• It is April 14th, 2019. I have just smoked my last cigarette.
I announced that I was quitting smoking, and no one believed me. The cynics had a body of evidence to back up their assertions. I had previously given up smoking on umpteen occasions and had shown pathetic levels of will power every single time. This was then followed by a period of denial, and Watergate levels of cover up as I began the process of the smoking liar – that horrible period where the cessation stops, and the sneaky smoking habit begins again. Christ, I even developed an obsessive-compulsive habit of washing my hands with anti-bacterial hand wash as it was the only thing that removed the smell of cigarettes from my hand. It was a desperate attempt to avoid being exposed as a fraud.
A friend of mine went a stage further – he bought a pair of driving gloves to hold a cigarette, in a desperate bid to avoid exposure.
The whole thing was rather pathetic, and on April 14th, 2019, my 15-year smoking habit stopped. The final straw was a combination of two embarrassing moments. My daughter mentioned that I smelled of bacon crisps, which was a bit of a degrading note to self. But, the final straw happened when I was hiding under the willow tree in my garden to have an early morning sneaky smoke. I was shat upon by a seagull. It was a sign from above that something had to change.
So, I once again set out on that road to hell – the process of becoming an ex-smoker. This time, I am pleased to report that I have not had a cigarette for a whole year. I have finally slain the beast.
The first few weeks were the worst. It was utter hell. I almost broke at Derby rail station as I tried to find ways to kill time as my train was delayed by three hours. Usually, in situations like this, I would have just stepped outside the station and smoked my way through the hiatus. Without my filthy little friends to prop me up, I spent long and discombobulating afternoon browsing magazines in WH Smith. I felt like a lunatic. I almost broke down in tears due to my withdrawal symptoms.
The cessation process did get easier over time – largely due to using e-cigarettes. A few friends of mine had started using them, and they swore by them. So after a trial and error process to try and find an e-cig that worked well for me, I settled upon the fabulous Green Smokes.
Nicotine gets a lot of bad PR, yet, the negative health effects are minimal and comparable to caffeine. It is the tar, smoke, tobacco and carcinogens within tobacco based cigarettes that cause the damage. E-cigs have none of this. They only have nicotine and the emission of safe non-polluting water vapour. I use Wick and Wire for my vape juice, but there are others.
What I love about e-cigs is the ability to behave like a smoker, yet having more freedom to smoke anywhere. For the smoker, the process of smoking is everything. E-cigs allow the smoker to continue the habitual process of smoking – even in public places.
Awareness is slowly increasing about e-cigs. I know of many people who have now completely given up tobacco cigarettes for e-cigs – including myself. In fact, I suspect that in 10 years time, due to e-cigs, it will seem ridiculous to smoke tobacco cigarettes unless someone has some sort of latent death wish. Recent research has claimed that e-cigs have helped nine out of ten smokers quit tobacco completely, and around one million people now use e-cigs in the UK.
Cost also comes into the equation – for the price of 150 tobacco cigarettes (roughly £100) I get an e-cig cartridge equivalent to 150 cigarettes at a total cost of £8. A massive saving for these austere times.
Tobacco companies are running scared of e-cigs and are lobbying hard against them. In some places, the politicians and the busybodies are listening to this propaganda. Several countries (including Austria and New Zealand) restrict the sale of e-cigarettes, by classifying them as medical devices; others (Brazil and Singapore) ban them altogether. Some airlines ban passengers from using e-cigarettes on their planes. The EU is looking closely at e-cigs and the wheels are in motion towards restrictions. This is utterly scandalous, and smacks of old tobacco lobbying and government posturing to protect tobacco tax revenues.
This approach is completely wrong. Those charged with improving public health should be promoting e-cigarettes, not discouraging their use. Of course, e-cigarettes should be regulated, but e-cigarettes are a much more viable option for quitting smoking than say, patches – as the smoker gets to give up and still indulge in the habitual side of smoking, without the health risks.
The right approach is not to dehumanise smoking, but to humanise e-smoking. It is a much better option for both the smoker and passive smoker. The NHS should be endorsing e-cigs as a form of cessation.