OK, this gets long. The short version is this: after 24 years of smoking, I'm almost completely over cigarettes. It took less than a week, I haven't taken any hostages, and e-cigarettes work.
Read on if you want the long form.
I started smoking when I was 17 years old. Back then, it was nothing unusual and it carried little stigma. Smoking was still allowed on airplanes, fast-food restaurants had those little tin ashtrays at every table, and one could smoke in a crowded shopping mall without causing an uproar.
To appropriate an old slogan, we've come a long way, baby. Smoking has been stigmatized and driven to the margins, and rightfully so. Fewer people are taking up smoking, and that's a good thing. We all know about the health risks and mortality rates.
I continued to smoke because I enjoyed it. Nicotine and coffee have been two of the mainstays of my diet for more of my life than not. Then I began to realize I didn't enjoy smoking anymore. It was something I did just to be doing it.
So I tried to quit. The patches don't work. The gum doesn't work. Sheer willpower doesn't work. Short of going off to a deserted island for a few months to sweat it out, options seemed exhausted.
So I decided to try electronic cigarettes. At first, it was those little things resembling cigarettes that they sell at the gas station. They helped to space out intervals between regular cigarettes, but they weren't a solution. I spoke to a couple of people who'd used them to quit, and I realized I was using the wrong hardware.
Like cigarettes, these things are a nicotine delivery system. There are differences, however. The most notable is that they don't include the hundreds of other chemicals and carcinogens that cigarettes do. E-cigs use a battery that powers a coil, which in turn atomizes fluid in a tank and turns it into vapor. The vapor is inhaled, and I get a dose of nicotine, which keeps me from hijacking go-carts at a Shriner's parade.
The second difference is the way in which it's used. When I smoke a cigarette, I take a hard drag and draw the smoke directly into my lungs, where it's quickly absorbed. E-cigarettes are more like cigars. The vapor is drawn into the mouth and allowed to pool for a moment while it's absorbed. Some folks inhale, some don't. You get the dosage either way.
The problem is, the small disposable units use meager batteries and small tanks. As such, they don't generate much vapor. I'd obviously have to step up to something more powerful.
The unit on the right is an Aspire BDC tank, mounted on an Ego battery. That was the first upgrade. It was a vast improvement, and it reduced my daily cigarette count from 18 or so to 2 within two days.
I can actually make it through a twelve-hour shift at a job which involves keeping people from shooting themselves without a cigarette. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a win.
It knocks back the nicotine cravings just as much as a cigarette, bu it does feel different. I still get a craving for that slight burn in my throat and lungs from time to time, but even that is passing. The interesting thing is, I enjoy using this. It's nicotine without all the other hundreds of nasty chemicals, and I can smoke in the house without stinking the place up.
The Ego kit ran me about $50 from Vape City. The battery plugs into a little USB dongle for charging. The bottles of fluid, which come in a bewildering array of flavors, run about ten bucks and last about four days.
The silver unit is a Sigelei Zmax, which uses a much larger battery and tank and produces a more robust vapor. Think of it as the difference between a drip coffee maker and a high-end espresso machine.
Apparently, this endeavor is supposed to be cheaper than cigarettes, but I'm not seeing that just yet. Nonetheless, it's freeing me from a two-decade addiction and all the health issues that came with it.
There has been some clamor in the media about potential health issues with e-cigarettes, but it appears to be largely unfounded. The fluid is essentially propylene glycol and nicotine, neither of which are carcinogens and neither of which are harmful in moderate doses. What studies have been done seem to find no issue. A few politicians are grousing about it, but their motives are questionable at best considering the vast good e-cigarettes can do as a smoking cessation tool.
To put it mildly, these things can save lives. I may not be patient zero, but I'm living proof.