By DAVID JOHNSON
THIS IS A STORY of how I stopped smoking cigarettes.
First the disclaimer.
I used vaping products. I do not in any way endorse continued vaping, and absolutely I don’t recommend this for youth in any way.
This is a story about one old’ish guy, using vaping as a tool to put decades of addiction harm behind him, and I only speak to others in the same boat.
If even one person finds the process of how I stopped doing this, is usable in their quest towards quitting, then this was worth writing.
My name is David. I was a cigarette smoker for almost 40 years.
I was the one, people thought would ‘never quit’, the guy who seemed completely subservient to nicotine and the addictive behaviours surrounding tobacco.
I wouldn’t have disagreed with that.
The thing is, after countless attempts at cold turkey, lasers, pills, patches and hypnotherapy, I was thoroughly trapped by the cycle of failure and the inherent damage to confidence. Sound familiar?
I lived with the guilt of being a smoker, and knowing full well that it was one of the worst things I could continue to do. It was going to kill me, but that wasn’t enough to make me stop. I was conscious of that almost every time I lit that smoke.
This is how deep I was in this rabbit hole.
To be clear, I don’t blame anyone other than myself. No one made me, sure … some earlier in life peer and lifestyle acclimatization was there … and everyone smoked around me… but in the end I didn’t stop, simply because I didn’t.
Moving ahead, due to health concerns getting to the point of having no choice but to act, I began to seriously figure out how I was going to stop.
Because of past failures, I was going to have to think outside of the box; then I had a moment.
In the last year or so, I had something of an epiphany.
A family member was taking a medication for a medical issue, and was specifically told by the doctor that they ‘must not just stop taking this’, they would need to be carefully weaned off of it, over an extended period of time. ‘This was a powerful prescription drug, and just dropping it cold turkey would definitely have severe adverse effects on health.’
I let that lesson and that experience sink in, and one day I put two and two together … “wait, just what is the difference here.”
Powerful drugs are better weaned off of, rather than just stopped. Nicotine would be no different. It became just a chemical I could seamlessly just get over from, without actually suffering withdrawal.
That was a cloud parting, choir major chord sung, a rainbow moment.
I needed to just put myself on a self-guided and prescribed program of slowly lessening the nicotine that goes into my body, but do it in a way that the body can keep up with,
… without nicotine detox, ie. the good ole nic fit.
Now I needed to do research.
I learned that you can buy bottles of vape liquid both at local vape stores and online, with various percentages of nicotine, from seriously strong to actual zero.
These products are manufactured and marketed using a very specific clinical approach; measuring the amount of mg (or milligrams) of a liquid nicotine … in a single ml (or 1 millilitre) of liquid. Bottles must by law display this number.
You can buy bottles of 30mg/ml and you can buy successive bottles that step that number down slowly, all the way to 1mg/ml … and zero.
Well … now I have the clinical measurement-based system I need, to slowly reduce the amount of nicotine I take in with every drag … and I can control that number.
Now I need the tool … the instrument of delivery.
Hmmm … learning curve time.
With a little more research, I learned that there are two types of vaping styles.
One is called freebasing. These are the large devices, and we all see these in the community by users breathing out these massive, massive plumes of mist when they exhale.
I tried that once … choked hard, the throat closes. I can’t use this type.
The second type of vaping is called Nicotine Salts or salt nicotine.
The term Nicotine Salt just refers to the scientific definition. It doesn’t mean it’s infused with the tasty mineral you sprinkle on your French fries.
In chemical terms, a salt results when an acid reacts with a base. Simply put, nicotine salts are made by mixing pure nicotine (base) with certain kinds of acids. I know what you’re thinking right about now — acids? That sounds worse? Actually, nicotine salts exist in tobacco naturally, so if you have smoked a cigarette, you have experienced nicotine salt.
The difference between freebase and salt nicotine is that nicotine salt devices are much smaller, and the output vapour volume is tiny in comparison to freebase nicotine vaping. You could be standing beside someone taking a drag off of one of these, and you might not notice.
To test, I bought a disposable gas-station type of these for a few dollars and tried it. I wasn’t overwhelmed by an inability to breathe, and I noticed that after a few puffs … I didn’t need a cigarette.
Conceptual test success.
Now I need to find a more reusable and refillable version than this cheap disposable.
I walked into a proper vape store in town, and engaged in a conversation with a nice and informative clerk. She recommended a couple different brands of salt nicotine devices and I decided to go for the STLTH brand. It was inexpensive compared to others, and with a slight modification to the pods I could refill them. You may prefer a brand that specifically is designed to be refilled.
I bought two devices, as I learned these things do not hold a strong USB battery charge and won’t last the day. It came with unflavoured pods with 30mg/ml nicotine … I bought extra pre-filled pods as well. I had a total of eight or nine pods in the end.
I started taking the occasional drag of these, while still smoking, just to get used to it.
One day when a cigarette pack emptied, I just didn’t buy another, I just started with the device. It took a bit to remember to recharge the devices at night and to not forget, soon it became habit.
The first day I went from morning to night without lighting a cigarette, was an odd experience, but the sense of accomplishment was very positive. I did not suffer withdrawal at all, but also did not smoke a cigarette.
During this first period of using the prefilled pods, I made a few decisions:
– I was not going to get any flavoured fluids … flavourless only. I did not want to exchange the flavour of cigarettes with an addiction for the flavour of cherry or whatever I tried. The goal here was chemical injection at a programmed strength using an alternate means, not altering it to a new yet different, enjoyable pastime.
This is not about finding pleasure.
– I also decided to not mentally limit when I would have a drag on the device, allowing as much as I want at any given time. I am working a program that is using the mg/ml numbers as the variability, not self imposed limitations. Why?
Feeling badly about not ‘making it to 2 p.m.’ or whatever was not a mental state I choose to experience. People who have tried to quit understand that.
Feeling like a failure, in any way, was not an option.
After I finished all the prefilled 30 mg/ml pods, I bought a bottle of flavourless fluid at 20 mg/ml, modified the pods and refilled those same pods with that.
If others follow this path, and are not as handy as I might be, get a more expensive refillable system, the modification is tricky.
By changing to 20 mg/ml, I effectively lessened my intake chemistry by 30 per cent with every drag … and I continued for a couple weeks until that bottle was done.
After that I bought a new bottle of 12 mg/ml … then a bottle of 7, then 2, then I bought a bottle of 0 (that’s zero) mg/ml, and cut the 2 mg/ml in half … effectively creating 1 mg/ml … and did that for a few weeks, then went to full-on zero nicotine fluid.
Yes, you can buy full on flavourless zero per cent nicotine vape fluid, but you can’t buy it in a store here; B.C. has rules that disallow it. I bought it online from an Albertan retailer. I finished that first bottle, and ordered a second.
BOOM … by the time the first bottle of zero was done, the nicotine addiction was completely gone, and after another month I didn’t even need to do the zero… it just didn’t mean anything any more.
Throughout … no nic fits, no tied to the smoking addiction routines, nothing … it all just slid away.
I realised that end of it was about the ‘sucking on a pencil’ behavioural dependency, and the habit. This was a three-month plus process in total.
Today, I still carry a device with me … it’s sitting over there … I haven’t used it for over a month.
I am now a non smoker, actually I’m an ex-smoker, every breath reminds me of that, I will never get to be a non smoker … but I’ll take it.
I did it.
So that’s it … if you are or know someone who is trapped in the world of nicotine addiction, maybe, just maybe this info might help you out.
It literally took no ‘will power’ at all, just a logic journey through chemistry and the weaning off of a chemical they say is more addictive than heroin, but just treating it as not a mountain to climb, but a puddle in our way to think about … and then just walk around.
I hope this helps someone; if you have ‘tried it all’, maybe you need this kind of rethink.
David Johnson is a Kamloops resident, community volunteer and self described maven of all things Canadian.