Doctor Vapelove: Or how I learned to stop smoking and love the mod

I feel a bit weary today. Actually, I’ve felt weary for a very long time but that’s sort of besides the point. Why do I feel weary? I’ve just had a fairly frenetic (for me) conversation over twitter about vaping and it seems that despite the positivity of the vaping community and the clear benefits of it for people like me, we are doomed to be stigmatised and over-regulated by politicians and public health officials who are too willing to accept the findings of poorly conducted research.

A bit of back story, and hopefully it will become clear why I am so wary of being stigmatised.

I’m particularly conscious of what it feels like to be stigmatised. I am fat. I’ve never been slim although I was decidedly fitter and less chunky when I was a child/teenager. I’m not going to bother to describe myself as overweight, chunky, pleasantly plump, big-boned or (and this one really is a thing, a very stupid thing at that) a “Person of Size”. Exactly what a PoS is I have no idea, a size has to be a unit of measurement and without a unit of measurement it is a ridiculous affectation devoid of context. Also PoS could easily stand for “Piece of Shit”. Think about that one when you use ridiculous terms or acronyms to sugar-coat something.

I’ve spent a long time being judged by my appearance. The assumption that you are somehow lazy and feckless because you are fat. I used to work in catering, where I probably walked on average about ten miles a day as a waitress and then later as a chef where I spent an inordinate amount of time doing the equivalent of squats by going up and down plating up food from a hot cupboard that didn’t come any higher than my waist. I was never particularly a big eater, although certainly not a healthy one, and still somehow I never managed to be the sylph-like ideal that society would like me to be. I am not making excuses for my size, merely bringing it up as it’s relevant to the kind of stigmatising that the PHOs and politicians would like to do to vapers, who are harming pretty much no-one and certainly reducing their own harm by not smoking.

I smoked a minimum of 20 Marlboro a day from roughly the age of 16 to the age of 46. That was until September 6th 2013, co-incidentally the same day my father was admitted to a nursing home after being diagnosed with advanced dementia and nearly dying from an infection he contracted while in a psychiatric hospital. That day, I bought some ‘E-Lites’, a cig-a-like ecigarette sold in supermarkets. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they emulated smoking but found them a little dissatisfying, so I took to my old friend Google and discovered there was a whole new world out there that might be able to help me. That world was the vaping community. I decided to start small, with Joyetech eRolls and see if I could ‘kick the habit’. From that day to this I have not touched a single ‘analogue’ cigarette and hopefully I never will again.

Health, and why over-regulation scares me so much

If you’re reading this and you haven’t read my previous posts I’ll do a small recap. Please bear with me I’ve never been the most concise person and this will no doubt be a TL;DR post for some.

In the last two years, during which I have managed to completely quit smoking, the following has happened to myself and my family. Despite all of this I have managed not to run back to the ciggies, which in itself is a personal victory and one I could never have managed without vaping.

My father’s eyesight deteriorated due to aggressive malignant melanoma, although he was told he was suffering from depression we eventually got a diagnosis of dementia just a year after he started going to a mental welfare centre and 6 weeks (IIRC) after being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Within 3 months of admittance he was bed bound with advanced dementia and died just six months later of end-stage vascular dementia. While my dad was in hospital my mother contracted pneumonia and went into respiratory arrest twice in two weeks and ended up in ICU. Around this period, over the course of a few months I was diagnosed first with osteo arthritis, osteopenia (borderline osteoporosis) and finally type 2 diabetes. The latter was found after I was sent to hospital by my GP because I was in an extremely bad way and he thought I was suffering from late-onset type 1 with ketoacidosis.

I would ask that anyone please spare me the “it’s your own fault, you got type 2 because you’re fat” comments or thoughts, I’m painfully aware that lifestyle and weight are major contributors to diabetes. I’ve adjusted the way I live to a degree and try to be more healthy; I lost 2.5 stone in a short space of time, but I still have a lot of work to do yet. Also, as has been pointed out to me by the Desmond nurses, genetics is also a factor. Some people who are thin get it, some people who are fat; don’t. It has occurred in my family in the past, so it’s entirely possible I’m not entirely to blame, although I would never claim that the way I am is irrelevant. What I am though, to many, many people is Public Health Enemy number 1, and I get treated accordingly.

Here’s the thing though, and I guess is my main point. Giving up smoking via vaping has made a huge difference to my life. I can now walk for reasonably long distances, take our dog out and actually run (the horror!) with her and enjoy life much more. If it hadn’t been for vaping I seriously doubt I would be able to do this. It’s also had a knock-on effect on my general health problems – walking regularly helps my arthritis, and weight bearing exercise is essential for staving off osteoporosis. If vaping was so detrimential to my health, why is it my health is improving so much? I’ve reduced my risk of cancer, so will hopefully not ‘burden the NHS’ in the future for that. I’m afraid vaping isn’t going to be a magic bullet for diabetes so feel free to point the finger about that if you have the paucity of humanity required to do so.

Agencies like the World Health Organisation, some parts of the NHS and numerous Public Health twitterati would like to stigmatise us vapers, to restrict the thing that is improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, potentially reducing the cash burden on the NHS and bothering practically nobody. Bile directed at vapers and disinformation to the general public is probably going to bring about regulation that push vapers back towards the very thing the PHOs are supposed to be ‘saving’ people from. How is this useful?

I could probably link to studies but this is a post born out of frustration and much better people than me, with many more followers than me are already doing this. All I wanted to do with this post is explain why this scares me, as an indivdual. I do not want to go back to being that person. I managed to get through (and am still struggling with) the worst couple of years of my life and vaping has really helped to lessen the stress of this time by giving me a way to quit without failing abysmally. Patches, cold turkey, inhalators; you name them, I tried them. Scorn is bound to be something that, as a so-called ‘addict’ I have had to put up with. But I’m pretty damn pleased with where I’m at now, in terms of not-smoking.

As a last point.. I have never bought into the idea that ‘nicotine is more addictive than heroin’ and my vaping journey has re-inforced this. I’ve steadily reduced my nic intake over the last year and it has made no difference to my desire to, or enjoyment of vaping. I do believe that there is a ‘habit factor’, that the hand to mouth or exhaling is something we are drawn to, but “addiction” .. no, not really. I enjoy vaping as I can sit at my desk and exhale a plume of nicely flavoured vapour. It helps me think, concentrate and be creative. In much the same way as someone will grab a coffee, push back their chair and think about where they’re going with that particular painting; I vape. But doing this, according to people like Simon Chapman or John Ashton makes me “vapid”, an “astro-turfer”, “onanistic” or a “c**t”. And while I certainly do possess the latter I am not defined by it, nor do I appreciate ANYONE using the word as a form of aggression by implying that the female gentalia are somehow representative of a particular type of person. For the record, if I were to call someone a cunt I would at least have the conviction to type the whole word out and not hide behind inspid asterisked self-censorship.

And that’s me. Sorry for the ramble, but I needed to vent.

Further reading

For some good info on vaping, the TPD and what’s going on in general. Check out the following links:

EFVI: European Free Vaping Initiative
The Counterfactual
The Exit Door Leads In

Tobacco Products Directive

There are probably a lot more out there, but I’m a drop in a very large and expanding ocean and don’t know as much as I would like.

If you got this far, thanks! If you didn’t you won’t see this sentence anyway. wink

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