How I Quit, Part 1
Article: 28 January 2015 – by Andy Prevost
You are likely reading this article from a shared link. Someone cares about you and saw my story about how I stopped smoking cigarettes with an effective alternative.
I started smoking when I was fifteen years old. I was working with my father on a job site where he was the general contractor. My cousin, a cool 17 year old, was working for my father at the time. My cousin took me under his wing and I was thrilled. I looked up to him, he was one of the "cool" guys.
We ended up doing some work in the crawl space under a floor. Crawl space isn't really the "technical" term, it was about five feet high under the floor of a school gym that we were building. After a morning break, he lit up ... and then offered me one. Hey, come on ... a cool guy offering me a smoke? Sure. Just a few drags, and I emptied my stomach contents in an opposing corner of the crawl space. Didn't touch another one of those for a bit ...
Skip ahead a few months. I ended up getting my own job. I was a pin-setter at a bowling alley (dates me a bit, huh?). And, like my cousin, a whole bunch of "cool" kids worked there and all of them preferred the Slim Jim cigars. Trying to fit in, I got one too. This time, I persisted. The first few drags had me green and spewing the fries with gravy I just ate. I kept on it and mastererd smoking the Slim Jims. And for the next 45 years, I smoked just about every brand of cigar and cigarette made. Export A, Players, Rothmans, Peter Jackson, Chesterfield. I hailed from a border town and had all the US smokes too – particularly since they were about 1/3rd the price of my regular brand. If it was tobacco, I smoked it. Cigars, pipes, filtered, non-filtered, roll-your-own, ... you name it.
I smoked at work, at home, at the beach, in the back yard, in the car. The hazards of second-hand smoke weren't that well known back then, I smoked in crowds, with my family in the room (and in the car), at parties. I worked at smoking and put up with burned shirts and pants, burned suit coats and parkas, I even burned a hole in a brand new carpet. The addiction is so intense that I recall driving around a small town at 3 am trying to find anything open where I could buy a pack ...
Then I worked at quitting smoking. That started about the same time as the morning cough. I remember being disgusted the first time I saw my phlegm discolored by tar. I remember trying to catch my breath after that episode. And I remember thinking I wanted to be around for a lot longer. It didn't matter what I tried, nothing worked as effectively as when I started smoking. Over the years I tried will power ... that would last a few days to a few weeks. I tried the nicotine patch ... nice way to get a double dose of nicotine (and the buzz that goes with it). I tried smoke cessation seminars, inhalers, aerosols, hypnosis, acupuncture. Most smoke cessation attempts didn't work for more than a few hours. Will power was the most successful – but not long lasting. Nicotine has a powerful draw. I've since found out that tobacco companies add chemicals to cigarettes to make nicotine more addictive. It's no wonder that quitting smoking is so difficult. It's been compared to heroin addiction in terms of its hold.
Of the 42 years that I actively smoked, I would estimate that I tried quitting for at least 35 to 36 years, on and off. All without success.
It's not the tobacco or cigarette that is addictive, it's the nicotine. The cigarette is just a delivery system – and that's how tobacco companies refer to tobacco smokes: a nicotine delivery device. Pharmaceutical products are available and called Nicotine Replacement Therapy .. NRT for short. These are supposed to replace the nicotine and help us smokers to get rid of the other nasty chemicals and carcinogens in cigarettes while still getting the nicotine. The success rate of NRT products is a bit higher than 50% over a six month period. After one year, though, it drops to less than 7% ... not much better than cold turkey (but a lot more expensive).
Until electronic cigarettes came along, I had no success whatsoever. Electronic cigarettes are available in various sizes and functionality. The earlier devices look like cigarettes. They are called cig-alikes and while they work, they are fairly limited in quality and functionality.
I recall when I first talked to someone about electronic cigarettes, I was open to listening and even trying them. As I thought about this, the product itself was one of the first obstacles: electronic cigarette. I thought of this as an electronic version of a regular cigarette. And, that both appealed to me and turned me off. I wanted to hold it the same way, I wanted it to look the same, and I even wanted it to taste the same with similar or identical experiences.
I ended up picking a product that even had a glowing LED at the end that simulated the burning end of a cigarette. Quite frankly, it looked almost 100% identical to me. Even exhaling looked nearly identical. From the first one I tried, I never smoked another tobacco product again.
In one aspect I was VERY LUCKY. I went to a vape shop and avoided the junky eCigs that the tobacco companies offer. Those are available at convenience stores and many gas bars. They are made by the tobacco companies and their end goal is for you to use those while you continue smoking their tobacco products. They usually have no nicotine, so you get no satisfaction for your nicotine addiction. They even promote their eCigs for dual use: smoke a cigarette, then their e-cig, then a cigarette, etc. etc. I ended up buying a first generation electronic cigarette kit – a cig-alike – from a vape shop that explained everything in a way that made sense.
Most "vape" shops will help guide you through your transition too. The cig-alikes are really not that great to start with. You have to recharge the batteries too many times through a day and have to refill the vapor liquid too many times. If you can get over the "form", you are much better off with a slightly larger diameter battery that will last nearly the full day.
The vape shop I went to also helped with vapor liquid selection and strength. Strength is the level of nicotine available in the vapor liquid. It's the same nicotine as a cigarette. Vapor liquid can contain anywhere from 0 nicotine up to 24 milligrams per milliliter (24 Mg/ml). If it helps, here's a bit of an equivalency chart
24 Mg/ml is for the hard core smoker that is more than one and one-half pack a day of cigarettes or cigars/pipe. It's the strongest generally available strength.
18 Mg/ml is for the "regular" tobacco smoker that is more than one pack a day of cigarettes or cigars/pipe.
12 Mg/ml is for the tobacco smoker that is one pack a day of light or medium strength tobacco.
6 Mg/ml is for the tobacco smoker that is less than one pack a day of ultra light or light strength tobacco.
0 Mg/ml is for the vaper that in process of quitting entirely.
When I first switched from tobacco cigarettes, I wanted a flavor of vapor liquid that was the same as my tobacco cigarettes. I did find something that was close to the taste of my cigarette brand. As the clerk helping me pointed out, it's impossible to match tobacco cigarette flavors perfectly. By the time you taste the cigarette smoke, it is the result of combustion – that means a component of the smoke you get is carbon. And, it's pretty near impossible to duplicate the burned taste of carbon. But, with the tobacco vapor liquid flavor I picked, it was close enough to satisfy.
I'm not sure why I didn't think of this as part of my switch ... since I was no longer using the tobacco products, I also wouldn't be getting any of the tar and other nasty ingredients from cigarettes. My lungs and body started to clear up the years of accumulated tobacco by-products fairly quickly. Sleep improved. My sense of smell and sense of taste came back within one week – and the tobacco flavored vapor liquid started to taste awful. Just as the guy at the vape shop said it would. He had told me not to buy too much tobacco vapor liquid. Sure enough, I was back at his shop within one week to pick something else. I ended up really liking the fruit flavors and those have been a favorite since.
The strength of the tobacco flavor vapor liquid that I first tried was 24 mg/ml. That ended up being quite harsh on the throat. When I went back to pick out some other flavors, I got those at the 18 mg/ml strength. That was satisfying: thoroughly. I stayed at that strength level for many months.
I ended up doing a lot more research on electronic cigarettes and found out that the tobacco companies add ammonia compounds to cigarettes to make the nicotine more addictive and work faster to get to the brain. When I read that, I had been using electronic cigarettes at least three months. So, to put this to a practical test, I decided to drop the nicotine level with my next vapor liquid purchase. I switched to 12 mg/ml ... and found absolutely no difference in taste, sensations, or effect at all. I stayed at 12 mg/ml for about another three months.
At that point, I had a bit of a health issue - a mini stroke. One of the questions the doctor asked me had to do with smoking. Did I smoke, he asked. My reply: no, but I do use electronic cigarettes. We discussed the strength level and he suggested dropping that by half again. He explained that nicotine is a cardio-vascular constrictor ... meaning that it would be more difficult for blood to reach the brain than without nicotine. So, I dropped again from 12 mg/ml to 6 mg/ml. Again, absolutely no difference in taste, sensations, or effect at all.
January 3 is my birthday. I had already decided that I would drop to zero nicotine this year. I have since modified that to dropping to zero nicotine by the end of January. I made the switch to 3 mg/ml. Again, absolutely no difference in taste, sensations, or effect at all.
It's not quite the end of January, and I have already tried zero strength nicotine. This time there is a difference in sensations and effects.
One aspect of vaping that helps drive away the desire for tobacco cigarettes is called throat hit. It's also one of the components of smoking that tobacco companies invest a lot of money creating compounds that help enhance throat hit. Simply explained, throat hit is a form of irritation that we smokers come to enjoy and associate with a type or brand of cigarettes (or cigars/pipe). Tobacco companies add chemicals and compounds to alter the throat hit. With some brands, they add flavorings to create a different taste sensation. To others, they add solvents or chemicals to make the irritation stronger, happen quicker, or last longer. With electronic cigarettes, the throat hit is the result of nicotine strength and the heat generated by the vapor. Increase voltage or wattage in the electronic cigarette and you get a warmer "steam" and increased throat hit. Diluants used in the vapor liquid can also impact throat hit. For example, PG (Propylene Glycol) has properties as an irritant. Increase the PG ratio, and you increase throat hit.
Knowing this, my strategy is to switch to zero strength vapor liquid by increasing the voltage or wattage of the device I will be using. When I tried zero strength vapor liquid at the same wattage I normally use, I found the throat hit was not adequate. To get the same throat hit effect, I will be quadruppling the wattage from my normal 8.5 watts to approximately 35 watts.
My next article on this will be in a few days. At that point, I will be providing a list of the vapor liquid, battery, atomizer and any other information that can help you.