Sucked in by the vape trend
Millions are switching from smoking to vaping – oblivious to the risks – only to find themselves more hooked than ever. In this brutally honest account SUSANNAH CONSTANTINE reveals how dangerously easy it is to be . . .
Some people are so addicted to their phones, they even keep them on the nightstand while they sleep — never more than a moment away.
Well, I’m an addict, too, but it’s not my smartphone’s comforting glow I reach for in the middle of the night. It’s my e-ciganity rette. I don’t wake up just to take a couple of quick puffs, but it is the last thing I do in the evening, and my wake-up call each morning after brushing my teeth. If I need to use the bathroom in the night, I grab it — telling myself I’m just using its illuminated tip as a torch, so I don’t have to turn the light on and disturb my lightsleeping husband, Sten.
But the truth is I jump at any opportuto inhale the sweet kick of nicotine. During the day, my e-cig is either in my hand, a pocket or tucked into my bra, and because it’s always there I constantly find myself unconsciously sucking it; sneaking undercover drags on planes, trains and automobiles; vaping in the cinema or as I wander around shops.
other triggers are writing, driving,
talking on the phone and after meals.
My kids used to tell me off, but now they’re so used to it they don’t even notice when i, for example, catch a quick one before going into a parentteacher meeting, as i did the other day when i went to see my 16-year-old daughter Cece’s French tutor.
i didn’t get caught out because i was careful to fully exhale before entering her study, and the vapour is completely odourless. She did see it in my hand, but instead of the shock she would have shown if i’d been holding a real ciggie, she asked: ‘Are those any good? My father still smokes 20 a day.’
i use my e-cig far more than i ever smoked cigarettes, because it is deemed more acceptable. When regular smokers come for supper at our home (they are few and far between these days), they politely step outside to smoke. Vapers, however, merrily billow away at the kitchen table, myself included.
My TWO eldest children, Joe, 21, and esme, 18, like most of their friends, are occasional social vapers. At first, i was dismayed — but then i decided to tolerate it on the grounds that there are bigger things to ward off, like drugs and binge-drinking.
That’s why i get away with it — my vaping habit is seen, by and large, as benign. Or was. it started with a few experts sounding worried about the possible effects of frequently inhaling any sort of vapour into the lungs. Then strange stories emerged from the U.S. of people suffering respiratory failure, infections and longterm lung disease after using e-cigarettes, especially those with flavoured oils and cannabis — luckily, the latter is not something i’d ever try.
in America, the Centers for disease Control and Prevention says 2,172 cases of lung injury linked to vaping have been reported, while 42 deaths have been confirmed across 24 states (as of november 13).
And supermarket giant Walmart last month announced it would stop selling e-cigarettes altogether. (it will continue to sell actual cigarettes, not to mention rifles and shotguns.)
Three U.S. states, meanwhile, are suing the country’s largest e-cigarette maker for allegedly trying to get children hooked. And on Tuesday, the American Medical Association dramatically changed its official stance and called for an immediate ban on the sales of all vaping devices.
Surely there’s some mistake, i told myself. After all, i’ve never had a single side-effect, and no longer suffer the coughs and fatigue that plague smokers.
But it’s hard to ignore photographs of victims lying in hospital beds — i couldn’t help thinking of my own children when i read the words of 19-year-old ewan Fisher from nottingham, who this month told how he nearly died of lung failure just five months after taking up vaping.
doctors said he had a ‘catastrophic respiratory illness’ called hypersensitivity pneumonitis, triggered by an allergic reaction. Last month, the widow of 57-year-old Terry Miller, from Jarrow in Tyne and Wear, said he’d died from pneumonia linked to oil in his e-cigarettes.
Suddenly, vaping has gone from a ‘healthy’ substitute for smoking to a public health menace. This month, an international team of cardiologists called for a ban as they warned we’re creating a generation of nicotine addicts who believe their habit is harmless.
in fact, they claimed, research shows the devices can damage the brain, heart, blood vessels and lungs.
The problem is, i am now hopelessly addicted.
Six years ago, you see, i decided to drink my last drink and smoke my final fag. i didn’t smoke so much, maybe five a day, although when i drank it was easy to inhale ten of the blasted things.
each vice encouraged the other, the Siamese twins of an unhealthy lifestyle.
Smoking my first cigarette at 15 felt impossibly cool and tasted disgusting. it took place at the bus stop near school, and caused enough coughing to put smoking on hold until my 18th birthday, when a girlfriend gave me a pack of 20 Consulates as a present.
From that moment, i was hooked. For decades, i didn’t feel guilty or even consider the negative health implications, especially as my dad smoked 20 a day and was fit and strong.
i told myself, what about all those old stalwarts who you see living off fags and whisky well into their 90s?
And, i confess, i thought i was cool and rebellious, doing something just a little bit forbidden.
One early atttempt to quit was more out of curiosity than anything else — i went for a one-to-one session with world-renowned hypnotist Allen Carr in 1986. he made me chain-smoke for six hours then ‘hypnotised’ me. Something must have happened because i was conscious throughout, but remember nothing.
ThAT night, £200 the poorer for the hypnosis, i went to a party and my boyfriend proposed. i turned him down — i was 25, too young and too scared to make that commitment. As i wondered whether i had made the worst mistake of my life, i climbed out of a window and reached for a cigarette. i’d lasted less time than the treatment took.
But, by my 50s, i could no longer lie to myself about the harm caused by smoking. My skin looked like it had a coating of dusty cement. i couldn’t run with ease because my lungs burned and i began to notice how bad my hair, breath and clothes smelled. i was rapidly turning to ash.
Sten didn’t mind — he smoked once a year on our summer holiday to Greece and he was even, long ago in the nineties, the co-founder of an ironic tobacco brand called death Cigarettes (slogans included ‘like the grim reaper but cheaper’, and traditional cigarette