From Secret Smoking to Vaping with Family. A Transition

Cigarettes are pleasurable. Too pleasurable.

Any smoker who has smoked for any length of time knows three undeniable truths.

  1. When you smoke lots, the next cigarette isn’t really all that.
  2. When you go without for a little while, the next cigarette is the sweetest nectar of all.
  3. If I smoke, I die.

Now my journey with cigarettes began later than most smokers. I was late 20’s, working in a management job in a call centre I really didn’t like. Having worked there for 5 years, I had been fortunate enough to graduate off the phones into a management position, unfortunately underneath a boss I despised.

I had smoking colleagues who, like me, yearned for 10 minutes off the floor to have some time to myself. It’s at this point I should explain, that the call centre I worked in was an inescapable environment of petty customer queries, pointless reports and micro-managing management. If you were on the floor, you were working. Break time or no break time.

So the only solution was to vanish. Head outside to the tab shed for 10 minutes with some friendly faces to avoid the hordes. At first I didn’t smoke at all when at work, but being an occasional social smoker when on the drink, I felt no guilt or concern for sponging an occasional cigarette on a particularly stressful day.

Fast forward 12 months, and I’m up to 20 a day. There wasn’t a point when I flicked from ‘non-smoker’ to ‘smoker’. It was more guilt of stealing others cigarettes then led me to buying my own, and once you had your own packet, well, they’re there to be smoked.

So that was me. The job changed but the habit remained. You don’t really sense the loss of money as you only lose it £10 at a time, but for no clear reason you find yourself shorter than usual at the end of the month. I’d love to say that my concern over my health was the motivating factor to choosing to move away from cigarettes to vaping, but that’s just not true. It’s because it was cheap.

Now this is probably a good point to introduce some new people to the mix. My parents and my in laws. None of either my parents or in laws smoke, and typically for 60 year non smokers, they are staunch advocates of all sorts of punitive measures on smokers. £50 a pack, make them smoke out at sea, get a kidney punch each time you light up, all reasonable policies in their eyes.

As much as I’d like to kid myself that they didn’t pick up my new smoking habit, they too went through a phase of labelling me as

  1. Doesn’t smoke.
  2. He sometimes has one on a night out.
  3. He also has one or two when stressed at work.
  4. Yeah, he’s a smoker.

Now no one really likes being labelled a smoker. I guess only people who are smokers know what it feels like. That uneasy feeling that others think less of you, that you’re an addict. Of course they may well their shortcomings as well, only theirs may be easier to conceal.

So as mentioned, my first switch to vaping was out of necessity rather than choice. A particularly hard month left me with £10 disposable left with a week to go to payday. Unless I was to ration my ciggies and climb the walls, I knew I was falling short.

My first vape was bought on impulse at a supermarket. They had a choice of two. The first was one of those god awful ones that actually look like a cigarette and light up when you inhale. I knew they had a rep for being particularly useless, so my only remaining choice was a eye bogglingly garish purple contraption with some liquid included. £10 handed over, and off I went.

After making just about every mistake a first time maker can make, it did the trick and that was the beginning of my love affair with vaping. Only one problem remained, having the in laws and parents normalise my vaping.

I can always remember the first time I vaped in front of my parents and in laws. It was a particularly mild Christmas Day and as tends to happen at Christmas, you find yourself in unusually long periods with those who you may only see for more fleeting periods of time, usually periods of time you can go without nicotine.

Christmas, is not one of those days, and a 12 hour stint without just wasn’t happening. It took me a good 10 minutes to pluck up the courage to get out of my chair, head outside in full view of all, and begin vaping away. The reaction was mixed.

My father and mother in law did the polite thing and make no reference to it at all, as if I had been doing it all my life. To be honest, I think they were just happy to see that it wasn’t a cigarette in my hand. My mother on the other hand, was not quite so diplomatic.

“What the hell is that bloody thing”. A reaction I was expecting. She was a mix of 20% disgust, 40% curiosity and 40% embarrassment. A few rather mundane questions back and forth and everyone’s attention quickly diverted to something else.

I’m a big fan of ‘boiling the frog’ theory. If you’ve never heard of it before, it is the course of gently introducing new behaviours that in small increments are acceptable but in one go would trigger a big reaction. The small actions continued until they were normal. Vaping in their company, then vaping in my own home, until eventually even letting them have a go.

And here we are today. I vape when and where I want, my spending on product has dropped from £300 a month on cigarettes to £20-£25 a month on vaping juice and coils, and my parents and in laws see vaping as a way of avoiding lung cancer rather than as a harmful activity.

Vaping is safer than smoker. Of that, there is no doubt. 95% if you believe the NHS. The next step, is changing public opinion.

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