Real Stories #1: Glen's Story
Real Stories is an ongoing series of blogs where I talk to friends and relatives about their experiences of quitting smoking and switching to e-cigarettes. Hopefully this will inspire others and provide some insights into why people switch to vaping and what differences it has made to their lives. For the first in the series I asked my brother-in-law Glen to share his thoughts with me.
How old were you when you started smoking?
Like many people around my age I started smoking young, I was about 13. Where I lived it was something that almost everyone experimented with around that age. Most of our parents smoked and we would pinch cigarettes off them and sneak down to the village green to meet our friends and smoke them together. I just saw it as something fun to do. We'd laugh at each other coughing and see who could take the biggest puff, stupid stuff like that. Back then I didn't even consider that it would turn into a 35 year addiction. If I'd stopped smoking before I left school I think I could have stopped without too much trouble, but once I'd left and started working on building sites it quickly became a habit, if I'm honest I enjoyed smoking for a long time.
Had you tried to quit before?
I'd only tried to quit smoking once before, that was with patches and it wasn't very successful. I still felt a lot of cravings to smoke and of course back then you could still smoke inside pubs, so that made it very difficult when I would go out and socialise. All the time I was using the patches I still felt like a smoker who was struggling not to smoke. I never really felt that I wasn't a smoker while I was using those patches. I never thought much about giving up after that until a few years ago. The wheezing in my chest was getting slowly and gradually worse, as was my morning cough that almost all smokers seem to have. I was starting to worry about my health but you know what it's like, you just keep smoking don't you? … as odd as that sounds.
What make you want to try quitting smoking again?
I was smoking an ounce of Virginia tobacco a day by the time I thought about quitting again, I wasn't really even considering stopping but the money I was spending was becoming an issue. The hit it was taking on what I earned each month was getting more and more unsustainable. When I first started smoking it didn't seem expensive, I was young and didn't have many other responsibilities to worry about but when you are self-employed and you have rent, bills, a motorbike and a vehicle that you need for work and other responsibilities, you do start to think about the money you are spending on it. One of the key moments was stopping in a garage for petrol on the way home from work one day and seeing that the price of tobacco had gone up again. I could barely afford it already, I couldn't afford to spend more. I knew I had to do something.
When I suggested vaping to you, did you think it would work?
I didn't think it would work to be honest but I figured I didn't have much to lose by giving it a go. I got my first e-cigarette and e-liquids as gifts for my birthday, so I literally had nothing to lose financially. I remember waking up the first morning after I got the vaping gear, I still had some tobacco and I was looking at them both wondering which way I was going to go, which I was going to pick up. I thought to myself “Ok, lets give this thing a go and see what happens” so I picked up the e-cigarette and I can remember thinking “This isn't too bad actually” I had 18mg Cherry flavoured liquid in the tank and after a 4 or 5 puffs and a cup of coffee I wasn't really craving the first cigarette of the day any more. I was very busy with work at the time and I had to go to London for 5 weeks to do some renovation work on a house. I was working alone there and didn't know anyone so I didn't go out or anything. I took my tobacco with me, but I didn't touch it. I couldn't smoke inside the house but I could vape. It was winter and pretty nasty weather, so not having to go outside to smoke was a bonus.
Were there times you found it difficult?
When got back from London and I did start going out to the pub and that was difficult at first, a lot of my friends still smoke and going outside with them while they smoked was a challenge, especially at first because they would still offer me cigarettes. The best thing for me was that I knew that my e-cigarette tasted better and realising what a real cigarette does actually taste and smell like, that's something you don't notice when you smoke. I've probably tried 2 or 3 cigarettes in the last two years and each time I thought 'what the hell was I smoking that for?' It's was just horrible. I thought it would be harder to switch to vaping, but it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. It helped a lot that I had a big selection of flavours and a good device at the start. I think you need to find out what flavours you enjoy. I wouldn't have dreamed that I would even like fruit flavours but they are my favourite flavours now.
Do you wish you had switched to an e-cigarette earlier?
I think I stopped smoking at the right time for me, and I think that's probably the case for everyone. If I had tried before I'm not sure I could have done it. There's been some quite large improvements in my health, I used to get very out of breath going up a ladder but that's much easier now than it was. I also feel generally more healthy in myself and this has encouraged me to be more active. It's improved how I feel at work and at home. I'm quite a big guy, but I've actually managed to lose a bit of weight too just because I enjoy walking now as it feels easier and I'm not stopping to roll a cigarette and then trying to smoke it while being out of breath any more.
So, two years on do you have any more thoughts you'd like to share?
Smoking doesn't even cross my mind now, It's almost exactly two years since I started vaping but I only know this because my birthday is coming up, I used to count the months but I don't even think about it now. People tell me that it's quite an achievement and I guess it is. I was very addicted to smoking, I can remember almost being in a state of panic if I was getting low on tobacco. It's nice not to feel like that any more. Overall it's been a very positive change for me and with the disruption to my work this year because of Covid-19, I don't know how I would have got through it if I was still spending all that money of tobacco. I only vape inexpensive liquids and I'm still vaping 18mg so I only vape a few millilitres a day. So the savings have been huge for me. I actually have a tenner in my wallet right now!