Life: How I Easily Quit Smoking After 23 Years Of Smoking A ‘Pack A Day’ And Why I Didn’t Do It Sooner.
I will easily admit to my love affair with smoking. I still remember my very first one. A friend had pinched a few of her sisters Longbeach 16mg and we smoked them in the caravan out the back of her house. We puffed away in front of a tiny tv blasting out Rage. It was the early 90’s, I was 13 years old and I was in love with this smoking thing. I smoked my way through high school, a pack of B&H 8mg secreted in my bag. All my friends smoked, my Mum smoked (and most of my friends parents too) it was perfectly normal thing to me. You could still smoke in restaurants and all sorts of other public spaces that seem bizarre and horrifying to people now.
As time passed and Government regulations tightened (Australia has a rep for tough smoking laws) I never wanted to change. I huddled outside in the cold with my fellow smokers, spending my breaks fagging away instead of eating. And as the places you could smoke dwindled, the price per pack was edging up. Several friends promised to give up when the price per pack reached $X but few of them did. Nothing put me off. Not restriction, not price, not gory pics on the pack, not the disgusted looks and rude words from strangers. I was never giving up, I didn’t want to and none of these things would make me.
Of course I smoked inside and so did Mum. I wasn’t put off by how my home smelled, the nicotine that collected on the walls and the glass of the picture frames. I’ve copped flack here on Ask Sarah when a pack of cigarettes/ashtray/smoke or whatever found its way in pictures. It wasn’t just my own choices, I was told I was a bad role model. I simply lit another cigarette.
But things started to nag at me. When we traveled it was impossible to find smoking rooms and not always easy to find one with a balcony. When eating or drinking out, I had to duck out to the sanctioned smoking area and huddle with the others. I had a panic attack where I couldn’t breathe and I knew that smoking would eventually cause me that kind of breathing trouble. I still wasn’t ready. Several friends gave up and it seemed like this time it would be for good. Then another price rise was coming and new regulations about smoking areas. When I started smoking you could by a pack for less than $5 and now they would be just a touch over $40 a pack. It dawned on me that regardless of what I wanted, I couldn’t afford to smoke anymore.
Change makes me nauseous. I find all sorts of normal and everyday change far more disturbing than most. I think its part personal experience and part being bipolar but I am overly affected by change. And this change was HUGE! I was changing a 23 year long habit. I generally research the crap out of things and talk them through with others before I go ahead with a change but this felt far too big for that kind of introspection. This time I had to leap first and look later. So just before I left Mums house one Tuesday afternoon, I asked her if she wanted to try vaping instead of smoking. I didn’t think I could watch her smoke and not smoke myself. And changing together seemed like a nice supportive way to do this. She too was feeling the price pinch and was willing to try. When Mr Ask picked me up, I quickly garbled out my plan and gave him a stern warning. I told him not to have expectations, not to enquire how things were going or otherwise make comment. I needed to try out vaping and see what I thought and I also needed some emotional processing time. It probably sound rough but change and I don’t get along.
The next morning, Mum and I checked out a local vape shop. The girl behind the counter was helpful. She was a smoker and said that vaping wasn’t the same and we should know that. She talked us through the vaping devices she had for sale and the juice flavours. We chose to buy one vaping device (or vape) partly to test things out and also because they didn’t have the device we wanted (Joytech AIO Ego) in the colour we wanted. We selected a tobacco flavoured juice and based on the girls’ recommendation, we had 6mg of nicotine added. From what I’ve read, that’s a low amount of nicotine, based on how much we smoked. She did say if we needed more nicotine, they could add it later.
We bought our vape home and found it fairly satisfying. Not the same but there was still the feeling and action of smoking, well to some degree. We hopped online and bought two more devices (one each and a spare) and waited for them to arrive by express post. We went back to the vape shop for more of the consumables, juice and coils, and got ourselves set up.
At first I thought I would try to vape for the majority of the day but would allow myself a few ciggies here and there. But once I had my own vape, I thought I’d see how long I could go before I really wanted a cigarette. In the first couple of days, I encountered some hiccups with my vape and couldn’t be bothered to troubleshoot them – I just smoked some of the ciggies I still had. Vaping was a learning curve that way. I am planning to write a troubleshooting guide for the Joytech AIO Ego because I made many frustrated phone calls, store visits and google searches before I knew how to fix things when they weren’t working well.
I thought that once I’d finished smoking the open pack, I’d buy more, just in case I fancied one. But I finished my pack and didn’t want to go back. It helped that I had some sort of mastery over the vaping device. Unbelievably, I didn’t want to go back to smoking! Vaping is enough. It feels similar to smoking a cigarette – there is an inhalation, you have to hold the device in a similar way, it lights up and glows like the lit tip of a cigarette, it has paraphernalia you need to keep close (extra juice for top ups, replacement coils when they burn out and a charging cable too). I loathed the idea of patches (not immediate enough), gum hurts my jaw and I dislike lozenges (I will not have a cough lolly, even if I am dying). Vaping has an instant hit of nicotine and doesn’t feel too far removed because you are still inhaling and exhaling a cloud.
After a couple of weeks of vaping (& not smoking), I opened up and discussed it with Mr Ask, the Bestie (who gave up nearly a year ago), Sister Ask and the whole crew. I had made the change. And I had processed the odd little emotions that go with it. It still feels a little tender but I wanted to talk about here because I am was the never give up, die hard smoker. The idea that I’d stop is so alien. And maybe you feel that way and are now thinking you could do this too.
I always knew the downsides of smoking but I happily accommodated or ignored them. Scientifically speaking, the jury is out on vaping. There have been many studies (and many myths) but no one is prepared to say that it is bad for you just yet. There are studies that show there are no negative effects of second hand vaping. Which makes it even more infuriating that Governments are trying to make vaping confined to the same spaces as smoking. But I’m not here to debate those things. I am too embarrassed to tote up costs for you but when I stopped smoking, cigarettes were $33/pack and I smoked 6-7 per week. My weekly vaping costs are somewhere between $13 – $17. If that’s not enough, here are some awesome things about vaping vs smoking:
- Being able to just take a ‘drag’ and not leave a ciggie burning in the ashtray (this is a biggie)
- Not messy (ash, pin prick or big burn holes. No nicotine gross on walls & stuff. No tobacco bits in the bottom of your bag)
- Not smelly (yes, smoking smells bad to me now but I’d never mention it or shame others)
- More socially acceptable (Maybe it looks a little douchey/affected/hipster but pfff!)
- No butts to deal with/better for the environment (no rubbish really, unless you change coils)
- More pleasant for others (vapour just dissipates & has very little scent)
If you came to read this because you are a smoker, I have no desire to make you feel bad. Changes must be made when the time is right for you and I took 23 years. Mum smoked for 45 years before making a change. I mean she did quit, cold turkey, for 3 whole years but one day she fancied a smoke and she bought a pack of ciggies. I would sometimes read posts like this and was always shocked at the vitriol people had for their former habit. If I had known that a die-hard like me could be so happy swapping over, I might have tried something different earlier. This has been really good for me and it might be for you too.
I am so glad I could get past my stress and anxiety about this issue and that I could share my thoughts with you all. If you have thoughts, questions or comments – please leave them in the comment section so when I respond, everyone can see. I am not sure what the future holds but at the time of typing this post, it has been 6 weeks, 23 hours and 41 min 32 seconds since my last cigarette…..