“I’m pretty sure vaping saved my life.”
Wanna hear something scary about being 29? Aside from freaking out about turning 30?
Being 29 and hacking up green balls of phlegm every morning. There. Have I got your attention? Weren’t the grotesque cigarette pack images and GIANT WARNINGS supposed to get it into my head that smoking was bad? Wasn’t it supposed to get me worried?
Want to know what I was worrying about at 29? Whether or not the corner shop would be open Christmas Day and if they weren’t, how the hell was I gonna get my fix?
Being in public was getting pretty embarrassing, too. Like avoiding laughing, because my chest sounded like a 1970s car engine that wouldn’t start. Or excusing myself to use bathrooms, because coughing up gunk is pretty anti-social unless you’re in an old age home. It was around that time I realised I probably wouldn’t even make it to an old age home. Smoke-related cancers don’t hit every smoker, but with a 20-a-day habit from the age of 16, this was getting uncomfortably real. I was turning into the person on the packet, and fast. Worst of all? I couldn’t stop.
As someone who’s been there, I don’t judge people when I hear this. Thanks to the nicotine in it (which oddly isn’t the harmful part, although here’s a nice list of what is), smoking is an addiction. Straight and simple. Wanting to quit often doesn’t cut it. Ask any smoker who’s tried and failed. Some last a day, some a week, some even hold out years.
I’m not a doctor, but I had to be a straight-up idiot to think this was going to end any other way than badly. I needed a solution, and I needed one fast. I tried nicotine gum. It made me gag. I tried patches. Since I was still smoking, the resulting nicotine overdose actually made me sick. I tried smoking less. Somehow, I ended up smoking more.
Being a regular smoker means cigarettes are a natural accessory to most daily activities.
Oddly, it’s the last one I have to thank for taking me from smoking to vaping. I don’t make bold statements without the medical evidence to back them up, so here’s one:
This was summer 2016, so in many ways, it feels like an era ago. Really, it was the end of an era. I was on the phone to a friend- “hold on, I can’t find my lighter”. He laughs, Rebecca, you can never find your lighter. Trying to be a little less selfish, I ask after my friend Luke- the only other solid smoker in our group.
“Luke? Nah, he hasn’t smoked in ages. Puffs away all day on this giant thing he bought.”
Aha! So there’s a “thing”.
Chances are, if you’re on this website, you’re either a regular user of “the thing”, or curious about it. “The thing”, which apparently is called a vape, is a device you carry around. It doesn’t track your steps or tell you to drink more water, but if you’re a smoker, it’s probably the healthiest thing you can have in your hand. Powered by batteries which heat coils inside, it also tastes nice, thanks to cotton-soaked liquid that comes in a myriad of mouth-watering and eccentrically named flavours, like strawberries and cream-tasting Unicorn Milk– my very first e-liquid.
Most importantly, it works.
The first puff felt strange. It definitely wasn’t a cigarette, but weirdly, it was really…close. It gave me the feeling I wanted. It delivered nicotine (although you can vape at 0% nicotine), produced an impressive cloud of vapour, and for something with only four ingredients, I realised this ‘not getting cancer’ hack was sheer genius.
The day I started vaping, my cigarette consumption reduced by 80%. Yes, overnight. Smokers-turned-vapers are often warned of the “notorious cough” you get around two weeks in. The educated ones are lucky enough to recognise it as a good sign. Cigarette smoke paralyses the microscopic “cilia” hairs lining your airways. Their purpose is to push out any mucus, bacteria, or general gunk. Stopping smoking unfreezes them, so waving around freely again, the cilia finally get a chance to rid the body of the bad stuff. Although I was still smoking two or three cigarettes a day, the effect was undeniable. Ok, so I sounded like I had the plague, but the evidence was right in front of me. Fourteen years of trapped rubbish emerged, and fast forward eight weeks later, all my smoke-related symptoms had disappeared.
No more cough. No more phlegm. No more wheezing.
As vaping replaced cigarettes, my jackets and hair no longer reeked of smoke, and I noticed my bank balance wasn’t dropping by £9 a day anymore, something occurred to me. I’m really not interested in cigarettes anymore. All I want is the vape.
I was never one to sugar coat things. I knew full well that I was still addicted to the e-liquid’s nicotine. But there honestly wasn’t anything else to criticise. In February 2017, being down to about one cigarette a week, I lit one and immediately regretted it. It stank, didn’t taste anywhere near as good as vaping, and all I could see were thousands of invisible, harmful toxins. Stubbing it out after the first puff, it was the last cigarette I ever smoked.
You probably have a smartphone. If and when you get a new one, that will be called an upgrade. Why? Because it’s newer, more powerful, and provides a better experience. Minus the pushy salesperson and 24-month contract, vaping has a similar deal. It’s called Better Stuff.
I invested in one of these. Clouds for days, baby. I bought so much Dinner Lady juice, the company actually sent me an embellished ribbon. I started noticing stuff- like this. As the cigarettes became a distant memory and vaping left me stronger, healthier, and more confident, I took a moment to realise just how much I’d changed as a person. Yes, my bedside charging bay kind of looks like I’m building a bomb, but my life is no longer on a shortened clock. The 150 lung, 97 voice box, and endless other invisible cell mutations caused by smoking aren’t ruining my DNA anymore. If I want to play around with my arteries, I can do it with a Death Wish that’s actually safe. I’ve joined a world where suicide bunnies are cool, I can have cereal all day long, and I don’t need to be spoon-fed. I make my own decisions, and my body is thanking me for choosing the right ones. Being asked to write this was actually an honour.
When (alongside the rest of the vaping world), I cottoned onto the fact that 2017 TPD laws were Big Tobacco’s anger at having lost so many of their customers, I realised just why they’re so mad. Say I buy a pair of trainers from a certain sports brand. I might shop elsewhere for the next pair, but the company haven’t lost me completely. I might go back in a year or two and buy a jacket. Or a bag. Big Tobacco have lost us for life. Ironically, it’s also the very thing they’ve handed us. Given the 360 turnaround in health I experienced in just eight weeks, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say vaping isn’t just a handy alternative to smoking. It’s the upper hand.
If you have a vaping story, please, share it. If you don’t yet, build one. It’ll be your own, I guarantee you it’ll be fantastic, and hey, you’ll live long enough to share it with your grandchildren.
Writer: Rebecca Cukier (https://rebeccacukier.wordpress.com/)