“There but Never Back Again” – A Smoker’s Tale



The first pull off a cigarette, when I was 8 years old at my uncle’s home on New Year’s Eve, sent me into a coughing fit.  The memory of that alone should have cured me for life, but sadly it didn’t.

I don’t remember how, why or when I started seriously smoking; probably alcohol related, but by age 16 I was smoking almost a pack a day or 2 packs a night if I was drinking.

Fast-forward 17 years at a pack a day habit; I estimate smoking approximately 124,100 cigarettes and spending almost $31,000 to date.  The thought of this is sickening, on so many levels, and on numerous occasions prompted me to take the initiative to stop smoking.  My longest non-smoking marathon lasted 5 months.

As of today it’s been over a month since my last cigarette, but year to date I’ve only smoked ~50 cigarettes.  By now I would have smoked at least 2,000 cigarettes.  I’ve accomplished 1 month with no cigarettes before, but this time feels different.  I am no longer a smoker.  I still get the occasional craving, but no longer race to a convenient store to quench my thirst. I primarily contribute this to e-cigs.  By no means am I preaching one should switch to e-cigs.  To each their own.  However, I am merely sharing my experience thus far.

I read an article in 2010 about e-cigs and was interested in the technology, but hesitant to purchase them, as I was happy smoking analogs.  In early last year I purchased a Groupon for a cartridge type e-cig.   Truth be told, I did not like it.  The taste was horrible and the vapor hurt the back of my throat.  My attempt to stop smoking lasted a whole month (with the occasional stogie here and there).

Last summer, though, a dear friend of mine nudged me to try her much different e-cig. It was a 180 from my previous experience.  Off the bat I saw there was liquid in lieu of a cartridge, the device itself was much larger than the one I owned, there was no burning in the back of my throat and the “hit” was the smoothest I’d ever had.  I needed to get one of these.

I went to a local store and tried different “juices”.  There was quite the variety.  I tried a number of flavors ranging from fruity to tobacco blend to minty to chocolate.  Although I didn’t smoke menthols, the minty flavors won me over.  The store clerk recommended I start with 24 mg of nicotine to compensate my pack-a-day habit.  I soon realized 24 mg was too much for me.  It took some experimenting before I found my groove.  18 mg of nicotine seemed to be my magic number.

One of the fears associated with me quitting smoking was losing the lifestyle I had so deeply fallen in love with.  Long nights in deep conversation amongst friends while smoking cigarettes.  Taking the needed break at work.  Sitting outside reading and smoking.  I feared that if I stopped smoking I would deny myself these experiences and would jade myself from friends.

Vaping allowed me to continue my social “smoking” habits by accompanying my coworkers to the smoking area like before.  I could hang outside the bar with friends while drinking and exhale a cloud of smoke like I always did for years.  The only difference was I wasn’t smoking cigarettes.

Having the liberty to consume nicotine indoors changed my habits though and I soon realized comparing cigarettes to vaping was comparing apples and oranges.  Before, I could tell you how many cigarettes I smoked at the end of the day by looking in my pack and doing some simple math.  Vape usage, on the other hand, was initially difficult to gauge.  How many drags had I had in the last hour?  I found and still do find myself constantly vaping.  Constantly flooding my body with nicotine.  It occurred to me, even though I was not exposing my inner body to other chemicals associated with cigarettes, I was probably taking in more nicotine than I had previously done with cigarettes.  The thought of cutting down materialized, but limiting my vaping didn’t seem feasible.  Weaning myself off nicotine seemed like the best route to take.

Like I mentioned before, I started with 24 mg of nicotine, but as it was too much, I dropped down to 18 mg within a couple of weeks.  While first starting out I was trying all these flavors and usually purchased 10 ml bottles as not to limit myself to a large quantify of one flavor and excuse the expense if I didn’t like it.  Once I found a flavor I really liked (a smooth minty flavor) I stuck with it and only bought 30 ml bottles.  I figured I’d slowly diminish the amount of nicotine after each purchase.  One 30 ml bottle usually lasts me about a week and half to two weeks.  So every 2 weeks I was lowering the nicotine by 2 mgs.  Currently I’m at 6 mg and I don’t feel shaky or fiendish.  I plan on reaching zero and will probably continue vaping with zero nicotine.

In conclusion, vaping provided a medium to successfully and permanently kick a bad habit I have/had for over 17 years.  It allowed me to eliminate the negative attributes of smoking while keeping the positive ones.  If you’re thinking about quitting smoking e-cigs are worth a shot.  They’re significantly less costly than cigarettes and may help you quit smoking too! Good luck.