and having experienced the old 510-T for a short while a few years previously, I certainly harboured doubts as to whether or not vaping would actually help me. After all, I wanted to seriously cut back on the number of cigarettes I was smoking, but not quit. I mean, in the week prior to actually getting the CE4 I had smoked almost 400 cigarettes. Half of that number disappeared over the weekend. I knew something had to change, but you know what?

I actually enjoyed smoking. Did I care that I’d just demolished twenty packs of Mayfair Superkings? Not really no. My wallet did, but I didn’t. I still had one of the multi-packs left, so there was still one hundred cigarettes in my ‘stock’. However, demolishing that many cigarettes had a seriously negative effect on me. I was coughing far more than ever before, I felt rough, my throat was raw and I’m pretty sure my clothes smelled like an old tobacconists shop.

It was those direct effects that made me think about cutting back heavily and even as far as considering the Q word. Now I’d considered quitting a few years previously, and even tried a year or two before that along with various other attempts, but I never really saw it through. After all, this time last year was a pretty crappy time and smoking gave me some comfort, some ritual I could escape in. Thing is, I didn’t really want to quit after all I enjoyed smoking, but didn’t enjoy the near constant barrage of “bad for you that” type commentary from co-workers and random people in the street. Getting those types of comments day in, day out everywhere I went made me feel isolated in my enjoyment. It was kind of depressing, why should I give up something I enjoy just to fit into a societal mould? Never mind the constant barrage of anti-smoking campaigns, which only served to make me continue to smoke with a “screw you” mentality.

At this time I was already making a conscious effort to cut back, heck I went from almost 60 a day back down to 15-20. But I still smoked far more than that regularly. Once I started with the CE4, within three days I went from 15-30 smokes a day to zero. It was really quite weird, I’d still head outside with a coffee to vape as it was part of the ritual of smoking at work. Soon after that first day of vaping exclusively I even stopped doing that regularly. I still occasionally pop outside and have a vape but that’s mostly because I want to go outside, stretch my legs and get some (relatively) fresh air and enjoy the limited sunshine this country has to offer. The fact that I had actually stopped smoking, as in the dreaded Q word never actually crossed my mind. Didn’t occur to me at all.

Fast forward a couple of months, I was introduced to the vast community of other like-minded folks on Facebook. I already had a Twitter account from my gaming days, I still game when I have the time just not as competitively as before. To start with I just sat back and read pretty much anything and everything I could get my hands on. I read about dripping, rebuildable tanks, various atomisers, flavour preferences, even some DIY mixing and of course battery safety.

I suffered extensively from the vaping affliction commonly referred to as shiny-itus. I ended up ‘retiring’ the CE4 within a month and snagged myself a Sigelei ZMax v3 followed swiftly by the v5. I had a penchant for tubular mods to start with, until I found the MVP2, then I found I had more of a preference for box mods. The collection grew, not to the same extent as some collections out there which are truly impressive, but my little collection serves me well.

To be fair, there are devices there that may never get used by me again, or I may just plop a battery in one and use it for a day or two. The variety available at my fingertips is one of the many reasons I am still vaping and have not relapsed back to smoking. The ability for me to change the experience whether it be using a ‘more advanced’ device like the SX Mini or using a simpler device such as the ZMax or iStick makes vaping far more than simply an enjoyable “habit”, it is a whole experience in itself.

Over time I learned that thousands of people had made a significant change to their lives and were better for it. Some of those viewed vaping as a means to quit smoking, many others were like me, had no intentions to quit. It made me sit back and think on what I really wanted from vaping. Did I see it as a means to quit smoking, or to continue to enjoy the sensations and rituals without the known harms associated with smoking? At the time, the answer eluded me. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, nor was I particularly sure what it meant, was I going to go back to smoking? Had I just changed one addictive habit for another?

As I sit here drafting, and re-drafting this post I think I finally understand, at least partially. When I smoked, I would fret if I knew the pack wouldn’t last the day. I’d make sure I had a spare pack, or if that wasn’t possible I’d have cash to hand to stock up. I would get pretty narky if I went without for a while. With vaping, I have none of that. Sure I always make sure I have a full tank whenever I go out, but that’s just me being prepared, most of the time it doesn’t bother me. I’ve often gone several hours at work, or out and about without touching my mod once. It’s actually kinda liberating. I’ve not yet tested myself by deliberately, or accidentally leaving my device at home, could be an interesting experiment.

I also found out other things by reading through the Facebook groups, I learned about EFVI, why it had been formed and it stunned me. Here I am, enjoying vaping after enjoying smoking for so long and this almost miraculous device was under threat. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I mean, my friend told me there was stuff going on, but he’s been known to forget details from time to time. To see the threat, in black and white. The overly excessive rules, the debates, the posturing, and the blatant lies; all of it was mind numbing.

I needed more information on what was going on and why. I found the awesome blog run by VapeMeStoopid, swiftly followed by the highly informative blog run by Clive Bates and the delightful blog from Lorien Jollye. I quickly learned that the whole “ecigs are bad” thing had been going on for a while, and that I had a lot of catching up to do in order to fully understand exactly what was going on. I started asking questions, wondering to myself just why those in ‘public health’ would do such a thing, and what I could do to make these people listen.

I read everything I could get my hands on. Studies, surveys, reports the whole nine yards. Even asked VMS and a few others for studies that I couldn’t get. I needed to know. Was vaping truly as bad as the likes of the World Health Organisation saying? After all, the WHO had everyone’s health at the forefront of their agenda right?

Sad to say, I couldn’t have been more wrong in my life. COP6 quickly proved that with the public and press completely excluded from proceedings and delegates restrained. It was horrible to witness it unfold tweet after tweet.

If it hadn’t been for that, I probably would never have gotten involved in advocating for vaping at all. That multi-million shindig in Moscow changed everything for me. I had been fortunate enough to make a substantial change to my life, a change that has most likely saved my life and now meddlesome un-elected bureaucrats were planning on taking it away. Not just taking it away from me, but for everyone else that might potentially switch.

I then learned about the Tobacco Products Directive and Article 20. If I wasn’t angry before, I sure as hell was then. Nothing about it made any sense, it took me months to read up on, and understand everything to do with the TPD, and even then I still get it wrong from time to time. After reading every single study and survey that was available, I knew that the science was on the side of vaping, I felt the effects myself. I no longer had the horrible cough that is normally associated with smokers. On my 35 birthday I noticed for the first time that my fingers were no longer stained yellow, I felt better than I had in a long time. I knew I had to do something, I simply couldn’t understand why so many were against it.

VapeMeStoopid came to my aid, I asked her some questions, how I could help. As I work during the day, stuck behind a desk in a pokey little office there wasn’t much I could actually do, at least not to begin with. As I learnt more, followed more advocates on Twitter, joined in with more conversations on Facebook I was struck by the massively obvious divide between the two communities. In most of the Facebook groups I was in, there were more conversations about “which custard juice is best” or “anyone got xyz mod for sale or trade” whilst Twitter was alive with debate. Don’t get me wrong, there are a fair number of folk on Facebook that do advocate, and most of them are far better than I am at getting people to listen, but the contrast between them is huge.

I know of the forums and reddit, but simply didn’t, and still don’t have the time to be an active member of either platform. It’s a shame really, twitter is great for near instant communication with people but it can be limiting especially when the number of participants in a thread grows to the point where you can barely enter one word into a tweet. It can quickly became very frustrating, there I am at work, or at home trying to engage with anyone who would listen only to get shut down, muted or blocked.

So what do I do? I keep chipping away, doing what I can. Responding to tweets, trying to engage with those who are undecided or even fully against vaping. I’ve sent multiple mails, both electronic and postal to my local MP and during the run up to the election that included all candidates for my constituency. I’ve tried, on a few occasions to get some meetings going with my local hospital, without luck so far sadly. I’ve spoken with my local pharmacist and GP surgery partners. I even got as far as getting the attention of a couple of journalists, one of which is terrible and the other I haven’t heard from again sadly.

The question I’ve been asked is, why do I advocate? It’s a simple enough question, but for me it isn’t particularly simple to answer. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. I enjoyed smoking. I didn’t want to quit despite trying several times using various methods, neither did the near constant barrage of “Quit” campaigns encourage me. There’s plenty of smokers out there that enjoy smoking as much as I did, there’s also plenty out there that actually want to quit. The thing is, those people are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, friends and family. Those folks made a choice to smoke, just as I did, yet this choice is being made to seem like it was the choice of devil-spawn, with the near constant barrage of propaganda and misinformation. It may sound like I’m on some high-minded moral crusade, but I’m not. Not really. I’ve simply had my eyes opened to the high level of utter junk that is brought forth from the front groups, fake charities,tobacco control and some elements of public health.

Never would I have believed that a simple device could have such a wide scale impact on so many people in so many ways. I lost my own parents to cancer, as both of them smoked they are likely to have been counted as attributable to smoking. In other words, they became a bloody statistic, one which the WHO and various anti elements of public health are so damned eager to throw around as if smoking is the cause of everything. That didn’t stop me from smoking, nor did it encourage me to try to quit even though I did actually consider it for a while. It did however, encourage me to look at options. I believe that vaping is the disruptive innovation needed to help millions, but I’m not one that wants to force them to switch, no sir. There are millions of folk out there that have no real voice in this particular debate, some don’t even realise there is a debate and some of course probably couldn’t give a flying rat’s ass either way.

The point is, I’m not advocating purely for myself or for any other existing vaper. I’m advocating to keep choices open for everyone else.

The best part of all this is the number of new friends I’ve made. Lorien, Neal, Meg, Sarah, Dave, Simon, Shannon, Abi, Liam, Fergus, Jessica, Tom, Steve, Stefan and many, many more (there are just far too many to list here, they know who they are). I’ve already met a few of them, which was such an awesome experience, and I plan on meeting as many more as I can.

The VapeFam, dysfunctional as it can be, truly is awesome to be a part of.

Paul Barnes

2 thoughts on “Going smokefree? Gone smokefree

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