How did vaping help you quit smoking?
For almost a decade, I was a pack-a-day smoker. My brand of choice was Marlboro Reds, soft packs until they stopped importing them to New Zealand, and they were such an integral part of my life and identity that I even wrote a novel about them. If you knew me at any point from the ages of 18 to 30, you’d be hard-pressed to see me without a Red in my hand or a pack in my pocket.
I loved smoking. I romanticised it, adored it, fell in love with almost every aspect of it. I loved the danger, the rebellion, the finite nature of each cigarette. I loved blowing smoke rings - it was, cringingly, why I started one rainy day in an old flat in Auckland’s Kingsland suburb, but most of all, I loved the act of smoking. That inhale, exhale, the ritual of it, lighting a smoke, rolling the delicate paper between my fingers.
I’ve written the above because it would be irresponsible of me to downplay how attracted I was to smoking, and how vaping - for me, at least - has taken everything I ended up regretting about smoking and turning them into a positive, without removing all the things I loved.
Why I decided to quit smoking and start vaping
The main reason I chose to give up smoking was the cost. I was a 30-year-old man living in a terrible flat, and would constantly be tossing up whether to spend $50 on two days’ worth of cigarettes or food for an entire week. I know some people reading this may not relate to that, but I’m positive that many of you will.
When I started smoking, a pack of Reds cost NZ$8. When I stopped, they were hitting up over the NZ$25 mark. Now, I hear they’re almost reaching up into the high-$30s for your average pack. I’ve tracked my progress with an app for the past two years, and - even at the price when I quit - I’ve saved $19,867. In comparison, I’ve spent around $2,000 in total on vaping products in that time.
I mention this because, for me, cost was the biggest reason to give up, and I can imagine that has only increased in relevancy for many people between then and now. But it wasn’t just about affording food, it was about the freedom I then had to do other things, and the reduced anxiety around money - always paying my rent on time, never stressing about money, not seeing my bank account hit $0 every fortnight, three days before payday.
So when I bought my first vape, a simple, $40 vape pen from a store in Auckland, it wasn’t much more of an investment than another pack of cigarettes, and I thought, ‘well, if it doesn’t work out, at least it will get me through the next two days.’ I had no idea how quickly it would change my life for the better.
Reducing the amount of cigarettes I smoked by starting vaping
Today is my two year, two month, and two day anniversary of giving up cigarettes. For those of you good with math, you’ll know that was Christmas Day, 2016. Two weeks before, I’d bought my first vape pen, and a small selection of e-liquid in purely non-tobacco flavours - Watermelon, Strawberry, and Vanilla Custard - and started to taper my smoking off toward Christmas.
I didn’t ask too much of myself, just that I would separate those ‘need to smoke’ times from the ‘want to smoke’ times. For me, I ‘needed’ to smoke during a stressful time at work, with my morning coffee, after making love, with my first after-work drink, after a shower, and after dinner.
But the times when I just ‘wanted’ to smoke were far more extensive. Walking to work, waiting for the bus, getting off the bus, while I had ten minutes to kill before I started work, before lunch, after lunch, when I just wanted to avoid doing work, when I was bored, when I was watching T.V., and the list goes on.
So I made myself a two-week deal. I would allow myself those ‘necessary’ cigarettes if I vaped during the other times. I was using a 12mg nicotine e-liquid, and noticed a significant ‘hit’ in the back of my throat when I was switching between cigarettes and my vape - the vape ‘felt’ stronger, and after a few days I started to notice I didn’t feel so lethargic or tired for much of the day.
Within that two weeks, those ‘necessary’ cigarettes were slowly being replaced by vaping as well. No more bedroom filled with stale cigarette smoke, no more elevator rides back up to the office holding my breath and avoiding judging looks, no more waking up in the morning with a dry, rancid taste in my mouth. Then, on Christmas Eve, I smoked my second-to-last Marlboro Red, and put the final one in the bin.
How vaping gave me a reason to give up smoking for good
The time I’d chosen to give up was beneficial for a few reasons. I had a holiday from work, which meant I could remove the constant ‘stress-smoke’ cigarette, and I knew I could occupy my time and attention with hobbies and things I wanted to do. I removed the negative reasons that made me feel smoking was unavoidable, and suddenly noticed I also had about $200 in the space of a week that meant I could enjoy my holiday more as well.
The final change came with a cost, of course. My girlfriend at the time took a judgemental glee in making fun of me vaping. If anyone has been on the receiving end of eye-rolls and ‘look at that loser’ comments for vaping, you’ll know how demotivating that can be. So I just told myself, ‘okay then, I’m a loser hipster who doesn’t have a constant cough and is $150 richer every week.’ and tried to ignore it. Ultimately, I didn’t have the support I needed in that environment, but I did find support in my long-time best friend, Eli.
Eli was like me, he loved smoking, but he spent much of his time inside, and didn’t like having to go outside in the cold or the rain. He was a gamer, and would often only smoke half a cigarette because he didn’t need a whole one. When I introduced him to vaping, he took to it with the kind of encouragement anyone giving up smoking needs from their friends. He was amazed at the flavour, and noted how it satisfied the chemical needs of a semi-regular nicotine habit but, best of all, he could just have a few quick draws on a vape and then go back inside his house.
We started supporting each other, talking and admiring how we both felt physically from the change, analysing the flavour difference and the positives in a - perhaps - slightly exaggerated and encouraging way. We both started feeling healthier, we started exercising, we both became healthier, and we both saved money. Our transition to vaping enabled us to pursue our dreams, and now some two years later, we’re both in the best places in life we have been.
Everyone can quit smoking if they want to
I once said ‘I’ll die with a pack of Reds in my hand’, and I firmly held that belief for many years. I still love the parallels between vaping and smoking, the rituals of timing and complementing other activities, the physical act of inhaling and exhaling, and of course, still blowing beautiful rings of - now - vapour.
The difference I feel now is that I’m living life the way I want to, without dependency on an ultimately destructive habit. I don’t get tired walking up a hill any more, my parents don’t wince when they hug me, I can see my brother and my niece and hold her in my arms without feeling guilty, I can enjoy the flavours of fruits, and cakes, and desserts instead of just burning cardboard.
I don’t believe quitting smoking is easy. I believe it takes considerable planning, dedication, and support from your loved ones. I believe it requires making a choice, a commitment to yourself and your future. It requires strength, and greater strength in moments of weakness. But is it possible? Of course. Do I believe anyone can do it? Absolutely. Will reading this helps you see a parallel in your own life and can give you the reason to quit smoking for good, and open your life up to entirely new possibilities? I can only hope it does.
But from the other side, the two-years-two-months-two-days-and-almost-$20,000 side, I can tell you it’s the best decision I’ve ever made in terms of my health, happiness and future. It’s a decision I have no regrets in making, and only one I wish I’d had the strength, courage, and support to make earlier in my life.
Author: Oxford Lamoureaux at Fox In The Green Forest
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