I started smoking cigarettes in earnest in1981.
I was 17, and at that time idolized the iconic British playwright Sir Noel Coward, who more often than not had a cigarette in hand in most of his publicity photos spanning 50 years.
He died of a heart attack at 73, and biographer/life partner Graham Payn noted Coward’s circulation issues as early as ten years before his death.
“Noel was suffering from circulatory problems in his legs, but was lazy about taking any form of exercise beyond reaching for a cigarette,” he wrote.
Above photo: Noel Coward Society
I quit smoking cigarettes on Ash Wednesday – March 5, 2014, after 33 years. Calling this a dalliance would be a colossal understatement. This was a committed relationship – a marriage – and I loved cigarettes.
But I know they didn’t love me.
For a couple of years before this, I messed around with e-cigarettes – or more specifically, “cig-alikes,” those disposable numbers you can buy at convenience stores – and eventually bought myself a vape pen called a Joyetech eCab with a refillable cartridge, but I used these intermittently while continuing to smoke cigarettes.
But my daughter challenged me to lay down the cigarettes and vape exclusively for Lent in 2014 – and this time it stuck. I admit I stayed in bed the bulk of the morning on Ash Wednesday because I knew I would be tempted to light up as soon as I got up – so I stayed where I was until I was sure I wouldn’t.
By then, I had a few more e-cigs – this time of the variable voltage variety with a combination of tanks and a collection of e-liquids to back up my resolve. I picked up these items from a friend of mine at a local vape shop when I was writing a cover story for an alt-weekly about the vaping trend on the Grand Strand in 2013.
I roped by twin brother into doing the cover shoot with me, although he is not a vaper.
In that article, I profiled vape shop owners as well as several people who had given up traditional cigarettes in favor of vaping. I also explored the existing American Medical Association [AMA] data about a concept called harm reduction and spoke to a cardiologist, who told me that he could intuit that vaping was less harmful than cigarettes, based on his experience with his patients at the time.
When I finally got out of bed that Ash Wednesday, I began to vape exclusively and never looked back.
By that time, the technology had improved, and variable voltage made a huge difference. I could tailor my “hit” to feel like it did when smoking cigarettes.
I knew from previous experience that this was an altogether different activity, and as such was not going to be identical to cigarette smoking – but it was a smooth transition and one that I don’t regret.
With the FDA attempting to impose its heavy hand on the vaping industry, I see a lot of dirty pool at play – most notably a total disregard for the legions of former cigarette smokers who now vape, and their stories. It seems like Big Tobacco is behind a scheme that would have us believe that cigarette smoking is the safer option.
That, my friends, smells like bullshit – and I aim to dig deeper.