I do say just that, and yes I’m being deliberately provocative here. Please note that I’m not suggesting that any non-smoker should take up the habit of either smoking or vaping, nor am I suggesting that anyone should self medicate with any recreational substance from tea to caffeine or chocolate or nicotine. I am drawing on my experience of the help I was given during past, failed, quit attempts. These were very negative experiences for me, and I understand that they are not universal and that my own negative reaction may be biasing my account. Please also note that I’ve only been vaping for four months and that sometimes I get things wrong. If you need to correct me on any point, drop me a line and we can talk about it.
There are huge negatives to smoking, I know this. And yet time after time I failed to quit. On January 18th this year I wrote this whilst smoking a cigarette:
I’m smoking too much. It’s crept back up on me from where I’d smoke 3 or 4 rollies a day, to where I’m now back over 20 a day, and my health is poor enough without adding that load to my system. I’m wheezing more, I feel in myself that it’s damaging me and I know full well that giving it up is a road to all sorts of self-hate, failure, weight gain, mood swings and ultimately ends with me smoking again. I stop smoking every day. More than 20 times a day. It really is about time I stopped quitting
Over the last 22 years I’ve relapsed to smoking far too often. The physical addiction to nicotine was long gone, and you can’t explain it away by saying that I was still “psychologically addicted” after a five year quit failed. Each of these quit attempts convinced me that there was something else going on, something that was dismissed as “nonsense!” when I tried to discuss it with the (never smoker) practice nurse at the GP surgery I was with at that time. I tried to suggest that I’d need to use the NRT products for longer than 12 weeks, at my 10 week interview, because I was really struggling with withdrawal stepping down levels and I’d put on a stone in weight in 4 weeks. She basically told me that it was all in my head and to eat better; I was eating no differently from when I smoked. I did have carbohydrate cravings which were making my life sheer hell, and I knew that those would only get worse. She said that the products I was using weren’t designed to be used long term because nicotine was evil stuff and I needed to get it out of my body. (Guidelines for NRT use have since changed.) I ended that interview in frustrated tears as she turfed me out for her next patient, and on my way back to the bus stop I bumped into a friend who gave me twenty cigarettes and a hug and told me Illegitimi non carborundum. Five weeks later I was a stone lighter and perfectly happy again, so smoking was doing me no good? It was all in my head?
If we stopped looking at smoking as a disease, and instead of dismissing the experiences of smokers, listened to what we were saying, then the idea that we did find benefits from smoking might not be such a shock, horror. Real, actual benefits to that “filthy habit”, that means that rather than be without it, we’d risk our health to keep it. What those benefits are is not important; just that they were real and to a lot of us worth more than the benefits of not smoking.
Right now I am a non-smoking vaper. I’m breathing better, my sense of taste and smell has come back, I don’t smell of stale tobacco smoke. My health is a little better; but that’s affected by my long term illness, so I don’t really expect to see much improvement there. Right now I have the benefits of not smoking lit tobacco and I don’t have any of the problems that caused my quit attempts to fail. None of it. I can choose to reduce my nicotine levels further – having already come down from 36mg to 12mg – painlessly and at my own pace. Or I can choose to stick at 12mg, knowing that I’m doing myself a relatively small amount of harm with continued use.
I don’t need what I use to be changed in how it operates; how it delivers nicotine is a part of what makes it work. OK, so I’m saying the same thing as I’ve said in throwaway comments on the last two blog posts, but here it is my main point. Vaping works to replace smoking because it does not work as a medicine to relieve nicotine withdrawal. It was designed to replace smoking as a way to use nicotine recreationally. It was designed by smokers (and vapers) for smokers (and vapers) and it has come a very long way in a short time as the “social processes (the competition of the marketplace, social sorting, etc.), involving millions of people” [Thomas Sowell, “Visions of the Anointed.” — P. 114] worked on the idea. If you take that elegant solution and try to turn it into NRT, it won’t work for those of us who need to use it as a direct replacement for smoking. That is “the secondhand knowledge of generalities possessed by a smaller elite group.” [ibid] Vapers understand how to replace what we lose when we give up smoking, and we have collectively replaced it with what we gain from switching to vaping.
I have not been deceived by a Big Tobacco plot to keep me addicted to nicotine. I have simply chosen a safer way of getting the nicotine my body seems to do very badly without. I wish I could just be happy about it, and that this blog was a meandering tale of a woman who’d finally got her cake and was eating it. Yet the negativity that is poured at smokers and vapers from all sides is utterly horrendous. Even from the very head of the organisation which is supposed to be helping smokers stop smoking, the unchallenged and unapologetic statement that smokers should “just grow a backbone.” Every day I see the precautionary principle being misapplied, and knee-jerk misinformation and junk science all over the media. Are public health really saying that their fears about “low risk is not no risk” and the lack of “regulation” are more important than the millions of smokers who are reducing their risks of harm by switching to vaping? Are the health risks of a tiny proportion of the population taking up vaping more important than the millions of smokers who are reducing their risks of harm by switching to vaping? Because if that’s the case, then is it any wonder that smokers, and vapers, feel like we’re being treated as worthless, stupid scum?
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