It’s not often I vent on my blog about things that aren’t to do with writing. But this time, I just have to, because I feel so strongly about it. I can only assume others like me will feel the same. This article is for people who are or were addicted to tobacco.
I was a smoker since the age of 16, driven by peer pressure and what was considered cool at the time to take the habit up. I became hopelessly addicted and until a year ago was unable to give up. Alternatives were useless for me. Cold turkey – forget it, I had no willpower whatsoever. Gum was vile and didn’t work. I couldn’t see that patches would help someone like me for whom the physical action of smoking, as much as what I inhaled, were part of the habit. While I worked at my computer, I had a cig on the go, usually just burning away to nothing in the ash tray, but the action of smoking helped me psychologically while writing.
The fact was, also, I enjoyed smoking. Certain cigs of the day were like rituals, after a meal, while sharing drinks with friends and so on. I didn’t believe half the guff we were fed by the now-hysterical health and safety goons, to whom all enjoyable aspects of life are deadly and who religiously believe risk-taking should not be part of anyone’s existence. Live in a cocoon and do nothing remotely exciting.
That said, and astonished the human race had survived until nannies were here to tell us what to do, I accepted that the smoking habit was not marvellous for one’s health, but ultimately it should be any person’s choice to do what they will with their own body. I objected – and still do – to any official ‘nanny’ telling me how I should live. What actually made me want to give up smoking was not the health risk or my advancing age – it was simply the cost. Despite the cosy idea many people have of writers, not to mention small publishers, living in the lap of luxury in gold-plated houses, the reality is very different. Money is always short. Writing, unless you’re in the top 5% best-sellers of the world, (which has nothing to do with being a good writer), is one of the worst paid jobs you can do. Spending 50 quid a week on cigs had become simply untenable. My husband’s job supports us, and all along my writing merely provided little extras now and again, including my cigs, weekend booze, takeaway meals etc. But eventually it couldn’t even cover that. As the recession bit and our finances got even worse, I knew my smoking habit was on borrowed time and I was really anxious about it. Then an angel appeared to me – or rather one of my best friends – who told me about e-cigarettes.
The effect of this really was like the opening of a wondrous gate and magical light pouring out. I tried a disposable menthol e-cig and found – unbelievably – that after only a couple of days I could go without my tobacco cigs. This was life-changing, not to mention bank-balance saving, since the cost of smoking e-cigs is but a tiny fraction of the outrageous cost of tobacco cigs. Like any person should, before I swapped to this alternative for definite, I read up on the products and also tried some from various different companies. Nowhere did I read of any damaging side-effects. Smoking e-cigarettes, or ‘vaping’ as it’s known among its fans (since you actually inhale harmless vapour that just feels like real smoking), supplies the physical actions of smoking, along with the pleasurable sensation of the actual ‘smoke’, as well as providing a nicotine hit of whatever strength you prefer – or none if that’s your choice. I read that people were swapping to e-cigs in droves, including celebrities, such as Leonardo Di Caprio, Robert Pattinson, Cheryl Cole, and a host of others. Vaping was set to become a revolution that could free people from the more harmful aspects of their habit.
When I first tried e-cigs, over a year ago, companies were springing up all over the place, offering an ever-widening array of vaping equipment. A vast amount of e-cig liquid flavours began to show up – not just regular tobacco flavour or menthol. In fact, now I never vape any liquid that tastes of tobacco, since I far prefer vanilla, strawberry or cinnamon. After trying a couple of not very good e-cig companies, I eventually turned to one that provided the equipment to refill your own e-cigs with the flavours of your choice. Admittedly, this method was more technical than simply buying disposables from Tesco, or using a company that provided fluid cartridges pre-filled, but the variety and choice is so great it’s worth the extra bit of hassle. To put it mildly, I was very happy. My finances weren’t as bad, I felt far healthier since I lost my persistent smoker’s cough, and I could smoke where I wanted, since e-cigs aren’t illegal in public. Yet…
I should have known it was all too good to be true. The clod-brained nannies have decided to get in on the act. Whether this is through a sense of ignorant ‘do what nanny says is best for you’, or whether, as has been implied in some quarters, the government has a vested interest in keeping the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries happy, (who provide the tobacco products in one case, and the means to combat the habit in the other), as well as the anti-smoking industry, which would not exist but for smokers, is open to debate. Personally, I think it’s a mixture of all of those things, but unfortunately, it looks certain that legislation will go through that will curtail our use of e-cigs, the result of which could force many back into tobacco smoking – which, of course, is better for everyone isn’t it? I’m sure all the passive smokers are pining for the wonderful aroma of other people’s cigs in their hair, and I’m equally sure the smokers themselves are eager to put themselves out of pocket and damage their health again. It is a blind assumption to think people will simply give up – they won’t. They will in most cases, if acquiring e-cigs becomes too difficult, go back to smoking cigs. I would probably have to myself, since smoking is such an integral and ingrained part of sitting writing at my computer. Plus, I have an absolute loathing of people telling me what to do when it isn’t any of their business – a trait that has caused me trouble all my life! The only people who will gain from the legislation are the aforementioned industries. Just stop and think about that for a moment.
What the government seeks to do is regulate the use of e-cigs as if they were a medicine, with the result of making them less easy to acquire and becoming much more expensive. It means you’d have to get a prescription for them from your doctor (hello, huge charges again), and would have to get them from a chemist. Perhaps it would go so far as only pharmaceutical (or tobacco) companies being approved to manufacture e-cigs. Whatever happens, no doubt variety and choice would be severely limited – probably back to the more expensive disposables with only tobacco and menthol flavours. Apparently, the nannies fear that e-cigs tasting nice promotes their use to children and non-smokers. This is absolute rubbish. The only people who use e-cigs are ex-smokers. Nowhere do the vaping companies promote their products to people who don’t, nor ever have, smoked tobacco. Nowhere, as the nannies insist, is there any evidence that vaping is a gateway to smoking tobacco. How many children who have never smoked do you see chomping on nicotine gum? Ok, that comparison perhaps isn’t absolutely fair, but I hope you get my point.
According to an article on the BBC web site, link below, the first legislation will come into place in 2016. The vaping companies will fight back, I’m sure. The one I use, Totally Wicked, are already active politically and encourage their customers to be so also. They and their users have followed, and do follow, all the research, and the debates that have resulted from it. TW sends me a weekly newsletter that includes all news (with links) about vaping from around the world to keep me informed. I’m sure the other popular e-cig companies do the same for their customers. There are many forums on the web dedicated to e-cig users who are equally outraged about the proposed changes. The common consensus is, ‘just leave us alone, you meddling fools!’
What will happen to the vaping companies if this legislation goes through unchallenged I don’t know. For the user, there is only the possibility of stocking up on your supplies before the next three years is up. If you go direct to the suppliers and manufacturers in China that all the UK, European and US vaping companies use, you can buy the equipment and fluids for next to nothing. The only thing that concerns me about that is that the companies in our countries claim to use the best products for their ranges, and some of the products available cheaply from the Chinese wholesalers might not be the best, (and trust me if you look at one of those companies’ web sites the amount of products available is absolutely and confusingly immense). Then, there is the risk the products you choose are not as safe, and unless you know the technical ins and outs, how can you be sure you’re purchasing the best and safest equipment? At least with a reputable company you’re more likely to get the top components. It’s in their interests to supply them. Unsatisfied customers don’t come back. But I for one will certainly be stocking up from China if I have to. I can only assume it will be prohibited to buy e-cig equipment from overseas after the legislation goes through.
All I know is that the advent of e-cigs has meant I can break my expensive and damaging addiction to smoking tobacco, and a great deal of my smoking friends have also moved over to vaping. For some of those people, using e-cigs meant they were able to give up completely – vaping enabled them to wean themselves off the habit. For all of us, these quality of life changes were unthinkable only a short time ago. I’ve been ‘clean’ for 14 months now, and really fear I might feel compelled to return to tobacco. Hence my need to vent.
I suggest that any like-minded people, who are as angry as I am at seeing yet another of our freedoms eroded, write to their MPs about it and make a noise. But don’t just take my word for it, as of course I’m biased. Read up on it yourself so you know all the pros and cons, since it lends more credence to the argument.
I agree that it should be ensured that vaping companies use only the top and safest components for their products, and perhaps in that sense some kind of regulation is advisable. But this should be reasonable and perhaps overseen by the vaping industry itself, without meddling Eurocrats etc being involved. I also agree vaping should not be advertised or promoted as a habit to start for those who have never smoked. Not that it is – I’ve never seen it promoted as anything but a means to give up smoking tobacco or to offer a healthier alternative. Those of us who do use e-cigs should be allowed to do so cheaply, and to have the variety of flavours in e-liquid that currently exists. The vaping companies who are responsible and engage with their customers in an informative way should not be hog-tied, but allowed to continue. If the government is to do anything concerning regulation, get these people involved in it from the start, who at least know what they’re talking about.
OK, vent over. Thank you for listening.