As of today, I can finally say that I beat the cigarette habit after several failed attempts. I owe a huge thanks to the e-cigarette, which helped me quit. This topic is so personal and important to me that I decided to write about it when I signed up for a Gotham Writer’s Article Writing class last summer. I hope this article helps you, whether you are a smoker or have friends and loved ones who smoke.
I’ll never forget the way my father looked when he picked me and my sons up at the airport in the summer of 2006. His face was sunken in and had a gray pallor that I had never seen before. This man is in the process of dying, I thought as we smiled and talked on our way to the baggage claim area. He was diagnosed with COPD and emphysema in January of that year and died in June of 2010. While I never witnessed what he went through, I heard the quality of his breathing when we talked on the phone. He begged me to quit smoking several times before he died.
I tried to quit smoking three times over the course of fifteen years. First I tried the Patch. Then I tried Chantix. Finally, I tried the good, old-fashioned Cold Turkey method. None of them worked. A year before my dad died, I heard about the e-cigarette while surfing on Twitter. This tweet came from a well-respected copywriter named Michel Fortin, who posted a link to his blog about the Green Smoke e-cigarette. Curious, I clicked on the link and read about how he had smoked for 30 years and how great he felt after using this product after two days. That post encouraged me to conduct some research about e-cigarettes and how they could help me quit smoking.
What is an e-Cigarette?
An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a battery-operated device that delivers nicotine in the form of water vapor. E-cigarettes contain propylene glycol (PG) or vegetable glycerin (VG), water, flavoring and nicotine. According to the EPA, the vapor from e-cigarettes is nontoxic to humans and animals. They provide the satisfaction of smoking without hurting the smoker or those around him without the harmful cigarette smoke.
The most common e-cigarettes are shaped like a pen. Some, like the Green Smoke, are designed to look like a cigarette, with a tan filter and a white body. Other manufacturers, such as Bloog and Smokeless Image, offer a variety of colors.
The most common e-cigarette consists of a rechargeable battery, an atomizer and a cartridge. You can buy cartridges in a variety of flavors and nicotine strengths (36mg to 0mg). Assembling the e-cigarette involves screwing the atomizer onto the battery, and then popping the cartridge onto the atomizer. The atomizer heats up the liquid when you suck on the cartridge, producing the vapor that you inhale and exhale.
The second most common type of e-cigarette consists of a rechargeable battery and a cartomizer, which is a cartridge with a built-in atomizer. To assemble these models, screw the two pieces together. Refilling them with your favorite juice is an easy process, unlike the original cartridges.
How much do they cost?
When I first started my research in 2009, I was immediately put off by the price of the Green Smoke Kits. I didn’t want to spend $100 on something that may or may not help me to quit smoking. The price made me look elsewhere.
A typical starter kit includes at least one battery, a USB charger, a wall charger and five cartridges of your preferred flavor and nicotine strength. Prices for most of these kits run from $50 to $80. However, Smokeless Image offers theirs for $30. My local 7-11 convenience store sells their kits (which include the three-piece e-cig plus a charger) for $20.
Disposable e-cigarettes are also available from Volcanoecigs.com for $13, as of this date. These are great for people who are hesitant about e-cigarettes and want to try before they buy. A disposable e-cigarette will last the user about a day or two, depending on how much he uses it.
While the initial cost of buying an e-cigarette kit may not be too prohibitive, the costs of using them on a daily basis can add up. You will need to determine how many cartridges you use in a month. The cost of replacements cause many people to switch to bottled juices, which they use to refill the cartridges. Then you will need to figure out how often you need to replace the atomizers (if you use the three-piece units) and batteries, plus any other equipment that you decide to use. Batteries typically last about a month or two, sometimes three.
The costs can add up, especially in the beginning. Below is a conservative estimate of how much you can expect to spend during the first month, using e-cigarettes.
$50 – Kit
$50 – Cartridges
$40 – Spare batteries
$10 – Spare wall charger
Considering that I was spending $300 per month on cigarettes, $150 was a steal. I decided to check out the reviews of these e-cigarette products and their manufacturers. I’m glad that I did because I soon learned about the “free trial” scams that wind up costing the customer more than the average market price. After hearing mixed reviews about legitimate companies, I decided to wait because I wasn’t quite convinced that e-cigarettes could help me quit smoking.
Making the Leap
A year passed. My father had just died, and I was sitting there listening to my mother talking about what it was like to live with my father as he succumbed to his diseases. I developed a mental picture of the scenario and decided that I didn’t want to put my family through that stress and pain. Also, I was experiencing health problems that were exacerbated by my smoking. I made up my mind that I was going to buy a kit when I returned home from the funeral.
Part of me was still not convinced, which caused me to sit on the fence some more after I returned home. Soon after that, I went to my hair dresser, who told me about the e-cigarettes for sale at 7-11. I felt that I could risk $20 to see how well I enjoyed them. The cashier I spoke to turned out to be very helpful, explaining to me how he used the e-cigarette to quit smoking. I bought the XHale 02 kit, took it home and followed the assembly directions. There were no directions on how to smoke the thing, which would have been very helpful for newbies.
The plastic taste that filled my mouth tasted terrible. I was also disappointed with the lack of throat hit and the meager amount of steam that I was able to blow out of my mouth. After hearing about how e-cigarettes simulated the real thing, I found myself disappointed and taking a harder drag to see if I could get more steam. That turned out to be a big mistake because I OD’ed on the nicotine.
Despite that mishap, I wanted to continue testing the concept and went online to buy my first starter kit from Blu Cig. It arrived at 10:30 on Saturday morning, July 24, 2010. Again, I followed the instructions and took my first puff about an hour later. The experience was better than the XHale 02, although I was disappointed with the vapor production. However, the flavor was good so I kept using it. I smoked my Blu for the rest of the day and didn’t touch my husband’s cigarettes.
Two weeks passed without a cigarette. My chest felt clearer. I no longer heard myself wheezing when I would lay down for the night. The smoker’s cough cleared up. My acid reflux problems diminished practically overnight. I felt better than I had in a long time.
My doctor was thrilled when I told her about my decision to use e-cigarettes, as was my psychologist. My psychologist discussed ways to reduce my nicotine level, which she believed contributed to my problems with anxiety. At the time, I was using 15mg. She suggested that I buy lower levels the next time I placed an order. I followed her suggestion and bought the lower levels from the vendors that I normally use.
The process involved introducing the 12mg level until I completely weaned off the 15mg dose. That took about a week. Then I followed the same procedure with the 8mg dose. My body handled that pretty well. I took my time weaning down from 8mg to 0mg because I was afraid that I would start having nicotine cravings again.
About a month went by before I decided that I was ready for the 0mg. The cravings were minimal at first. Six months later, I am able to stand in front of my husband (who still smokes) with or without my e-cigarette. I am able to use my e-cigarette around my non-smoking family without a backlash.
I’ve since discovered a forum called ECF, where others share their tips and their journey in quitting smoking with e-cigarettes. Several of them have serious health problems that showed significant improvement since they started using e-cigarettes. One member has COPD and quit smoking 21 months ago. He goes by txtumbleweed on the forum, and this is what he had to say.
“The last time I had my lungs checked the doctor said my lungs sounded like an accordian so I was anxious to find out how they sounded now after vaping for 16 months. I knew I no longer wheezed or coughed but what would they sound like to the doctor. He was amazed and I was delighted because he said they sounded really good. I told him I hadn’t had a single cold in 16 months although I take care of my grandkids and they have had lots of colds but I haven’t had a single one. I told him I can’t prove it but I think it because of the PG I vape. He was real interested in them because this was at the VA hospital and there are many ol vets like me that have COPD.”
I have since read dozens of success stories about people who have successfully quit smoking because of e-cigarettes, but this guy made me think of my father. He was recently diagnosed with emphysema, but states that he can still breathe better than when he smoked. His quality of life is still very good, despite his diagnosis.
According to a poll taken on ECF, 1,738 people have used e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking. That number may rise as the public becomes more aware of how they can not only save lives but cut down health care costs for smoking-related diseases.