…there was smoke. Lots of it, everywhere. I was a smoker for more decades than I care to remember, and I liked being a smoker. It gave me an identity, it was social, and as far as I recall, no one complained. You could smoke in bars and restaurants, on public transport and at work. Of course it made everything smell, and I had to suffer a few burns on clothing and even on my skin, but I rarely even thought about the downsides. And the harm to my health? Well that was something that happened to other people, not to me. Or at least if it did it wasn’t going to happen any time soon, and the next cigarette would hardly make a difference, would it?
In 2007 the UK government introduced smoking bans in enclosed public spaces. These were…annoying. Not because or the restrictions they placed on my smoking per se, but the vindictive nature of the bans irked me. An enclosed public space was pretty much defined as anything with more than two walls and a roof, which meant that smoking areas were open to the elements. Proprietors couldn’t make comfortable places for smokers even if they wanted to. The bans were followed by and facilitated the ‘denormalisation of smoking behaviour’, which of course translated into the denormalisation of smokers. Although I was largely ambivalent to the bans themselves (I could see how being shrouded in other peoples smoke might be annoying for non smokers), being turned into a social pariah to be pointed at with disgust was rather less welcome. But still I continued to smoke, enjoying the camaraderie that standing outside with other smokers created.
In 2013, on a whim, I bought an e-cigarette starter kit. It was what vaping enthusiasts would call an Ego / CE4 combination, also known as a generation 2 refillable tank / rechargeable battery system. I had absolutely no intention of giving up smoking, I just wanted it for those times when I couldn’t or didn’t want to go outside to smoke. Once I had overcome my initial total confusion as to what went where and how, I took my first lung full of peach favoured vapour. And I liked it. Very much. In fact I liked it so much I over did it and gave myself a nicotine headache (which is very similar to an ice cream headache) but it passed after a few minutes of abstinence. I also noticed a bit of a dry mouth, but drinking extra water soon sorted that out. As I gazed at the crazy looking contraption in my hand I thought “this could work”. And it did. For a couple of weeks it got me through those times when I couldn’t smoke. Then something amazing happened. I no longer wanted to smoke at all – I preferred to vape.
I had unwittingly become a vaper.