Real Stories #2: Colin'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-cigarette products instead.
For the second entry in the series I spoke to one of my good friends Colin and asked him about his experiences and thoughts.
Let's talk about smoking first. When you started, how long you smoked for etc.
I started smoking as a teenager, as most of us did. I used to smoke about 10 cigarettes a day on average. I carried on with that for over 30 years. I quit smoking a few times over those years but I always ended up going back.
I tried gum the first time, which didn't really work, then I quit cold turkey for a while but it was like I had replaced smoking with eating and drinking. If I was at the pub I would be drinking and eating a lot more than usual.
A lot of people say they put on weight when they give up smoking. Would you agree with that?
Yeah and it's easy to understand why. Eating and drinking was taking my mind off smoking. The last time I stopped without switching to vaping it really altered my moods too. My wife said I was horrible to live with at that time. As bad as it sounds she actually encouraged me to start smoking again because I was becoming unbearable!
So as you can see nothing was really working. I knew I was approaching 50 though and I knew if I continued to smoke there's a good chance that eventually it would catch up with me. As you get older any slightest little chest pains become a worry and the thought of lung cancer is always in the back of your mind as a smoker.
What are your first memories of vaping, where did you hear about it and what made you try it?
It was about 6 years ago now, a friend of mine was vaping and there were a few vape shops popping up here and there locally. I was interested but I had some concerns at the time, nothing big but let's say I had some reservations about it. It just felt like a bit of a minefield to navigate. There was a lot of online stories about fake counterfeit products, e-liquid being made in people's kitchen sinks and that kind of thing. Some of the vape shops at that time looked a bit sketchy too, for want of a better description. Looking back I'm sure most of them were fine they were just small independent start up type shops. Vaping wasn't really big business yet.
I did quite a lot of research online into how safe it really was and I came to the conclusion that there weren't any serious concerns. It's true that nobody knew the long term effects but we are all well aware of the long term effects of smoking for 30 odd years, so I didn't feel that I had anything to lose by giving it a try.
So you went to a local shop and bought an e-cigarette?
I started with a cig-a-like type thing first, I don't remember where I bought that, but it wasn't that great. It did work though and it did keep me from smoking. A short time after that a new local shop opened that looked quite good, so I popped in and bought a cartomiser type tank, which was alright but I did regret buying a cheap set up almost immediately.
I went back and ended up with an Aspire Nautilus and a variable wattage mod. I had another Aspire tank after that, then a Kangertech and a couple of others. As you know I've recently started using a rebuildable tank, but before that I used a Nautilus X tank for ages, which was great, I just started getting frustrated with the price and quality of replaceable coil heads.
They all worked though and I never went back to cigarettes, even when the kit I had wasn't really that great for me. It was quite a gradual process finding the right vape and I didn't find it super easy to switch but it was easy enough for me to stick with it.
Have your taste in flavours changed at all over 6 years of vaping?
Not really, I never managed to get my head around vaping dessert flavours. I'm looking for something that goes with a cup of coffee or tea and a lemon tart flavour just doesn't really work for me. I mainly vape tobacco flavours but I do enjoy some others occasionally. You just have to find what flavours you like.
Do you have any advice or thoughts for people looking to switch to vaping?
It took me a little white to get used to the difference between smoking and vaping, the feeling of the nicotine 'hit' isn't the same as smoking, it's not as immediate. I think it's easier now than it ever has been though, the flavours, the vapour production the accessibility are all so much better these days. You can go into your local supermarket now and buy something to vape on. Affordability and just the overall effectiveness of the products has got really good.
Do some research, there's a lot of resources online, like blogs, forums and YouTube. Local shops and vape companies seem to be always willing to give advice too. Find out what options are available and be prepared to experiment a little until you find the right kit and liquids that work for you. There's a lot of options but you will find something that suits you in the end and it will just click.
I enjoyed smoking, if it wasn't so harmful I don't think I would have wanted to quit. So vaping for me is all about harm reduction. Vaping is an excellent replacement though, I enjoy the throat hit and I like the feeling of blowing out the vapour, which is really convincing as 'smoke'. It also replaces the rituals and social elements of smoking, which is why patches and gums don't really work for most people. It's hard to feel like that about slapping a patch on your arm.
There's still a lot of scary headlines posted around which is a shame, as that's always going to put people off. There's a lot of good information from Public Health England and many of cancer charities but that information doesn't get shared around Facebook in the same way as the 'scary' stuff. I watched a very good video on YouTube the other day from Yorkshire Cancer Research, I would encourage everyone to watch that. (You can find the video here)
I've seen that video too, it really is excellent and very welcome. Is there anything else you'd like to say to anyone reading this?
I'm glad that in the UK we seem to have taken a sensible approach to vaping. The last time I smoked was when I went on my honeymoon to Thailand. I'll cut a long story short but vaping is essentially illegal there for all intent and purpose. Taking my vaping gear into the country was going to be extremely risky and as I didn't fancy spending my honeymoon in a Thai jail as a 'drug smuggler' I made the decision to smoke while I was there. It was really horrible and I smoked as little as possible. By the end of the two weeks I could just about tolerate it. That experience did make me realise that I wasn't missing smoking though, even though there has been times that I thought I did. If you are booking a holiday it really is worth checking out the situation in the country as e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly problematic in many places, so you really do need to have a plan.