Hi there, it’s been a while since I posted anything here so this is long overdue…
When I was 15 I had a friend called Janice who was the same age, she’d smoked regularly since the age of 11 and started me down that road by insisting I light one for her. I held it out and struck a match to it, but she said I had to put it in my mouth and suck, and she laughed when I did so and almost choked. After that she kept literally shoving them into my mouth while we rode the bus or walked down the road or went for an ice cream, until I eventually caught the habit. 15 was younger then than it seems to be now and although I didn’t really want to do it at all, I also didn’t know how to simply and firmly say ‘no’. Janice lived with her mother and an older brother who both smoked, so I guess it came ‘naturally’ to her. Her mum was always at work and there were packs lying around her flat that she’d help herself to. It also wasn’t something that was frowned upon then either, even buses had ash trays and there were smoking cars on trains and there were no age restrictions on who could buy them. I remember as a kid there was always an ash tray on the doctor’s desk and people smoked freely in the waiting room. Most public places catered for smokers and had ash trays, they looked equally at home in a surgery waiting room then as a pile of magazines. Smokers weren’t demonized and somehow non-smokers managed to live with that without giving that pretend cough to voice their displeasure. I even had a hospital stay once when I had an ashtray beside my bed.
Even though I stopped smoking when pregnant I admittedly had one cigarette a few hours prior to Shem’s birth, since it wasn’t going according to plan. There was a designated room – full of new and expectant fathers puffing away – these rooms of course no longer exist. At the time I was very grateful for that facility not wishing to be far from the labour ward. Even when the smoking bans came into effect there was still a smoking room at the airport, granted it was a bit of a filthy hole full of broken chairs and everyone in there looked and acted like a miserable sinner but it was there in my hour of need. I was about to fly trans-Atlantic for the first time and due to an incident two days before there was heightened security at the airport, which made me more nervous about the flight. Now of course smoking rooms are history and smokers are simply ‘the scum of the earth’.
“As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain from smoking when awake.”
- Mark Twain
Well I’ve given up a few times over the years, for a few months at a time and not without discomfort and putting on loads of weight from the extra comfort eating. Each ‘break’, for that’s what it was, ended with me falling back into the habit again and accepting that I was an ‘addict’ that I had serious trouble facing life without nicotine. I sought help and the doctor prescribed me patches, which I agreed to try, even though we both knew that I’m allergic to plasters. Leaving one on my arm for any length of time caused an infected skin rash and it was back to the drawing board. Then I tried nicotine gum and apart from not being fond of the habit or of looking like I’m chewing the cud, it also made my poor old teeth quite loose and tasted foul in the bargain. I found the nose sprays so harsh that they burnt the lining of my nose, making it very sore and by then I was fed up and all out of ideas, resigned to a life of being ‘anti-social’ and smoking.
Electronic cigarettes began to surface a few years ago, even though the idea at first seemed preposterous. It took me a long time to even consider trying one and I didn’t know anyone who had. Then when my friends in the New Orleans band EyeHateGod came to town in August 2012 and I noticed that Gary Mader, their bass player, was using one and I spoke to him about it. I said I thought they looked a bit weird but he didn’t care how it looked since it was keeping him away from smoking and doing a good job of it. I was intrigued at this point and thought again about giving up smoking, thinking they were designed for that purpose. I didn’t try them then but instead decided to go from smoking cigarettes to smoking a brand of roll-up tobacco that sounds like it’s made by Native Americans, although I’m not sure that’s the case. I did figure however that at least there weren’t all the extra additives that you get in ready-mades. I was still very much in denial, as far as I was concerned I wanted to smoke and I enjoyed it. I didn’t like roll-ups at all at first, and didn’t care for the pity you see on the face of cigarette smokers because they think you can’t afford ‘real’ ones, but after a few months I got used to the taste and finally learned to badly roll my own. I was surprised that if I smoked a normal cigarette after that that it really dehydrated me, something I hadn’t noticed before when smoking them all the time. After that I stuck to my roll-ups and the ready-mades went by the wayside, so I’d made slight progress. I did notice that a friend who managed to give up cigarettes for a while had a lot less wrinkles than the last time I’d seen her, so I think there could be something in that dehydration thing.
August 2013 came around and the band rolled back into town, as usual on a beautiful summer day. I was both impressed and surprised to see that Gary was still smoking his electronic cigarette. I was intrigued and talked to him about it further and that’s when I finally understood that rather than taking a long time to give up smoking, he’d actually found a nicotine delivery system without the combustion and resultant toxic smoke. That really made me stop and think because while I’d tried several times over the years to stop smoking, I also found it virtually impossible while not being able to live in a cave somewhere for a year so I could rant in private and throw rocks at the walls. It was obviously the nicotine I was addicted to and it was interesting to me that I could get that without the harmful chemicals in the smoke. Even with the desire to stop and myriad reasons to do so, life seemed to be missing that vital ingredient for me personally without nicotine. When Gary offered me a puff on his e-cig I was surprised to find the taste of it quite acceptable and the effect similar to smoking. I was now more interested and thought seriously about looking into electronic cigarettes.
The same night me and the kids also spent some time before the gig chatting in the park with EyeHateGod’s drummer Joey LaCaze. It would be the very last time we saw him. Two weeks later the news came that Joey had died from respiratory failure, on the same day I stopped smoking tobacco and had decided to go over to e-cigs. That was difficult, as I just wanted to reach for a smoke to help deal with that news. I decided that in his memory I’d stay with the change and try to take better care of my own lungs, since Joey was also an asthma sufferer like me. I think in many ways it helped me to stick with it, even thought it was hard at times.
(I love this picture of Shem and Joey in the park the last time we saw him. Joey was such an amazing person, so humble and so full of energy and a really great drummer. He was full of life and warmth and always had a smile on his face. A huge loss to his band-mates and NOLA family, and a tough act to follow. Rest in Peace Joey, you will always be loved, remembered and missed.)
“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
… Since the gig and the chat with Gary I’d done some research about e-cigs, and found some good forums out there full of people who are happy to help those curious or interested. It’s very easy to be swayed by advertising but when you ask the people using the products themselves they’ve often found the pitfalls or bonuses, having tried out the products themselves, saving you an unsuitable purchase. Reading about ohms meters and winding your own coils and things like that seemed a little high-tech for me, so I started with something that was similar to Gary’s, looking much like a plastic cigarette with an LED on the end. I remember wanting the orange one, perhaps I still wanted to kid myself it was a cigarette. Eventually I was happy with the green or blue LEDs because when I thought about it, I liked that it was obvious that I wasn’t smoking where I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to. For a little while it was enough for me to make the adjustment, which I already knew wouldn’t be easy, but I was committed. I was determined to make a change. Sadly the cartridges I bought that screwed onto the battery end seemed only capable of three or four good tasty puffs before they were spent. It’s possible that I inadvertently bought some fakes but they were from a local official distributor so I doubt it. I had to face the fact that I had been what’s known as a heavy smoker and a little puff now and then wasn’t quite enough for me. The cartridges were costing £10 for five and didn’t give me enough satisfaction for even one whole day! I can only assume that the ones on sale in America do a much better job than any I came across here.
I was soon climbing the walls again and spending as much, if not more than on smoking, which is not a good incentive for the smoker, but as I said, I was at least committed. I kept it up because I was looking for an answer and I felt determined that after 44 years of being an asthmatic smoker that I was going to find some kind of alternative and kick the smoking habit. Of course e-cigs are neither intended, nor marketed as a smoking cessation device but to people like myself who have spent more years smoking than not, an alternative way of getting nicotine by vapour really appeals. I’m pleased to say that I haven’t smoked a cigarette since that August day last year.
Next I went onto an EGO-T CE4 pen-type setup like the one above, which is a rechargeable battery on one end, bigger than the plastic cigarette type and with longer battery life. These have a replaceable heating coil and you add the e-liquid, or juice to the tank, where it’s drawn up through a wick. The clear bit is called a ‘clearomizer’, which I prefer to call a ‘juice tank’ – the coil heats the juice to make the vapour. With the help of available information on the forums I realized I wasn’t the only one tasting plastic with my setup, so then I invested in a Kanger Pro Tank II Mini with a pyrex body and stainless mouthpiece and that was a vast improvement. The mouthpiece on the Kanger Protank 2 mini is also smaller and perhaps more fitting of a lady. It came with an adapter so it still fitted all my EGO 510 thread batteries. In the UK you have to be sure to buy your coils and accessories from a reputable vendor as there are a lot of fakes out there and they’re very good copies in all but performance. Even some sites selling e-juice seem unable to make it consistently, which is slightly worrying regarding the reported nicotine levels as it comes in different strengths from zero through low to medium and high. I’ve been on the medium but at some point will move to low. I found one vanilla flavoured juice I really liked but when I purchased large quantities of it what they sent was nothing like the small bottle I’d bought and seemed to burn easily and turn dark and misty, even with a new coil in my setup. I’ve never been back to that vendor and there are plenty to choose from. I now have my ‘go to’ places for different things, I like Liberty Flights for juice, theirs are consistent and fairly cheap. Most of the sites have 10% or 15% off voucher codes when I have time to look around for them, including Liberty Flights. I am sad however that they’ve decided they’ll be discontinuing my favourite ‘Hotel Tobacco’ flavour soon.
The best e-juice I’ve ever tasted was one that Dion bought on a day trip to Paris – Noisette flavour at a vendor called NoSmoking, that was lovely and not too sweet, I’m not a fan of the sweet ones but the taste of hazelnuts was delicious. Apparently the vendor sold many different brands and we’re not sure which that one was, it had a turquoise lid and if anyone finds out which company makes it, please do let me know. It was so good to add a little of a hazelnut flavour to my Hotel Tobacco and I can’t find anyone that sells it here. I’ve recently tried Almond flavour from one vendor as a lover of marzipan and all things almond but haven’t yet detected the taste of almonds in it anywhere. The Peanut Butter flavoured one I tried recently tasted more like old hot dog sausages! There’s a lot to learn but if you have endless hours there are lots of videos on YouTube. I prefer having things explained in text myself but it’s all out there if you should want to look around. All I can say is that it has been worth it to me personally to be free of the smell of smoke from my clothes and my home, plus I won’t have that yellowing paintwork everywhere needing to be redone all the time, another bonus. I recently had an almost relapse when going through some serious stress, perhaps it didn’t help that my EGO batteries were getting ineffectual as they generally last around six months before needing to be replaced. That was when I treated myself to an Innokin iTaste VTR from Love-Vaping, the best site I’d yet come across for hardware, they seem to beat others hands down in price, while selling the real deal. With this baby all’s well again.
While the VTR is a big heavy beast, and probably a ‘man’s vape’ it does deliver the goods and is suiting me very well. I feel satisfied by it, a few puffs of my VTR feel the same as a whole cigarette did last year. It’s a masterpiece of engineering and feels solid in my hand, there is also something comforting about it. It takes rechargeable batteries, so I can take a spare one in my pocket if need be. As there’s no fire involved in any of these setups you can generally vape if you go to a pub or a club. When it’s raining outside it’s not much fun to be stuck on the pavement like a kid on the naughty step, it’s even worse when they make you stand behind a barrier in a six foot square, shoulder to shoulder with several others, unless of course you like being herded. I do miss the random stranger conversations of the smoking area, since smokers are often sociable people, but at the same time I no longer cough non-stop and my sense of smell has improved too. I’ve had asthma since I was a kid so I can’t say my chest will ever be wonderfully clear, but I’ve definitely seen a big improvement and I’m sure I must smell much better too. I also don’t yak up that black stuff after cleaning my teeth any more and the hand to mouth thing is catered for with this setup, I have my metal nipple when I need some comfort from life’s harshness. The hand to mouth thing isn’t present with the patch, gum or spray delivery systems and I think that’s probably an important part of why I find vaping works better for me.
In an ideal world, we’d all be so happy and calm and jolly that none one would feel the need of stress relief of any kind, be it smoking, drinking or anything else. The pressures that life dumps in our laps at times can make it difficult to find the will power for some of us that others seem to claim as their birthright. Perhaps one day I’ll find that I no longer need nicotine, I kind of hope so, but until then I’m glad I’ve managed to move into a smoke-free life, I think it’s a step in the right direction. Having said that, I’m not adverse to a bit of passive smoking now and then as a Rock ‘n’ Roll memory and I fully intend to never be the person who used to smoke that demonizes smokers, even if I no longer inhale. Thanks Gary ;).
And Love to you all.
UPDATE: The Innokin iClear30s tip that came with my Innokin iTaste VTR has recently started leaking and I can’t work out why, or where the juice is getting out. I think either the coils I bought were faulty or the tank itself has an issue. As I got fed up with having to wash my sticky hands all the time I’ve purchased a Kanger Pro Tank 3 from IdealVape, which fits my VTR perfectly and it really is an improvement, not just because it doesn’t leak e-juice. The mouth piece on the Kanger is so much more comfortable than the iClearS30, because it’s just that bit smaller it just gives a more pleasing experience I find. I don’t like the idea of having to remove the entire thing from the VTR when re-filling with liquid but needs must. I might just have to get another setup at some point that I can carry easier in my pocket, I keep hearing about the Cool Fire and might look into that at some point, and keep my VTR as my ‘at home’ vape, like pipe and slippers. Very pleased with my Kanger Pro Tank 3 and I believe I could even get an ego battery to use with it if I so desired. Just remember to check before buying that the accessories you choose all fit together and I wish you happy vaping should you go down that route.
Update 2: My VTR is not really hitting the spot anymore, since I bought a pack of coils that made the resistance stupidly high, the whole batch seemed faulty and it hasn’t performed properly since then, even though I’ve bought new coils from a reputable vendor. On the other hand, I bought a Cool Fire 1 from Vapour Room, as it’s less heavy and more portable than my VTR and I highly recommend Vapour Room, since when it stopped working they repaired it for me in a whirlwind two days, by which time I had it back fixed. Now I’m not sure I’d buy from anywhere else because not only is their customer service excellent, but every purchase comes with a discount card included and I really do feel like a valued customer, even if some of their prices are slightly higher than others, there’s the added security that their products are all official and that they take responsibility when things go wrong, which not all vendors seem to do. As for my new favourite juice supplier – that’s TrueVape.co.uk, who sell 100% VG e-juice that doesn’t cause any allergic reaction. Almost a year has passed now and I haven’t had one sneaky puff of a cigarette, I never thought I’d get this far. I’m in no hurry to give up nicotine at the moment, one step at a time I think ;).