I’ve been off the smokes for well over a year by this point, and it’s all been thanks to vaping. I’m going to give you all a quick run down of how I went from an “on-again, off-again” 20 a day smoker, to becoming an avid vaper.
My addiction to cigarettes started when I was about 15 or 16, at the time I thought it looked “cool” and I was deeply impressed by characters like Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, coolly flicking open his zippo and sparking up. I’d also just started dealing with mental health issues, and I thought that there must be something in the fact that all these people say that smoking “relaxes” them. Not to mention the fact that as a fairly geeky, uncool teenager, I longed to have an air of brooding mystery about me, a dangerous side to my persona. Smoking a cigarette and being misunderstood… needless to say I wore a lot of black. And so, from the first few packs of cheap and nasty cigarettes, I became a smoker.
For the next half a decade it just became a part of who I was. I actually didn’t have a great many friends that smoked, and there were plenty of times I thought that I should quit. Notably when girlfriends weren’t keen on it, or it was getting towards the end of the month and I was finding myself a little bit tight for cash. But it wasn’t until 2010 that I ever did anything about that, I was walking by one of the NHS Stop Smoking stands that pop up in shopping centres, and I thought “I’ve had enough of this”. So I set up a quit date, got my NRT (patches and a little inhalator from memory) and committed to becoming a non-smoker.
The problem with this, is although I managed to quit for a few months, I always felt like I was giving something up. Although I enjoyed having a little extra cash and feeling a bit fresher and brighter, I missed the morning cigarette on my way to work, I missed the ones I had with coffee over my lunch break, and the ones I would have down the pub. The thing is, I never really became a non-smoker, I was just a smoker who wasn’t currently smoking. Now as I say, I managed this for a number of months, but then I had a couple of bad months with my mental health, and I fell back into smoking, craving the comfort I felt it would give. I started off thinking “Oh, I’ll just have one”, but it wasn’t long before I was back to my 15 or 20 a day. Things improved, but I was stuck where I had been before all of this. I didn’t do anything for a couple of years and just resigned myself to smoking, since it didn’t look like I was good at quitting (I’d made a few half-hearted attempts previously).
I repeated this again about 3 years later, I was passing the same Stop Smoking stand, and I thought I’ll give it another go. As before, the help and encouragement I got from the smoking cessation advisor was excellent, and I managed to quit for a good 6 months plus. But things changed, and I would occasionally have the odd smoke from a friend, then I would put myself in a position where I would see friends that I knew would have cigarettes so I could borrow one off them, pretty soon, it was unusual that a day went by that I didn’t have a smoke. When it eventually reached the point where I didn’t feel like I could go another day without a cigarette, and couldn’t find anyone to grab one from, I bought a packet and I was back to being a smoker.
Now I started vaping by going into one of my many local vape shops (I can name 6 without thinking too hard). This one was a bit different however, it didn’t look like a vape shop. It was somewhere between a comfortable coffee house and a speakeasy, all bare wood, leather armchairs and dim lighting, it was called “Smoke & Mirrors”. Dane, the owner, immediately set me at ease, and I ended up leaving with a shiny new PockeX in stainless steel (a colour I’ve loved my vape gear in from then on) and some 50/50 Vanilla flavoured e-liquid.
I stopped smoking straight away, although for the first 6 months or so I would still have one if it was offered to me. My health had never been outwardly too badly affected by my smoking, though my occasional cough cleared up. The biggest changes I noticed was I was able to smell things again, subtle things like the smell just after rain on the hot ground (a smell called petrichor incidentally), or the smell of flowers, grass and trees. Also, the change to my finances, I’d never been any good at rolling my own cigarettes, so I would smoke straights almost exclusively. Now that in the UK, a 20 pack of cigarettes is around £10, this made quite a huge difference and left me a lot more disposable income.
It was only a month or so after getting my PockeX that I got my first “starter kit”, an Aspire Zelos and Nautilus 2 tank. At this point I decided that there’s no way I’m going back to smoking, and the bit of my character that is fascinated by kit, tech, and “things” was starting to get really fascinated by all the various weird and wonderful configurations of mods, attys and coils I saw. Smoke & Mirrors was excellent for this, and probably one of the reasons I progressed so quickly. They were absolutely happy for you to just go in there, sit in an armchair and vape for a while. So I started taking my lunch there, sitting in the window, and when I was done eating, having a vape and reading my book. Because you would see so many other people coming in, and you’d start having conversations, I soaked up knowledge like dry cotton.
I’ve always been a big lover of “kit”, and vaping has been no different. In my next piece, I’ll write a little about the slightly esoteric collection of mods and atomisers I’ve built up over the year or so I’ve been vaping!