Unlike most, I didn’t start smoking as a teenager. Where I grew up was very anti-smoking and despite enjoying the smell of cigarettes I never actually tried them until I was in my early twenties at a party (which in the end was where I struggled to break the habit). It wasn’t until I moved to a big city with a high stress job and an office culture of going out for a cigarette and a drink after work that I started to make a habit of it.
I’d always been a very health-conscious person but my new lifestyle and group of friends meant indulging in a bad habit like smoking was difficult to stay away from. My boyfriend did it, my friends did it, my colleagues did it so I also ended up going to the off-license with the rest of them to buy cigarettes each week. It became a little routine. I’d have one when I was walking home from the train after a long day, one at lunch with my work mate and a whole bunch when I went out to watch the rugby. I didn’t think how many I was having would affect me all that much, not considering myself a “heavy smoker.” It surprised me when I noticed things like my skin breaking out and more trouble running down the escalator to get on the tube after a heavy smoking session. Going to the gym and playing sports was more effort as well, ending up breathless and with a dry feeling mouth so quickly was frustrating too.
Not being an “addictive” personality I didn’t think stopping would be an issue. I decided to try and cut back my intake to start with. Managing to cut down during the week was fine, but as soon as I was down in the pub, being the only person at the table when everyone else was outside lighting up was a struggle. I tried a bunch of different things to reduce how much I was having. Trying milder cigarettes helped a bit, I also tried slims but ended up just smoking two or three to get the usual fix I would have so was getting through a twenty pack in a weekend quite easily. It was a constant cycle of stopping during the week then going through a detox period after every weekend. My skin looked horrible, my lungs were more sensitive to anything in the air and then I’d repeat it all over again, not being able to stop when I was out.
I started having some problems with chest pain one winter and thought I’d take a proper break. Thankfully, I managed to reduce it a lot especially when I changed job and was in an office with non-smokers and ex-smokers. Spending less time with people who were chainsmokers helped too but I never quite managed to stop the craving to smoke when I was out. The mental connection of having a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other meant I ended up borrowing my friends cigarettes when I hadn’t bought some of my own (and no one wants to be that person – “can I nick one of yours please?”).
I didn’t even enjoy smoking that much anymore at this stage. Waking up with the smell in your hair, on your jacket and the taste still in your mouth was horrible. Feeling worse than if I’d just had a few drinks meant I was always frustrated with myself falling into the same habit time and time again. Around that time I’d read there was a connection with smoking and drinking, alcohol brings your system down and smoking, or more specifically, nicotine, brings it back up which explained why I could resist the temptation normally but never when I was drinking. Aside from all of that, I hated spending money on something that was bad for me.
It wasn’t until I was out one evening that the prospect of getting a vape even really occurred to me. Obviously I’d seen them around, those people blowing massive amounts of vapour all over the place and the smell was much more mild – sweet or fruity rather than dank and heavy like regular smoke. My friend, who was also trying to quit, had brought a vape with her one evening. Getting to that stage (yet again) of wanting to smoke myself she asked if I wanted to try her vape instead. It smelled nice so I gave it a whirl. Made the classic mistake of trying to use it like you would a traditional cigarette. I coughed a bit, but after a few more puffs I started to really enjoy it. There was no residual taste left in my mouth, no smell on my hands (or in my hair) and that evening I stayed off my usual bad habit. I woke up the next morning feeling no worse for wear.
The following weeks were stressful at work, which had always been the reason I’d started smoking in the first place. I had the remains of a twenty pack floating around in my handbag but kept thinking about getting a vape instead and amazingly, managed to avoid smoking altogether for a little while. One day I gave in and pulled out a cigarette from my bag. I wasn’t sure if they were just going “stale” or if I’d totally lost the taste for them but it was that day I decided to chuck them for good. I binned the rest and messaged my friend with the vape to ask her where she got hers.
We made plans to go out for lunch and she said she’d take me to the shop she got hers. When we wandered in, the guy behind the counter was really helpful. He asked about how much I smoked, what my habits were and what I was looking for in a vape. Thankfully I had my friend there because frankly I had no idea what I was really looking for, aside from something similar to what I’d already tried. In the end, I settled on a vape pen with some low level (fruity flavoured) nicotine. The guy in store showed me how to set it all up, change the coil, refill the tank and then set me free into the world of vaping. Thankfully the battery already had some power in it because I wanted to try it straight away (especially as I had plans to go out later that night).
After charging up my new little vape pen, I went to meet the group at the bar. None of them were smokers thankfully and the whole evening I sat chugging away on my watermelon-strawberry juice not missing my old habit in the slightest. Since then, I’ve never touched another cigarette.
No longer having all the horrible side effects (feeling unwell and creating a whole lot of rubbish) I was back to my normal self. Sports were easy again, my fitness increased back to my pre-smoking days, I wasn’t going through the detox-retox of my weekend habits and funding a vape was a hell of a lot cheaper than smoking too. I’m no longer than annoying person asking to borrow a cigarette and lighter. Not only that, but the smell of smoke alone is totally off-putting to me. Instead, I enjoy trying out new juices and both myself and my friend who introduced me to vaping in the first place have been smoke-free for over a year.