The Smoking Diaries 4: Do E-Cigs Work?

Artwork by Anna Jay
I have a friend who has successfully quit cigarettes. She used to smoke a few a day, nothing too crazy; she was hardly giving Patty and Selma a run for their money. She eventually managed to sack off her Marlboro Lights habit with the help of an e-cigarette. While the risks of using these new contraptions are fully yet to be realised, generally health experts agree that they are preferable to smoking tobacco. So, good for her, right?
The thing is, she is now completely and utterly addicted to the e-cig. Whereas she used to smoke about four cigarettes a day, she now goes through at least an entire e-cig, which releases 40 cigarette's worth of nicotine, in 24 hours. She might not actually be smoking but her nicotine addiction is through the roof.

She has baths with the thing, cooks with it dangling out of her mouth, and sneakily puffs it on the Tube. She greets the day with a long draw on it and later says goodnight the same way. And while an empty pack of fags would have left her unbothered, she now develops a cold sweat and goes visibly white if her e-cig’s blue tip starts to flicker. In short, she is nicotine’s bitch.

Having witnessed such scenes for the best part of two years, it was with a deep trepidation that I decided to try out an e-cig. Well, there’s my friend’s experience and the fact that we all know they look stupid. Out of all of Leo DiCaprio’s favoured accessories – VS model, hire bike, flat cap – the e-cig might actually be the most ridiculous looking one. And that’s some strong competition. So what changed my mind?

After successfully navigating a few days completely fag-free, I went on holiday with some pals, three of whom are heavy smokers. We were in Mallorca, where their marvellous tax rates mean you can enjoy 20 Camel blues for 4.5 Euros. It was like it was 1996 again. It would have been practically rude to abstain from such a bargain.

Still, I could not prepare myself for the onslaught of puffing that would take place. It was like we were doing Allen Carr’s aversion therapy in which he advises you to chuff thousands of cigarettes while you read his bestselling book and by the end of it you apparently feel so ill that you never want to see another cigarette again. Except none of us were reading the book.

Anyway, since coming home I have managed to avoid cigarettes. And while I was cleaning up my flat the other day I came across a rechargeable e-cigarette that I’d received a couple of years ago in a party’s goodie bag, probably along with some rosemary and vanilla flavoured popcorn and green nail varnish. After my nicotine vacation I’d been having some serious pangs so I figured I’d fire up the e-cig (figuratively speaking of course) and give it a go.

The e-cig is a divisive thing. Allen Carr (the stop-smoking organisation as opposed to the deceased man who gave the company its name) is not particularly a fan of them. Here’s a statement from them:

“Allen Carr’s Easyway To Stop Smoking organisation favour anything that enables a smoker to become free from their addiction and it’s tragic that rather than helping smokers to quit – smokers are being funnelled into behaviour that will ensure they remain addicted, continue to suffer the mental and financial hardship caused by that, and continue to do tremendous harm to their health.”

Hmmm. They have a point. So, in an attempt to not become even more in thrall to nicotine I am only allowing myself a few puffs a day and I am making sure they are never at the same time or when I'm doing the same thing. As mentioned in previous columns, that is when you start to associate the nicotine hit with that action – e.g. lunchtime or driving – and it will be even harder to stop it further down the line.

It seems a bit odd taking a product that burns and smells and is by and large natural, and replacing it with something that you can charge on a laptop and looks like it belongs to the Terminator but at this point I'm willing to try anything.

But if you ever see me chuffing on it while I navigate a Boris bike, then feel free to rip it out of my hands. I will have clearly gone too far.

Read the previous instalments of The Smoking Diaries:

Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Failure
Chapter Three: The App

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