My story will sound familiar to thousands of people who have struggled with addiction to cigarettes. For nearly four decades I fooled myself into thinking I had a reasonable chance of dodging the harm caused by smoking tobacco. It was one of those daily risk assessments we make when we do something we know isn’t good for us. The upside is immediate, the downside delayed and cumulative.
I’ve been a journalist most of my working life. In the early days I smoked at my desk. Nearly all of us did. Scribbling in short hand in your reporters’ note pad, ear to the phone with a lit cigarette dangling out the corner of your mouth was not a rare sight.
I loved smoking, or should I say I loved smoking about half of the cigarettes I have smoked in my life. The other half I was barely conscious of – they were routine acts that punctuated my day, often connected to other routine acts like speaking on the phone, driving on my own, exiting a building, and of course drinking alcohol. They became so entwined with those other acts that to attempt them without a cigarette, a lighter and access to an ashtray felt wrong.
I thought I wasn’t suffering any harm from a habit that ranged from 10 to 30 cigarettes per day. I didn’t have a smoker’s cough. My fingers weren’t yellow. I could easily perform short bursts of physical exercise – like playing tennis, squash, cycling for an hour or two, skiing, swimming 20 lengths of the local public pool.
But about 10 years ago I reached a point where I could no longer ignore the dangers I was exposing my body to. My blood pressure became a problem. I developed mild asthma. Still I persevered, fully aware that a person like me in their mid 40s should start taking care of themselves. But unexplainably, it was still a risk I was prepared to take.
That changed last September. Age 54 I had a stent inserted into my heart and I was prescribed medication that I must now take for the rest of my life. I stopped smoking cigarettes on the day of the op and haven’t smoked one since. Instead I vape and already after 6 months I’ve noticed some tangible physical benefits.
My sense of smell and taste are sharper. For the first time since childhood I can taste almonds, for example. I don’t stink like smokers I pass in the street any more (I have that on good authority from my family). The downside is I have gained a few kilos – but maybe not as much as I would have gained had I gone cold turkey.
Vaping has successfully distracted me from cigarettes. The devices now on offer are so good that I honestly must say I prefer them to smoking.
It is not an exaggeration to say that vaping has played a big role in turning round my life.
A year ago I figured I’d be dead before becoming a grandfather. Not any more. I dare to think about the future now.