Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Everything in life is only for a while - PKD

My name is Lorien. And I am a nicotine addict.

I feel that is how I should start this, as though I am sat in some kind of self-help meeting of similarly addicted and addled adults. Tangling my fingers in my hair and staring at the floor hopelessly. Battling to get through my daily life, carrying my burden around with me like the proverbial monkey.  Flailing about helplessly beneath its weight, sobbing into my pillow at night wondering when the pain and misery is going to end.  Drowning in self-pity at all the friends I have lost along the way, the determination to maintain my habit having driven them all from me. Oh woe and horror is me. BEGONE DEVIL BEGONE!

So let us start again, and properly.
My name is Lorien. I am a vaper.

I do not battle with anything. I am not miserable and I do not mourn the decisions I have made or the habit I maintain. I smoked for 23 years and I loved it (mostly) and I have vaped for 14 months and actually love it even more. And so what? There is something people need to understand. I was not ill as a smoker and I am not ill as a vaper. I CHOSE to smoke and equally I choose to vape. Like any smoker I spent years and years being bullied and cajoled by those in public health. Then feeling they alone were not having enough of an impact they widened their net and ensnared others to expand their crusade;  family were encouraged to join in. A little more stretching saw friends get drawn into the routine of harassment.  Then the final blow, random people in the street, or customers at my workplace feeling, they too, could comment on my lifestyle.  If they did not feel brave enough to comment, they would sigh, tut or sneer.  Welcome to the world of the smoker. State sanctioned bullying that creeps into every aspect of your life.

Here is the thing; most smokers hear all this on an almost daily basis, and do you know what the smoker is doing in their head? Giving the health bully a big fat heartfelt and impassioned finger! And well they might.

I made the switch to an electronic cigarette in November 2012 as, very briefly, it came to light that my 12yr olds best friend thought that smoking was the coolest thing in the world. Now, I will defend an adults right to smoke, but I could not bear the idea of a 12 year old thinking that at his age, it was cool. So I bought an e-cig; what we call a 2nd generation device. It looks something like a fountain pen and I could chop and change the flavours of the refill liquid as I pleased. As it happens, my first flavour was caramel apple pie and I loved it thank you very much. From that first moment in my garden, it worked for me. I preferred the taste, the experience on the inhale and exhale was not so dissimilar that I would not be able to adjust.

That was the day of my last ciggy. Did I wave it goodbye? Did I build a pyre and send it off down the river with ceremonial chanting I am not a smoker I am not a smoker, dancing and general merriment? Balloons and streamers, an announcement on the local radio station? Hire an airplane to write across the sky?  No. I just chucked my baccy in the bin and was done with it. No pressure, no panic and no dreaded Q word. (NB to public health; seriously, stop using that word! It does more harm than good now.)

So if I was so committed a smoker of tobacco, a failed multiple trier of patches and gums, a reader of smoking self-help books, why did it work so well? After all, I did not really expect it to and it was something of a surprise. It is because I realised that I could continue the habit that I enjoyed so much, but this time, it came with a world of delightful and tasty flavours. I could choose how strong I wanted my nicotine, I could customise my experience with different devices, fiddle with the settings so I could have more or less vapour. Tinker with the heat to suit the flavour I was using. Above all, I could do all of these things and be doing significantly less damage to myself and none to those around me.

What is not to like? 

Well, a lot if you are a member of some parts of Public health, or an ex-smoker with the 'I managed to *insert Q word* cold turkey so I, in my superiority, deem you dirty and pathetic and forever beholden to your addiction attitude. Or never smoker politician or the kind of well I don't like it so ALL MUST CEASE AND DESIST person who feels the need to stand in judgement of everyone else.  That is all another matter though and not the purpose of this letter. Though for the record, there are more than 90 studies into the safety of e-cigs and no evidence anywhere on this entire planet that shows our darling teenagers are turning to tobacco after standing within a mile of someone vaping. In fact, why those publicly funded health groups continue to peddle the line ‘but we just don’t knowis quite beyond me. So, those people can sit in their ivory towers proclaiming to all and sundry what we must and must not be doing and how we should be doing it, safe in the knowledge that we all stopped listening a long time ago.

If I had a regret, it was not standing up for myself as a smoker, so I am doing it doubly so now as a vaper. There is nothing wrong with me. I do not need medicating. I am not ill. I am not a scourge on society. We vapers (and smokers) have jobs, families, children and even pets; all the same things that you non-smoking/vaping types do. Can you believe it, pets indeed! 

Nicotine is not the devil incarnate. It does not impair my judgment, make me violent, create a dangerous driver. It has no more a detrimental effect on society than the caffeine in your coffee and significantly less than the alcohol in your glass of red wine. I am not harming anyone at all and if I have to hide away how will any smoker get the chance to ask meWhat on earth is that? A Sonic Screwdriver? or You smoked for 23 years? But you don't look old enough! (Ok, I might have made that last one up).

 Dear Public Health. I tried your patches. I chewed your gum. I sucked on your pathetic tampon inhaler and I watched someone I love suffer at the hands of your smoking pills. Your expensive and well marketed lies did not work and in the end I found something that did. I did it myself, I have paid for it myself with not a drop of tax payer money spent! I do not need your help and I do not think I ever did. Stop acting like a petulant child just because you did not cure me. You have turned into a caricature, the bully in the playground trying to turn all the other kids against me because I did not want to join your bland, boring, joyless, insipid, fat free, sugar free, nicotine free, alcohol free party.

Lots of love, hugs and kisses, someone who already has a Nan.

To everyone else, think of me when you boil the kettle in the morning for that tea or coffee you 'need' to start the day, or settle down in the evening with a glass of your favourite tipple after your hectic day at work or with the kids. Please stop throwing around the word addiction and consider what it really means to those that genuinely suffer with it, whose daily lives are ruled by it. Do not ask me when I am going to give this up, because I might just ask when you are going to give up your caffeine or your glass of wine.

Then, just ponder for a moment how you will feel when the health police are banging on YOUR door.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Well here it is. I finally gave in and on the sage advice of a Mr Bates, made my very own blog. 'It's cathartic' he told me.

Well we shall see about that, but I suspect he is right. You are unlikely to find fisking here, Jo does that. Nor are you going to find reviews and sleuthdom, Matt does that. Christopher Snowden and Dick Puddlecote have intensely well researched libertarian observation covered, and no one can break down the absurdities of regulation like Clive Bates can.

Me? You are just going to get what I think and tomorrow morning I will put up my first proper entry. A letter I wrote to the wider world a while ago which niggles at me each time I turn on my laptop.

"What was the point in writing me if no one is going to read me?"

Well, I assume it is the letter I can hear in my head and not just 'some other voices'.

Guess we will find out in the morning when I put it up.