The Quitting Smoking Diaries 2: e-Cigs and Vapourettes

On cigarette substitutes, reverse peer pressure, and dating a smoker while you're quitting.

Apr 3, 2012 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

This article is part two of a series! Read the first part here.

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E-cigarettes are not marketed as a smoking cessation tool, because they’re not legally allowed to be. In fact, there’s not a whole lot of support for the product, which isn’t surprising, considering that Big Tobacco is a force to be reckoned with. New York lobbyists are trying to ban them, claiming that they entice youth to smoke, which is an argument on par with the idea that giving out condoms will make kids want to have sex. It all goes back to what Bill Hicks (genius, may he rest in peace) said about taxed drugs:

That’s what I hate about the war on drugs. All day long we see those commercials, “Here’s your brain, here’s your brain on drugs,” “Just Say No,” “Why do you think they call it dope?” … And then the next commercial is [singing] “This Bud’s for yooouuuu.” C’mon, everybody, let’s be hypocritical bastards. It’s okay to drink your drug. We meant those other drugs; those untaxed drugs. Those are the ones that are bad for you. Nicotine, alcohol… good drugs. Coincidentally, taxed drugs.

Nicotine is a drug, but it's far less harmful on its own than inhaling smoke into your lungs as a delivery method. E-cigarettes deliver the nicotine through water vapor. Yes, I’m still an addict, but I’m not receiving thousands of burning chemicals and carcinogens with my nicotine, and I’m also not smoking around you or your kids. You don’t have to smell it on me when I sit next to you, you don’t have to stand outside in the cold with me because I am your best friend and I don’t want to go smoke alone. I’m probably not going to be the friend who gets lung cancer, so you won’t have to watch me wither away.

I’m pretty sure I’m making a good move toward health by making this initial transition, so I’m ready for everyone to stop giving me advice about how I should “Just quit, if I’m going to quit.”

So, let’s talk about e-cigarettes.

Don’t even bother with the disposable ones in the gas station. I’ve tried a bunch, and they’re garbage. They end up being more expensive, they break, they aren’t strong enough, and they taste like the inside of a trashcan lid, for the most part. They’re also sold behind the counter with the cigarettes, usually. If you’re going to quit smoking you need to avoid triggers, and being faced with a wall of them behind a register can make it pretty tough to stay the course.

I did a lot of research and decided first to try Blu, because of good reviews, and honestly, because they have a lot of fancy features, and I am a toddler who likes flashing buttons and bells and whistles.
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The starter kit was around $100 (ouch!), and came with the following: Two batteries (the part that actually lights up), 5 flavor cartridges (each equal to about a pack and a half of cigarettes), a USB charger (charges your cigarette in your computer!) and a fancy “smart pack,” which does a lot of things I don’t care about, but also stores your flavor cartridges and charges your batteries. It has “social” features -- if you are within close range of a place that sells Blu products, or another blu user, it will light up. That could be pretty useful, in the event of panicked withdrawal, but I am enough of an addict that I would NEVER leave my house without a backup.

The day it showed up, I was excited, both because I love gadgets, and because I had by then decided that I was ready to quit smoking. I charged everything up, and proceeded to smoke everywhere.

Here’s my Facebook update, 24 hours in:
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During the adjustment period, I would describe e-cigarettes in this way: If you love Diet Coke, it’s like drinking a Diet Pepsi. Good enough to keep you from smoking, but not 100% satisfying.

I went a week without a cigarette, though, until I put my hands into my boyfriends pockets while I was hugging him and felt his pack, and “nicked” one, like a small British pickpocket child. I smoked it, secretly and with shame. It wasn’t all that fantastic, which was a huge surprise. I was able to notice that my breath smelled bad, because it had been a while since I had smoked, and I felt a huge amount of guilt because I had made a point to tell EVERYONE in my life that I was quitting.

I’ve realized is that I don’t really smoke for the flavor. The cherry and pina colada Blu were very pleasant, akin to smoking a hookah. But what makes smoking satisfying for me is the DRUGS. I was glad that I ordered the “High” nicotine level cartridges, because I smoked a “Low” while out, and ended up bumming a cigarette from someone. Even the High cartridge left me a little ... edgy.

The best thing about e-cigarettes is that you can smoke everywhere. The worst thing about that is that I found myself smoking it CONSTANTLY, rather than taking “cigarette breaks.” I would keep it next to me at work, or in a meeting, and just casually suck on it. I imagine this means that I was getting MORE nicotine than usual, probably making my addiction worse. I would suggest using your e-cigarette in the way that you use regular cigarettes, which has helped me a lot. Even if you don’t go outside, change locations, and smoke for about 5 minutes, the way that you would a normal cigarette. Then put it away, and wait until it’s time to “smoke another cigarette.”

Sort of like the fancy vibrators you can buy that come in a black box and have names like “The Sassy” (don’t buy that one -- it sucks). Overall, Blu was a good introduction to the e-cigarette world.

About a week after I got my Blu package, I got some Bedford Slims in the mail from Jesse Gaddis, owner and operator of the small Brooklyn company. They use the term “Vapourettes” for their product, and their package design is BEAUTIFUL.  I mean, even their slogan has Oppositional Defiant Disorder:

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I squealed when I opened the box.

The Vapourettes themselves are argyle, with glowing red or green tips (classic tobacco or menthol). The menthol, which I was reluctant to try since Newports taste like 6th grade to me, was surprisingly awesome and peppermint-y. Freshens your breath, without the fiberglass sting I associate with menthol cigarettes!  The Dark Roast flavor cartridges are my favorite -- they have just the faintest coffee taste, and contain caffeine! (TWO! TWO! TWO VICES IN ONE!)

The pull on the Vapourette (how strong your drag feels, when you inhale) was a lot stronger than Blu, but had less vapor upon exhale. This means it feels more like you are smoking, and looks less like you are smoking. This has positives and negatives, because in general  I like causing a scene...but I also work at a Teen Center, so it’s nice to be able to sit at my desk and take a puff without any young, impressionable youth thinking that I lit one up in my office.

When I started this Quitting Smoking Diary, I was still living in Vermont, and I smoked e-cigarettes pretty much exclusively for about a month. I was planning my move back to New York, and leaving my boyfriend behind, which was all sorts of stressful. He is also a smoker, and though I got a Blu kit for him too, he isn’t ready.

I started to get really frustrated and angry with him, partially out of childish jealousy, and also because I wanted very much for him to be ready to take control of his addiction, too. It is a lot harder to abstain from something when your partner freely indulges. (This applies to everything, really. I went on a million failed diets while living with my overweight ex, and we enabled each other for so long that when I finally left, I was 300 pounds. That’s another article, though.)

So eventually, under that pressure, I caved and started smoking a little bit again. I’ve learned a couple of important things from it though:

1)This is always going to be hard. There is no point in pretending that I don’t love smoking cigarettes. However encouraging it may be to hear that story about someone who smoked for 25 years, threw them out one day and never looked back, I’m not her. I am going to miss smoking forever. Like any other addiction, though, I have reached the point where the payoff is no longer worth the cost to my health, my wallet, my relationships. To ignore that would mean living in denial.

2)I really am ready to do this. I don’t feel resigned to my fate. I mean, I don’t believe in fate when it comes to anything else, so why should it apply here? I feel a little defeated, yeah, but I can clearly see where I went wrong, and I’m avoiding those pitfalls this time.  In the past, when I would give in and smoke after a half-hearted attempt at quitting, the joy was akin to hitting the snooze button when you have somewhere to be. Giving in to the aching feeling in your eyelids that tells you to close them for just a few more minutes is the same as giving in to a cigarette craving. The best solution I’ve found to my snooze addiction is to throw the covers off, make myself a little bit cold and uncomfortable for a second, and then throw my legs over the end of the bed and jump off, however little I may feel like jumping. Once you’re standing on your feet, then you’re walking. Then you’re making coffee and showering, and you realize you’re stronger than you thought. Have inertia, will travel.

So, in the spirit of inertia, I just smoked my last cigarette in my pack, and I threw it away. Wasting is wrong, after all. It’s fitting that my last cigarette happened standing in the cold, miserable rain on my Brooklyn stoop. Fuuuuuuck that. My Vapourette is charged, ready to go. I have all of the tools I need, and failure is not an option.

How do you know you’re ready to quit? When you stop using the word “try.” When you stop pretending that you’re not in control. Being weak is easier, but it’s a lie.

If you’re doing this with me, I’ve started a Facebook group you should join! It’s called QUITTIN’ TIME, and it’s right here.

Join the group and tell us why you’re quitting, and post a triumphant picture, like this one!

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I’ll let you guys know how it’s going after a little while, Don’t worry though, it will be going awesomely. If your friends smoke, share this information with them, but please, for the love of God, Don’t push. NO one quits because someone tells them to, even if they aren’t Oppositionally Defiant. Quitting is changing your life, not suppressing your urges. You can make someone else suppress temporarily, but real change will come from them. When they’re ready.

GOOD LUCK, but you don’t need it.