This was the morning after my daughter’s wedding. After the wedding ceremony on that Saturday evening and while drinking vodka and tonics in the reception hall, I’d take breaks and go outside and smoke real cigarettes. When I didn’t feel like going out, I’d hide in a corner and “vape.”
A few weeks before the wedding, my son had gotten me an electronic cigarette kit. He had been off tobacco cigarettes for years and I think he was hoping I would do the same.
Now, in case you don’t know what they are, electronic cigarettes — e-cigarettes — are electronic inhalers. It’s a vaping device. It uses a battery-powered heating element that allows you to inhale and exhale a liquid solution which is a mixture of nicotine and flavorings. Just like with a real cigarette, you’re still getting nicotine, but unlike paper cigarettes, there’s no tar or harmful chemicals.
On Sept. 22, I decided that switching back and forth from a tobacco cigarette, then to an e-cigarette, wasn’t going to help me get off tobacco. It was either e-cigarettes or nothing.
Now, more than four months later, I’m still vaping — haven’t had a tobacco cigarette in all this time. I’d be a complete idiot to go back to it now.
The jury is still out on how much safer and healthier e-cigarettes are for a person.
I’m no doctor or researcher but I am a former smoker — a guy who did it for over 40 years — and all I can tell you is how I physically feel now not having any tobacco for over four months.
I can smell again. A few weeks after getting off paper cigarettes, when I opened my closet door in my apartment, I could smell the tobacco smoke on my clothes and sports jackets. I never could before. That smell wasn’t pleasant, but what was pleasant was to actually be able to smell food again. Food tastes better now because I’m not smoking.
With vaping e-cigarettes, I no longer get up in the morning and cough for half an hour. I no longer have to constantly blow my nose. Friends who haven’t seen me for a while tell me my skin looks better — that I look healthier. No one ever told me that when I was smoking tobacco cigarettes; in fact, just the opposite.
When it comes to vaping vs. smoking, there’s been some confusion as to whether regular smoking restrictions should also be applied to vaping. I admit, when I first starting using e-cigarettes, I’d taste the limits on occasion. The results were mixed. I could vape in the Frisch’s in Covington, Kentucky and just about all the bars, but a Covington Policeman, in a polite way, told me to “move it along” when I was vaping in front of the library. Going across the river to Downtown Cincinnati, most bars there want vapers to join smokers outside.
I think when the dust settles with polices and restrictions on vaping in public, by and large we’re going to be treated like tobacco smokers. That’s already happening in cities like Chicago and New York. Back in my younger, rebel, louder days, I think — hell I know — I’d be making a lot of noise about this, but I’m approaching 60 now. I don’t feel like getting into scenes in restaurants and bars and arguing with their owners or managers about how vaping doesn’t harm anyone. I’ve gotten so use to going outside anyway to smoke — and now to vape — it doesn’t make much difference to me. I’ve learned in my life to pick my battles, and vaping indoors or outdoors isn’t going to be one of them.
My son is glad I’m sticking to the e-cigarettes and so is my daughter. I’ll always remember her wedding day on Sept. 21 and that following day when I finally got off the tobacco — two big days in a row.
And, just so you know, I’m not going to be one of those crusaders or a pain in the ass type person who wants to get regular smokers to switch to e-cigarettes. I’m just going to say this: If an old fart like me who smoked for over 40 years and who is very set in his ways can make a switch to an electronic cigarette and feel healthier for it, maybe you can too.
OK. I’ll shut up now.
LARRY GROSS' latest book, Vevay, Indiana, a novella, is available now at Amazon.com.