My Life My Choice
How 40 years of smoking led me to electronic cigarettes and a passion for Smoking Harm Reduction.
I began writing this on the 6th May 2010 - I have made additions and will probably make more. I chose that date as it was the 45th anniversary of my Dad's death, aged 45.
Those of certain ages will remember where they were when war was declared in 1939, or when John F Kennedy was assassinated, when Elvis or Michael Jackson died. Such events are defining moments in our lives, but ask smokers when or where they had their first cigarette and the majority will not remember, despite it being a significant event in their lives. The thing is, I didn't realise what I was letting myself in for when I took that first seductive drag, followed by the inevitable coughing fit that nearly choked me! The dependency, habit and addiction would be enough to contend with but, as time passed and I became more knowledgeable, more sinister threats began to prey on my mind, cancer, heart disease, respiratory illness etc.
In 1963, when I was 8, I used to roll cigarettes for my Dad to take with him to the pub across the road where he did some part time work to make some holiday money. That and polishing his shoes were my favourite jobs (we had to work for our pocket money!) and were much better than going into the scary cellar for coal to keep the fire going, our one and only source of heating in the house. Life though was good and I loved my Dad to bits, even though he was the biggest prankster going! He had some illnesses and a number of times had what the adults referred to as a coronary thrombosis, which didn't really mean anything to me; I just knew he had to go into hospital a number of times and we visited him. It was during one of those hospital stays that a friend who lived down the street and had a telephone came to our house early in the morning and told my Mum she was needed at the hospital. My elder brother and I went with her and she looked very upset. Apparently my Dad had suffered another thrombosis or, as I now know, a heart attack, his sixth. It was a major one and we arrived at the hospital too late to even say goodbye, he was already dead; it was the 6th May 1965, just 5 days after my tenth birthday. For all intents and purposes, the world might as well have ended there and then. Why didn't he stop smoking when the Doctor told him it was dangerous?
Dependency, habit, addiction, all played their part, but the overwhelming reason for us smokers not quitting is that WE ENJOY SMOKING. Insane as it is, we enjoy it, even when we know it's killing us, even when I know it killed my Dad in 1965.
So, at just twelve years old I embarked on my epic smoking journey, yes what an idiot, just like millions of other idiots across the whole of the world. At first it was the cool thing to do, but it very soon became an integral part of my life, a part that I couldn't be without, and so it went for over forty smoky, lung-destroying, health-sapping, stinking years.
9th of October 2008 I attended an interview for a customer service job that sounded interesting. I had just been made redundant and needed to get back in work quick. The interviewer, a Director of the company, was a pleasant and positive young man who was obviously good at his job, being a Director at 25. Despite being old enough to be his Dad, we got on very well and the interview proved to be successful for me. One of my first questions to him was, "Are these electronic cigarettes that you want me to sell any good, or are they just another gimmicky gadget?" David took me through to where Chris, the MD, was working, introduced me and asked Chris to give me one to try. I took hold of what looked like a cigarette, but weighed a little heavier, and took a drag as I would with one of my own hand-rolled cigarettes. I didn't expect anything to happen and certainly didn't expect it to be so much like a real cigarette it nearly had me coughing like I was that stupid twelve year old again! I took a few more drags and could not believe how realistic the sensation of smoking was. That was yet another defining moment in my life and one for which I will be eternally indebted to the God of fortune. Chris told me to keep the sample and gave me refill cartridges and a charger for the battery. The next day I got a phone call from David offering me the job and on the 13th I started work for the company. Over the weekend I used the ecig Chris had given me, although I was still smoking my roll-ups as well. The following week was interesting as I gradually smoked less and less, preferring my ecig instead, especially as I could use it in the workplace; the smoking ban does not include electronic cigarettes as they do not use lit tobacco, instead they vaporise a tiny amount of Nicotine liquid which is inhaled by the user.
8.00am Tuesday morning, 21st October 2008 Today saw another, probably the most significant, defining moment of my life. Being able to use my ecig at work meant that I no longer smoked tobacco during the day and had even reduced my smoking in the evenings to just a couple of roll-ups. I dropped my wife off at her work just before 8.00am and had made one roll-up to have while driving to my workplace. I lit it, took two drags and threw it out of the window in disgust, it tasted absolutely horrible and I had to stop at a shop to buy some mints it was that bad. I was overwhelmed with what just happened and the tide of emotion that followed. I had been smoking for over forty years and here I was feeling disgusted with my friend! After just twelve days using this new-fangled device I had genuinely lost the desire to smoke tobacco but didn't feel I had given up smoking because the ecig was providing me with a realistic sensation. I had no intention of giving up, I didn't want to give up, as stupid as that sounds from someone who suffered a minor stroke a few years ago. I forgot to mention that, how stupid I was to continue smoking after such a stark warning, such is the nature of the addiction. I had no withdrawals from cigarettes and the smell of burning tobacco has become worse and worse as my sense of smell has got better and better. My kids love it because I don't stink, the car and house don't stink and they might get an extra few years out of me! Within a few days I could feel the changes in my body as it was cleared of carbon monoxide, tar and the other 4,000 chemicals contained in cigarettes. It was, and still is amazing.
March 2009 I was manning a stand at a Trade Show and decided to use zero nicotine refill cartridges as I would be demonstrating the ecig all day long. At the end of the day I felt fine, so I carried on with the zero the following day and felt fine again. After a week without nicotine I expected to feel like I did when I had tried to give up years ago, ready to tear someone's throat out for a cigarette, but I had absolutely no withdrawal symptoms whatsoever. Although this reinforced a theory I had believed in for some time, it still came as a bit of a shock, in fact I almost felt cheated because I hadn't suffered! Over a year later I am still free from tobacco and nicotine and I know that I will never use either again. I still use my ecig with zero nicotine liquid (glycerine and de-ionised water) but much more sparingly. I use it because I haven't given up and because I still enjoy the sensation, it's relaxing, reassuring, pleasurable and, I firmly believe, harmless. I wish my Dad could have had one, but that would have changed history I suppose.
I used to hate people lecturing me on how my lungs were being damaged, how I was harming children etc, etc and would say to them, 'My life, my choice', even though inside I really knew the dangers and I really wanted to quit smoking tobacco. Now I can honestly and proudly say, 'My life, my choice' and I really have quit, forever.
June 2010 I thought I had finished my story, but there's often a twist in the tale! On June 14th and 15th 2010, I was in Glasgow for the UK National Smoking Cessation Conference, held at the prestigious Radisson Hotel. I'll skip the report on the Conference as that is documented on the company website, but one significant event did take place. Blackpool NHS had a stand there offering a lung function check-up. Having hit zero on two different Carbon Monoxide monitors, I was keen to find out the state of my lungs. The tests were somewhat revealing but also hit me like a locomotive. I am 55 years old; my lungs are 76 years old. I was just 2 points away from being classed as 'at serious risk of lung disease'. The only thing that saved me was giving up smoking tobacco in October 2008. I was told that now, my lungs should deteriorate at the normal rate......for a 76 year old. I suddenly realised why I still feel out of breath when I try to run; I might have given up smoking but the irreparable damage caused by over 40 years of smoking is taking its toll. If anyone wants to give up smoking tobacco, come and spend a day with me and you'll have a fighting chance, I promise you no less than that.
March 2011 Well, here I am again, February 2011 saw me having coughing fits and breathing difficulties which led to having time off work. My Doctor has diagnosed Chronic Bronchitis and gave me a whole heap of tablets to take, including steroids and anti-biotics. My chest has eased a little, but I know that this is the kind of thing I will have to endure, all because of me smoking for so long. With what I have left of my life, I want to try and help as many people as possible kick the habit. It really does break my heart to see so many young people with that feeling of immortality, just as I felt, but not realising what might lie in store for them. I will persevere for as long as possible because I have the passion and the need to do something positive. I imagine there will be more updates to my story and hopefully for some time to come!
January 2012 Almost 12 months since the last update, time has been flying this past year with the company making incredible progress toward bringing a licensed medical product to the market. On a personal note, I am feeling good in myself and have been trying to get some exercise as I need to lose weight. Breathing is often still a problem but I have found that walking is good for getting my heart and lungs running rhythmically – my wife and me spent a nice week (well, wet and windy really) on Anglesey last September and had some amazing walks that took in coast and country. We're planning to do lots more this year. Having been off the cigarettes since October 2008, I find I still have the passion for helping others to do the same. Working for the company goes quite a way to satisfying that passion, but I would like to be involved on a more personal level and am looking at offering my counselling and support services in my spare time. Working with a few selected clients and delivering an innovative service by shadowing them for one to two weeks each (living in their pockets!) is something that I would like to develop as I believe that it would be extremely effective, more of that in the coming months. Meanwhile, I took a decision to stop taking various tablets for blood pressure and cholesterol as I felt they were having some side effects; I was right, I have been off them for three weeks and feel a good deal better in myself. I will now use exercise and the fact that I feel good to lower my blood pressure. The cholesterol level is interesting – I have had a low level for many years, with my being vegetarian since 1979 contributing greatly to that. However, I had a spell for 18 months where I used zero-nicotine refills and my cholesterol level went up significantly. I went back to using a medium nicotine level recently and my cholesterol returned to a much lower level. Possibly my metabolism has become so accustomed to the presence of nicotine that abstinence causes an imbalance. .......to be continued.......I hope!
March 2012 It's time to fasten seat belts as the rollercoaster has made a u-turn, dropped a few hundred feet whilst going through a 720 degree twist, then leapt off the rails and landed on another big dipper that is going just as fast!!!!! I reached an agreement with the Directors of the company to buy one arm of the business from them. The parent company, has grown into an international, corporate entity and is set to launch their medical version of the ecig within the next year. The company has come of age and I feel it's time to do it all again, from scratch, with my own company. I'm now free to focus more sharply on Smoking Harm Reduction, which is probably why most of us ex-smokers are here. I've had a life full of experiences, good and bad, and I feel that now is a good time for me to put something back. It breaks my heart to see anyone smoking, but particularly young people who like me, had that sense of immortality. They are difficult to reach but worth all the effort. For those who tell me ‘my granddad smoked a pack a day and lived to be 95', I reply that he was the 100 to 1 shot, the rest were in the cemetery long before him.
The MHRA have succumbed to pressure from Big Pharma and Big Tobacco and have thrown the hot potato called NCPs into the lap of the Eurocrats. If ecigs are allowed to be classified the result will be many, many thousands of smokers who will not make the break from smoking tobacco and many more thousands of ex-smokers who now who use ecigs being strongly tempted back into smoking because the products that will be on offer are not suitable for them.
Nicotine is NOT MEDICINE, so effectively banning ecigs whilst allowing death sticks that do what they say on the pack, 'SMOKING KILLS', to remain on open sale is both morally corrupt and reprehensible. Often the voting public become apathetic with Government decisions and policies and lose confidence in those elected to serve, which suits politicians as they can plod along making wrong decisions; but there comes a time when they push their electorate too far, just as they did with the equally corrupt Poll Tax, and that is when the will of the people is done.
They have pushed too far by denying citizens of the UK the freedom to choose to use ecigs as a form of recreation but allowing coffee drinkers to get their caffeine fix, allowing MPs to lord it in the bar and get their alcohol fix, condemning smokers to kill themselves by taking away the most successful lifeline that has ever been invented. The Government and the Eurocrats are not just trying to take our ecigs, they are trying to force people once again into the clutches of the money-grabbing corporations that have either been peddling death sticks for decades or selling 'cures for smokers' that have less than 5% long term success rates. In a democratic society, this cannot and must not be allowed to happen.
Well, here I am, still on a journey that began over five and a half years ago and still free from the cancer sticks that our Governments seem intent on protecting. The business is proving sustainable and I have been joined by my eldest daughter who is now a co-Director. It makes me happy to see a reported 2+ million ecig users in the UK, both for the impact on harm reduction and for the strength it gives to our cause. Regulation is inevitable, anyone with an objective perspective could see that nearly five years ago; what is important is that it does more good than harm, ensuring quality standards that users have a right to expect whilst maintaining a free and open market, something that we are still striving for! It makes me sad to still see unsubstantiated bullshit being peddled not just by those who don't know any better, but by those in positions of responsibility who should, and often do, know better. Everybody involved directly or indirectly in this industry knows that ecigs are the greatest advancement in harm reduction since James Buchanan Duke, father of the modern cigarette, invented the ready-rolled cigarette way back in 1880. He made a fortune selling what was to become a killer of genocidal proportions. "The cigarette is the deadliest artefact in the history of human civilisation," says Robert Proctor of Stanford University. "It killed about 100 million people in the 20th Century." Buch Duke's story is worth a read:- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20042217
Ecigs are a big prize and a big threat to those who continue to profit from death and disease, BigT and BigP; that is one of the motivating factors behind proposed draconian legislation. So many of us have spent such a long time changing people's perceptions and with great success, but we still have such a long way to go before we can claim a victory; we must change perceptions to the point where vaping is recognised and accepted as a pastime/indulgence in its own right and not perceived as smoking, that is a huge challenge and will take time.
Any day now we should see the first ecig to achieve an MA (Marketing Authorisation) from the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) and that will be another significant and defining event in the history of ecigs. The NHS will be able to recommend them to their clients without the fear of litigation and they will become a medicinal NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) that can be marketed as a 'Quit Smoking' product. Not only will that line the pockets of the manufacturer, in this case Big Tobacco, but it will give more credibility to ecigs as a whole and, through advertising, reach an even wider audience. It will be interesting to see how those authorities and organisations who currently include ecigs in their 'no smoking' policies deal with users wishing to administer their medicine on their premises; suddenly the shortsighted zealots who instigated bans on ecigs will be in the firing line if they deny someone the right to self-medicate, such sweet irony!
Vape on and be proud to have beaten the peddlars of death.
They can take our tobacco, but they shall NEVER take my FREEDOM!
I have been asked if it's okay to share this post, please feel free to copy and share it as much as you like, hopefully it might help someone else make the amazing transition that we have all experienced.Author: FlavourArt UK