Stop-Smoking Diary

Tuesday

7 a.m.: This begins my e-cigarette diary.

The starter kit came in the mail last week, but I lacked the fortitude to switch from real cigarettes until today. I’ve been smoking on and off since fifth grade, when a group of us would meet in scruffy patches of New Britain woods and puff Pall Malls stolen from someone’s mother.

I’m 48 now and I must find an alternative to tobacco. I can’t bear to think of my blackening lungs anymore, not to mention the $50-a-week cost. (When I consider the agony of quitting and all the times cigarettes have helped me get through the day, I think of President Barack Obama, who cannot lay the butts down, either. The White House physician recently advised Obama to continue using nicotine gum. I disagree. If burning a Newport every now and then helps the president get through another day of dealing with terrorist threats and economic meltdown, I say, flare it up, sir.)

Back to me.

e-cigarette

e-cigarette

The e-cigarette kit [$36.95, from E-Vaporizer] contains two batteries that look like cigarettes with screw-tops. These twist into a two-part charger that plugs into a computer or wall socket. Also in the kit are five cartridges that look like filter tips and an atomizer.

The atomizer, which attaches to the battery, uses electricity to cook the nicotine-laced liquid in the cartridges. The charge is activated by the user’s puffing, which produces smoke-like vapor. The vapor is inhaled just like the real thing, but e-cigarettes are marketed as a safer alternative.

So here goes. I screw the atomizer into the battery, fit a cartridge and I am ready to fake smoke.

But not yet.

8 a.m.: I still have half a pack of real menthol lights. I step out on the back porch with my dog and light up. The dog always glances at me when I’m smoking. Her eyes say, what you got there, buddy? She realizes it’s not a biscuit and goes back to dog things.

4 p.m.: I smoke the last cheap cigarette in the pack.

5 p.m.: I’m ready to try some vapor dragging, but fear the experience will be a pale substitute for sweet, wonderful tobacco. I take up the charged e-cigarette from my desk and inhale quickly and deeply. The end glows blue and there’s a bit of gray vapor, but I’m not getting the intense sensation of a real smoke. A rip-off?

I take a longer, slower drag. There! The vapor fills my lungs. It’s not the same as tobacco, but close enough. This may work!

6:30 p.m.: The snow is falling fast and heavy outside The Courant’s Manchester news bureau. I have one new tire and one bald tire on the back of my rear-wheel-drive 1992 Ford Thunderbird. The 30-mile trip home will test my frail nerves.

All along slick, snow-rutted I-84, the idiots, as usual, are driving much faster than they should. The semis are plowing past, the sedans are blowing by and the four-wheel-drive pickup trucks with the plastic testicles hanging under the tow-hitches are exceeding 50 mph on the piling snow. I am clutching the steering wheel and puffing, huffing on my e-cig. But the battery is getting low, or the cartridge is almost spent. Either way, I’m not getting what I need here.

I fishtail twice before finally getting off at my exit. I pull into the first convenience store I see and buy a pack of smokes. I power-drag one in the parking lot and smoke two more before finally plowing the car to a stop at home.

Wednesday

9 a.m.: Let’s try this again and have some fun with it.

I walk into a convenience store with the e-cigarette dangling from my lips and start blowing vapor. The manager looks incredulous and a bit scared; this moron is not smoking a cigarette in my store, is he? I puff a bit more at the counter, smile at the clerk and say, “It’s an e-cigarette!” She laughs and says, “I was gonna say, he’s not smoking in here, is he?”

10:30 a.m.: I am mixing the e-cigarette with real ones. I puff the battery-powered butt at my desk, but can’t resist smoking tobacco when I’m driving or having a cup of coffee or a soda, or after I eat, or when I’m keyed up about something.

I read a news release on the Federal Drug Administration’s website ( www.fda.gov) that says e-cigarettes are unregulated and possibly dangerous. Tests on some brands revealed diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze, and “detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could potentially be exposed.”

I am doomed.

2 p.m.: I walk into the Manchester town clerk’s office puffing the e-cig. I tell Town Clerk Joe Camposeo that I’m trying to quit the real ones. He says carrot sticks and celery worked for him. My wife used cinnamon sticks. These are brave people.

Thursday

8 a.m.: Out on the porch smoking with the dog again. My wife won’t let me smoke inside. She has asked many times, “When are you going to quit those things?” My older daughter, when she was a tot, used to run my packs under the faucet, or tear the cigarettes up and throw them in the garbage.

This would sometimes shame me. I would quit for weeks and even months, chewing nicotine gum. But I never pared the gum chewing down like you’re supposed to, and always, eventually, started up smoking again. Pathetic.

9 p.m.: I’ve spent most of this evening without real smokes. I sit in my chair at home and watch TV, puffing the e-cig. “Are you supposed to suck on that thing like a baby?” my wife asks. Time magazine recently reported on a test at Virginia Commonwealth University that showed electronic cigarettes don’t deliver nearly the amount of nicotine as real butts. But in my experience, the e-smoke does ease the craving, so I’ll keep on with my own study.

1 p.m.: I’m sitting in a Manchester restaurant with two fellow reporters. I am puffing on the e-cig, but not getting much of a response from other patrons or wait staff. A woman in an adjacent booth gives me a funny look, but says nothing. I guess because these pseudo-smokes lack the choking smell, billowing gray clouds and ash of a real cigarette, people quickly realize what they are.

I’m done trying to freak people out anyway.

2:30 p.m.: I’m writing this last paragraph with the e-cig in my mouth, looking like a newsman of old. But smoking is hardly cool anymore, so I’ll continue trying to wean myself from a nasty habit.

I wish myself and all the other smoking fools the best of luck.

>> Editor’s Note: It’s been about a month, and Jesse reports that his monumental effort to stop smoking continues. “I continue to smoke real cigarettes, interspersed with some vaporizing. Whenever I work up the courage, I’ll quit the real ones for good.”

source: courant.com

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