Being your own worst enemy.

worstenemy

(Part 2 of 3 – read part 1)

Ahead of the curves.

“Sir, you’ll need to stop smoking that here,” the airline employee spoke quietly to the man sitting across from me at the gate. He was a younger guy, sporting a full, Grizzly Adams beard, skinny jeans, and square tipped shoes that made his feet look huge. He had been boredly flicking a thumb across his iPhone screen and openly puffing away on an electronic cigarette. I had been thinking that his behavior was a little bold; the uncomfortable glances from the other travelers awaiting our California-bound flight were pretty noticeable. This was in 2011 and they may not have known what exactly he was puffing on – but it was clear that he was violating some rule of public decorum that undoubtedly existed. Hell, even I – as a person who doesn’t mind confrontation for good causes – only dared to vape in the bathroom stalls while at the airport. You have to know where and when you’ll actually make a difference by taking a stand, right?

Anyway, I anticipated a muted response from the gentleman. He looked like some tech nerd Silicon Valley executive; I’m pretty sure his jeans cost more than my luggage. He exhaled vapor and said, “Eat me. It’s not smoke and there’s no law against it.”

Okay then.

I share that story because I have recently discovered that the exact same vaping is my right, so screw you attitude has somehow made its way from random, contrarian individuals to what seems to be the vape “industry.” And although I obviously agree that vaping is a 95-100% less harmful alternative to cigarette smoking, I’ve been around long enough to know that you can only selfishly taunt the establishment for so long before you end up in the cross-hairs. And to be honest, I’m a little pissed off that, by now getting involved and trying to support the health and societal benefits of vaping, I am also – in effect – being associated with how the industry is perceived today. I support you in having the ability to manage your nicotine in a much less harmful manner; I do not support your tendency to be a dick.

To be clear, I have all of the respect in the world for visionaries and innovators in any industry, and those who recognized the potential of vaping technology back in 2007 (or before) are no exception. They realized that smokers hated the smell, the smoke, the ash, the health challenges, and the constant criticism from others – and that vaping was a legitimate alternative. I honestly believe that those early entrepreneurs only screwed up in one primary way – they used words that were associated with the tobacco world in their slogans, products, and businesses names. Smoke, smokingcigarette, cigs, (even the old grand-daddy e-cigarette) cause confusion and guilt-by-association. In that way, I guess the industry framed itself from the beginning; in trying to quickly associate their product with something familiar in the consumer’s mind, they also set the foundation for the current misunderstandings and hatred.

In case you think that I am starting to sound like nothing more than a critical armchair quarterback, I will admit that no one should fault those early visionaries. Hell, if I had been starting a business to sell a completely unique new product, of course I would try to put it into some sort of context that a consumer was already familiar with. Even with the perspective of the current regulatory and PR challenges, this is a completely forgivable misstep. But it’s also the reason that we shouldn’t continue doing it. Why do I keep seeing marketing and advocacy for the vape industry still associating it with clear smoking terms?

As a quick aside, another pet-peeve I have in this situation is those self-righteous, anti-vaping warriors who sit around guzzling wine or lighting up joints, and criticizing those who are dependent on nicotine. You know who you are, you’re hypocrites, and you suck.

Back to my airport douche with the attitude – whom some of you may have actually cheered for. I can respect, and definitely understand society’s occasional need to rise up and demand that the establishment makes a change. But that only works if the change is worthwhile to humanity. If the establishment is oppressing individuals because of how they were born, people will stand up with you. If the establishment is oppressing individuals because they look a certain way, people will stand up with you. If the establishment is suppressing or maligning a new discovery that will improve the health and quality of life for millions of family, friends, and neighbors, society will go out and shut down freeways with you.

But to boldly demand your right to vape at the gate while waiting for a plane? Society will tell you to shut the hell up.

So lets take a brief look at the score. You’ve got a technology that initially appealed to cigarette smokers who were tired of the health risks and social stigma associated with tobacco. You’ve got some early users who quit smoking and realized they could sell the devices to others like themselves. Online and brick-and-mortar stores started appearing; either catering to those specifically looking for electronic cigarettes because they already knew about them, or educating cigarette smokers about this much safer alternative. Either way, it was about providing health and/or social benefits to the community. Cool, I can get behind that. In fact, I did.

I started sharing my vaping experiences with every cigarette smoker who I happened to be near; you can always tell them by the yellow finger-tips, raspy voices, and constant look of guilt while in public. I gave away many of my own devices (if I really liked you), or I told you where to get your own. I was not an entrepreneur and I had no financial interest in people vaping; I suppose I became somewhat of an accidental activist. And in the meantime, I just continued on with my life; kids, job, car payment, vaping – same as many of you, I imagine.

Then I had the experiences that I explained in my previous post and realized that – seemingly out of nowhere – the entire world was against vaping. What the hell? A society that made motorcycle riders wear helmets, gave clean needles to heroin addicts, and showed second-graders how to properly put condoms on – all in an attempt to reduce the risks associated with known human behaviors – was now aligned against a technology that could positively improve community health to a degree never before even imagined.

T*ts McGee for the defense.

My own first step in a personal quest to bring reason to the establishment was to attend a city council meeting. I had read that the council was going to discuss the defining of electronic cigarettes as tobacco products. Changing the definitions of words to push any agenda was far too close to George Orwell’s 1984 for my comfort. That, and I vaped and knew that the next steps would inevitably be over-regulation and taxation. As I sat in the parking lot of the council chambers, vaping and finishing my coffee, a noticed a number of BMW, Lexus, and other higher end cars pulling into the lot. Young men in shiny suits, slicked back hair, and emitting monstrous clouds of vapor stepped out; accompanied by girls with too much make-up, and too little clothing.

I glanced at the council agenda, hoping that there was something else on there that would have brought out these ghosts from my senior prom. Alas, no. They were clearly there for the same reason I was. Then I discovered that the anti-vaping crowd – who had apparently arrived much earlier because they had taken all of the seats directly in front of the council, probably so their handmade signs would be more consistently visible – were just the opposite; not nearly enough make-up, and far too many clothes.

One after the other, members of the public got up to address the council. First, crazy cat lady #1 said she was a life-long activist for the American Something Association and urged the city in the strongest possible terms to ban vaping and smoking outright. Next up, one of the Miami Vice kids. He spoke passionately of his right to vape wherever and whenever he wanted, because there is no smoke, no second-hand smoke, and that vaping was awesome. (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.)

When crazy cat lady #2 got up to speak, she had a visual presentation to accompany her three minute monologue. “Here we have photos of a vapor shop selling to clearly underage children, and the next slide is that same shop’s social media post calling out kids at a local school to get their vaporizer supplies at a discount.” And it went on and on. At the end of her 240 long seconds, I was as low in my seat as possible. The meeting hadn’t even been about vaping and children; it was now. Crazy cat lady #3 (who seemed to know several of the council members on a first-name basis) then passed around blown-up printouts from social media outlets showing women in lingerie (at most) holding vaping devices between their breasts, some with liquid bottles lined up on their asses. “This is what vaporizing is about,” she said. “How can anyone say this is about health?”

The clerk then called on one of the Lost Girls, who carefully navigated her spiked Lady Gaga-esque heels down the stairs to the podium, breasts bouncing and barely contained by the fabric of her dress. She kept flipping her hair and loudly chewing gum as she read (rapidly and with no apparent punctuation) from a report on the lack of particulates in exhaled vapor. She was followed by a guy who provided sales statistics indicating that the majority of vaping liquids he sold contained either 3 milligrams of nicotine, or none at all. He concluded that they were not, therefore, tobacco products. Sales stats? You mean, these were the local vape shop owners? Are you kidding me?

Ultimately, the council ended up decimating the reputation of vaping in their city – which the local papers gleefully reported. Vaping was to be considered tobacco, and was to be restricted everywhere that cigarettes were. I knew one thing right away; if I was going to continue trying in my own little way to urge reason in this debate, I would need to really look at what the industry had developed into while I was happily vaping away and living my life. Otherwise, I could potentially get blindsided again, right?

Hardcore.

lipsmontage

Have you ever seen that 1979 movie where George C. Scott plays a conservative Midwesterner who had to navigate California’s underground porn industry in search of his runaway teen daughter? That was me looking into the vape industry with an outsider’s perspective. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but as an adult professional who had been vaping solely for harm reduction purposes, investigating the image, advertising, and culture that was the most visible component of the vaping world – I was highly disappointed.

Save for some exceptions (and it’s quickly obvious who they are), it looks like the industry is dominated by snickering twelve year-old boys, dangerously narcissistic girls, and opportunistic carnival barkers. And people wonder why the general public and the lawmakers show no respect. They’re trapped between douchebags in the airport, sponsored vape athletes (vapeletes?) who think blowing rings is a marketable skill, and liquid manufacturers who apparently believe that stuffing a 30ml bottle into a girl’s butt crack will convince you that ‘vaping is for you.’ Gosh, why aren’t the forty million mature, hard-working, cigarette-smoking Americans jumping onto that circus train? And do you actually expect career politicians and health agency directors to put their reputations on the line to support a vape jellyfish? (Now, if one of you figures out how to blow a vape poodle, or a vape Notre Dame Cathedral, then we might have something.)

For those who don’t have the time (or the interest) in looking into the industry’s current image, here is my five point summary; developed after many months of reviewing daily social media, vape magazines, vape conventions, and vape shops:

  1. Look at my (or my girlfriend’s, or a model I wish was my girlfriend’s) breasts, butt, lingerie, or lips while vaping demurely.
  2. Look at the bottle of liquid and unique device in my hand as I drive (or walk, or ride a bike, or play Xbox, or stand menacingly on a railroad trestle, or…).
  3. Look at this coil of wires that I made. Now look at it when it’s hot. Now look at it when it cools and turns colors.
  4. Look at me inhaling a bunch of vapor and blowing a monstrous cloud; I may even measure it, or do it simultaneously with someone else to see whose is bigger. I can also blow vape rings, big and little. And I’m on a competitive vaping team where we do all of these things against other teams to win free stuff.
  5. Look at the liquid that I manufacture in my garage and market specifically to get the attention of Intellectual Property attorneys, so they can sue me and take my parents’ house.

Look, I know I’m being harsh; I get that you are just having fun. But I suspect that vaping may just be a fad for the majority of younger folks who are currently doing it; it’s just the FurbyTickle Me Elmo, or MySpace of the moment. If you don’t vape to avoid cigarettes, or if you have 150+ watt devices stuffed into each front pocket, or you get together with friends in a garage (or parent-funded vape shop) to chase clouds, then you will eventually lose interest. And if you are allowed to continue defining the vape industry, then we (as a society) are going to lose millions of opportunities to actually help people who struggle with cigarette smoking.

Tobacco harm reduction is not a game, and turning this technology – this potential lifeline for people and their families – into a freak show, significantly weakens the chances of it being accepted by the general public and the health community.

Taking back the industry.

I’m sorry, but we need to take it back. And I challenge the legitimate business owners, investors, harm-reduction supporters, manufacturers, marketers, and former smokers whose lives have been improved through vaping (a.k.a. paying customers) to take the lead. Vapor companies, you should read a book on strategy for Pete’s sake, and stop focusing on the current fringe to make quick cash. Instead, look to that future mass market – those millions of adult smokers who just want to stop smelling like burnt leaves, getting winded walking to the car, and drowning in their own obliterated lungs. That’s where the future of vaping is. From a business perspective, you are stepping over dollars to pick up pennies, and from a humanity perspective, you are allowing human beings to die, out of your own ignorance. In that respect, many of you may be no better than Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, and Public Health agencies. Ask yourself, how would your stores, products, marketing, and advocacy look different if you were actually focused on saving the lives of cigarette smokers?

Additionally, every day that you continue neglecting to professionally present vaping as a way to improve the quality of life and health for adults dependent on combustible cigarettes, you are adding months or years of work to the CASAAs, SFATAs, AVAs, Greg Conleys, Cynthia Cabreras, and Clive Bates’ of the world – who try to unwind stupid regulations, clarify misunderstandings, educate the general public, and oppose that small army of crazy cat ladies, who are always more than happy to show up and highlight the stupid crap done by those who have hijacked vaping. And at what cost? Smokers who may have tried vaping today if it had been presented positively, will continue to light cigarettes and shake their heads at this ridiculous fad.

I guarantee that those who stand to gain the most from the failure of the vape industry definitely have a strategy. And they know that their corporate survival is at stake in this war for cigarette smokers, gum chewers, and patch wearers. You have a significantly more compelling mission on your side, one that can motivate the general public to change the establishment; you can win this. But not if you continue to let teenagers, cloud chasers, ass models, kitchen-sink liquid mixers, and 200 watt device manufacturers speak for your industry.

And definitely not if you continue to let your opponents frame the debate.

Read now:

Part III: Winning your right to live.

 

Losing the vaping debate.

 

framed

(Part 1 of 3)

First, understand that you’ve been framed.

There’s a saying in politics, business, media, and marriage that essentially goes like this, whoever frames the argument, wins the argument.

The theory is this, if you can successfully confine debate to just one component of the larger issue, you can distract the participants into a never-ending circle jerk. Eventually, everyone becomes so passionate about winning one isolated point that the larger context becomes invisible. This is also known as a red herring – a pickled fish that is so pungent, it becomes distracting.

You met me in my previous essay here. As an adult who vapes to manage my nicotine in a significantly safer way than cigarettes (as opposed to those who may customize devices, build coil art, film their fancy vape rings, or socialize by hanging out in hazy strip mall vape lounges), I admit that I paid very little attention to the burgeoning “industry” as a whole. And I paid even less attention to its critics and detractors. After all, I had bills to pay, children to raise, and a very demanding job. That, and I’m old enough to remember when there was no internet, no cell phones, and no MTV; so I’m not all that hip and the current vape lifestyle didn’t appeal to me. I’m just a guy who stops by one of my local “electronic cigarette” shops every couple of weeks to grab more liquid, avoiding conversation, and generally breathing as little of their fog as possible.

Then two things got my attention.

The first was that the business park where my office was located added the phrase This Includes Electronic Cigarettes to the bottom of every standard No Smoking sign – inside and out. Then, my health insurance premium went up at renewal because I had mentioned to my family doctor at some point during the year that I “vaped”. This apparently led me to receive some kind of electronic Scarlet (or Tobacco-colored?) Letter in my medical record which defined me as a Tobacco User.

When I questioned the added prohibition of vaping in No Smoking areas, I was told that it “just looked like smoking.” When I argued the significant differences and even emitted a wisp of butterscotch smelling vapor in front of the property management executive to prove my point (who dramatically recoiled as if I had just crapped on her desk), she attributed responsibility for the change to the faceless they who always seem to be imposing their anonymous will on our society. There was nothing she could do, she said. And no, apparently they do not have phone numbers.

Trying to deal with the medical system about my Tobacco Letter was even more frustrating. While getting transferred from one useless Member Services Representative to the next, John Candy’s Del Griffith from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles kept repeating in my head, “You have a better chance of playing pick-up sticks with your butt cheeks than getting these people to listen to reason.”

So, what the hell happened?

As quickly as I had those experiences, I began seeing obviously coordinated anti-vaping sentiment everywhere. Suddenly electronic cigarettes were being reported in the news as just as toxic, if not more so, as combustible cigarettes; every politician was suddenly shaking a fist and vowing to save society from their harm; every “vaper” seemed to be exploding; evidenced by photos of them looking grimly from hospital beds and saying, “I thought this was supposed to be a safer option.” Really? My much less harmful nicotine management tool was now just as bad as the things that everyone knows will either kill you outright, or leave you dragging an oxygen tank around until you die; either from COPD or by becoming a wheelchair-bound human torch after flicking your Bic while breathing pure oxygen? Hell, any quick internet search will show that every device containing rechargeable batteries has experienced their moments in the media, including even the photos of grim laptop or cellphone victims lying in hospital beds. That hadn’t been my experience with vaping at all. I had been successfully obtaining vaporized nicotine for several years with no ill effects, and certainly no fires or hospital visits. Was I one of the lucky ones? A statistical outlier – like those anecdotal two-pack-a-day smokers who eat lard by the spoonful, play Russian Roulette for cash every Friday night at the senior center, and still live to be 125?

For my own health and well-being as a “vaper“- I had to look into this new Public Health hysteria. After all, if the new anti-vaping press releases were correct, it would drive me back to the seemingly safer tobacco cigarette, right? Which was a concept that had me wondering what bizarro world I had woken up in. And if they weren’t correct, then Public Health was guilty – either by ignorance and near-criminal irresponsibility, or absolute evil intent – of actively disparaging what could be the most significant public health revolution since…ever.

Over the next twelve months of research, I discovered what I thought were two important things: the Public Health crusade was being directed with evil intent (although some of the unwitting participants think they are doing the right thing), and the second…is that the growing electronic cigarette / vaping industry carries more than just a little blame for the current debacle. (Partly unintentional and to be expected with any societal innovation, and partly because the early trend-setters had a really, really bad strategy. More on this in Part II.)

You see, the faceless they have been able to successfully frame the vaping debate in the context of cigaretteswhich society generally hates. Thereby catching the majority of vaping supporters in the trick bag of unwinnable arguments – the definition of tobacco products, regulations against vaping locations, increasing age requirements, taxation, etc. And you wonder how it is that you can write emails, make phone calls, and give impassioned speeches in legislative chambers – from city councils to the offices of congress – providing both facts and personal perspectives, only to be continually steamrolled by unanimous votes against you. I, myself, am guilty of getting caught in that whirlpool. Political action and debate were my initial responses to seeing Goliath teeing up against my tiny vaping David. So I get it. But that’s when I realized that I had fallen for their tactic.

Please go back and read the first line of this essay before continuing.

Follow the Money to Find Who They Are.

I have no interest in boring you (or myself) by including reams of data, footnotes, and supporting documentation – because everything that I found is freely available online to anyone with an internet connection and the ability to type the word google. And there are far more intelligent people than me sharing the facts freely – scientists, researchers, university professors, physicians, public servants, and even some current and former public health officials; men and women of integrity who see fit to share truth, even if it goes against the government/media/tobacco and pharmaceutical company talking points.

Suffice to say, vaping quality liquids using safe, unaltered devices is between 95%-100% safer than burning cigarettes and sucking in the smoke. Furthermore, cigarette smokers who either reduce their smoking, or (ideally) quit altogether by vaping, will be healthier, happier, and more productive human beings. And if this happens on a large enough scale, the societal benefit – with regard to public health and economics – will be staggering. From that perspective, our future could look like a postcard from Fiji.

So how does money and evil intent fit into the anti-vaping sentiment? Several ways. First, the incredibly wealthy and powerful tobacco conglomerates (usually just called Big Tobacco, and strangely run by the bad guy from every old silent movie; twisting his mustache and laughing maniacally as he ties some poor woman to the train tracks) stand to lose everything to modern vaping. You mean I can get nicotine, a hand-to-mouth motion, and a satisfying inhale/exhale…all without killing myself or everyone around me? Why the hell would I ever buy another cigarette? That’s how that one goes. And since mustachioed Big Tobacco has already admitted in a court of law that he knows that his product kills people and that he doesn’t care, need I really work to prove evil intent on that front?

As an aside, I can at least professionally respect an honest evil like Big Tobacco. I mean, he walks right up to you, punches you in the face, and says, “I am going to kill you and your family because the money is so goddamn good that I can afford to have my conscience surgically removed and buy a yacht.” I obviously wouldn’t invite him to join my bowling league…but at least I know what I’m dealing with.

That brings me to the second fundamental way that money and evil intent influences the Great Vaping Debate. Here’s an illustrative example that is unfortunately real. The California Department of Health funds the Still Blowing Smoke campaign, to educate the general public about the dangers of electronic cigarettes and vaping. To convince the public – which, based on polling trends, it is doing – that you might as well keep smoking cigarettes. Essentially, they want the vaping alternative dead on arrival. By actively disparaging a less harmful alternative to cigarettes, they are ultimately promoting continued cigarette use, correct? Especially if a smokers’ other options (education, gums, patches, prescribed drugs, public shaming, Twinkies, etc.) have all proven mostly ineffective or similarly harmful. It’s important to point this out because several years ago, the State of California borrowed money against their future anticipated revenue from cigarette sales. To put it another way, they took out a loan on a shiny new car and put up the money that they would someday receive on cigarette sales as collateral. Then (cue the gasps) cigarette sales in the Golden State began a downward trend…oddly as vapor product sales were climbing at roughly the same but opposite rate. When it came time to start making payments on the car loan, California discovered that there was no longer as much money coming in from cigarette sales as they had originally forecast.

Guess what happened next? Right, the State began a campaign to demonize vaping. When there are no effective alternatives available, smokers will smoke…and smoke means money. A lot of it.

I have obviously simplified this a bit, but the point is valid. And California is not the only state that did this, nor are they the only ones dependent on cigarette sales for revenue. There is a long list of municipal, state, and federal agencies, as well as various health and educational groups, who rail against tobacco while simultaneously paying for their groceries, rent, and Netflix – at least in part – with tobacco sales money. And many of these agencies and organizations are the voices shouting the loudest against vaping as an effective, less-harmful alternative to cigarettes.

It is clear that there is a coordinated effort to keep cigarette smokers on the same cash-spewing merry-go-round that they have been on for years. Which is absolutely despicable, dare I say evil, considering the health and economic consequences of it…especially when there is an alternative. To further the tragedy, public servants, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare systems, and even non-profit health advocacy groups are complicit with Big Tobacco in this game of cash for the certain death of people they don’t know.

So when you see public health agencies, perfectly-coiffed politicians, talking heads in the media, medical associations, and newspaper editors all disparaging vaping with little-to-no-facts and the exact same key phrases (i.e., “To protect our youth”, “It leads people back to cigarettes”, “It re-normalizes cigarette smoking”) – you can actively assume that they are following the same playbook.

I think it’s absolutely evilcowardly, and based on institutional and individual greed. And what of those folks who happen to be supporting the anti-vaping “movement” out of good intentions? They are ignorant and innocent – but still wildly destructive; like a toddler who finds a loaded pistol under the couch.

There is good news though. Great news, in fact. Victor Hugo once wrote, On résiste à l’invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l’invasion des idées – commonly paraphrased as no one can resist an idea whose time has come. No government, no politician, and no industry. Remember that automobiles, airplanes, cellular phones, and digital music were all initially attacked by the “experts”, by the legislators, by those they threatened to make obsolete, and by the general public.

Vaping has the potential to benefit society on human and financial scales that dwarf previous innovations. Because it’s not about convenience, it’s about keeping millions of family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers healthy, productive, and alive.

Shame on anyone who fights this innovation out of greed or ignorance. And you know what? Shame on those who dominate the current “vape industry,” continuing to make it about cloud competitions and naked women; that’s like using a new Macbook to drive nails into a board. I’ll address that in the next installment.

Read now:

Part II : Being your own worst enemy.

Part III : Winning your right to live.

Quitting cigarettes almost killed me.

littlekid

I began smoking full-time in third grade. Why? Mainly because I was cool. Well that, and because I grew up watching my parents, grandparents, neighbors, and every celebrity lighting up.  My grandparents bought cartons of Camels by the case and stored them in their garage; providing plenty of opportunities for mini-me to abscond with packs (or even an occasional carton), stuffed under my favorite Happy Days t-shirt. It was blue and had the Fonz on it, thumbs up and head cocked to the side, saying “Ayyyyyyyyy“. Told you I was cool.

Note: In case you’re one of those rabid crusaders who pushes for ever-tougher regulations against the local 7-Elevens because you fear they are selling cigarettes to minors (you’ll know you’re one of these people if (a) you’re really old and have more than 10 political bumper stickers on your Subaru, (b) you’re in school and a teacher who falls into the previous category is giving you extra credit to do it, or (c) you go to every single city, county, or state meeting on tobacco control and speak out against the evils of cigarettes, capitalists, and convenience stores) you should be aware that the statistics actually show that youth get cigarettes from family or social contacts significantly more than they do by purchasing them. From the age of eight until 18 (when I could legally buy), I smoked every day and never attempted to actually buy a pack. (Okay, that’s not completely true. I bought one pack in fourth grade from an unattended vending machine in a diner, but my brother threw them into a creek so I don’t really count it.)

By high school I was smoking a pack a day, and in 1988 I graduated to two packs a day. I once tried to hit three, but discovered that going beyond 20-25 cigarettes in any one day gave me a headache, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and not enough money for food. And it took too much dedication; smoking three packs a day is like a competitive sport where you actually have to work to hit the mark.

In the Fall of 1995, after smoking for fifteen years, I decided to quit. My first daughter was born and I didn’t want her to spend a childhood like mine, in the back seat of a car covered in blown ash carelessly flicked out the window by my father. I figured that if I could at least make that improvement, I could claim that I gave her a better childhood than I had. That’s the goal, right?

I went cold turkey, as they say. I could have done the gum or the patch, but my boss at the time was a poster child for the ineffectiveness of those options. He was a good-looking man’s man; dark skinned, mustachioed, with piercing brown eyes that always noticed when I was slacking off. He would often launch into stories of his childhood traveling the dirt roads of Central California with his migrant farm-working family. He had gone to college, obtained an executive position with a national retail company, owned a beautiful home in the San Francisco Bay Area, and spent his free days golfing. Or so he told his wife.

He had confided in me one afternoon (the edge of a nicotine patch visible under the shirt cuff of one swarthy arm, a wad of nicotine gum doing calisthenics behind his dark mustache, as he lit a cigarette – apparently not realizing that another was already lit and smoking in the ashtray on his desk) that he actually spent his free days screwing the community college girls who worked at one of the retail stores he managed.

“I just stuff a couple of tees in my pocket and stop on the side of the road before I get home to rub mud on my pant legs,” he laughed, loud and long before picking up both lit cigarettes – looking at them for a moment before crushing one out with a shrug.

But I digress.

The point is, when it came time for me to quit cigarettes I had absolutely no faith in a patch or a gum. So cold turkey it was.

Were you aware that numerous studies show that simply walking away from cigarettes results in negative health issues? I wasn’t. There is a higher incidence of weight gain, hypertension, and diabetes among those who quit smoking cold turkey. Here is a photo of me a couple of months after I quit smoking:

sheriff

Totally hot, I know. Even with the 80s haircut that managed to survive on my head all of the way into the 90s. Now, fast forward to me after eleven years of struggling to forget about cigarettes:

famshot

Same guy. You can tell by the I’m-not-really-smiling-smile. After years of replacing cigarettes with food, I went from 180 to 350 pounds. In this photo I was hypertensive, prediabetic, miserable, and had developed sleep apnea. If I knew in the before picture what I knew in the after picture, I would have punched the people who recommend cold turkey in the face. I still will, so watch your comments.

Was there really a benefit? I know that cigarettes will kill you. No one argues that. But being morbidly obese will too. Regardless of the current movement that says being fat is ‘healthy’ as long as you are happy and still like yourself; your body never got that memo. You’ll just apparently die happy. Or pretending that you’re happy. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t pretending, and I was about to hit the store and pick up my favorite brand of cigarettes again.

So what was the answer for me? It just so happens that I stumbled across one – and I’m not even going to charge you for it.

The Answer

I apologize, but I must assault you with another photo of me, because it shows what I discovered a few years ago. After jonesing for cigarettes and clearly addressing my hand-to-mouth tendencies in the wrong way for years, I saw a commercial that changed my life.

theanswer

It was advertised as the technology of the future. “It’s just vapor,” the woman on the TV said. “No smoke. No combustion. No tobacco.” Now, I love new technology. (I know in this photo I look more like a beer-guzzling truck driver than a tech nerd, but looks can be deceiving, right?)

I immediately started searching the internet for this new, futuristic way to get nicotine; imagine not needing to light a wad of dried plants on fire and inhaling the smoke to get it? I was smart enough to know that nicotine isn’t what makes cigarettes kill you. Nicotine is just a stimulant similar to caffeine, and any truthful scientist will concur. It is not all that addictive alone, and has quite a few therapeutic properties. The danger in smoking cigarettes comes from the tar, carbon monoxide, pesticides, and the thousands of other chemicals that you ignite and inhale.

At that time, the electronic cigarette technology was still new. There were only a few retailers online and those in the tobacco industry (including regulators) were not even aware of the devices. I settled on the cool stainless steel model in the photo. Mainly because it had a bluish-purple jewel in the tip that lit up whenever I inhaled. Always be cool. Unfortunately there were only two flavors of vapor available; tobacco and menthol. The tobacco vapor tasted like sucking water out of a leather shoe that had been left outside too long, but the menthol one was quite refreshing.

I got a lot of strange looks at that time, driving around town “smoking” a little metal cylinder, but everyone I talked to was intrigued – especially the smokers. There was no smell, no smoke, no phlegm, and no morning cough. I had found my old friend nicotine, but he was no longer nestled in a big smoking pile of crap.

The Result?

I have been “vaping” for six years now. I have long since left behind the cigarette-looking devices; technology has advanced significantly. As well as the flavor choices thank god. I tend towards the fruit, beverage, and dessert flavors because I enjoy them much more than crappy tobacco flavors. I also left behind almost 150 pounds.

brickman

 

 

 

My quality of life is light years beyond where it was. I am happy. I am healthy. I backpack miles into the wilderness for fun. And I have reduced my nicotine levels over time from 24mg to 6mg, and am about ready to go to 3mg on my way to zero.

If you are an adult cigarette smoker, or a former smoker whose life is miserable because you are constantly trying to find substitutes for your old friend – I implore you to investigate these new technologies that allow you to obtain nicotine in a vapor. According to the British Government, “vaping” nicotine is 95% (or more) safer than sucking cigarette poison into your lungs. And take it from a cold turkey quitter – the negatives that I experienced going down that road were equally shitty to just continuing to smoke.

The Purpose

Over the last six years, I have watched this amazing and life-saving technology go from interesting, new, and promising…to vilified and attacked at every level of media and government. And for no other reason than the fact that it works. Apparently too effectively. Obtaining nicotine with a liquid vaporizer can make cigarettes, the patch, the gum, and the prescribed you-may-stop-smoking-but-you-also-may-kill-yourself drugs completely obsolete.

Pharmaceutical companies, big tobacco companies, tobacco-tax-revenue-dependent governmental organizations, and the crazy anti-smoking zealots are pulling out all of the stops to destroy the fledgling “vape” industry before it can get a foothold. If the significantly safer “vape” alternative becomes generally accepted as the way to reduce or eliminate cigarette use worldwide, these huge organizations – who profit at the expense of millions of human beings – will collapse.

What you are seeing in all of the negativity surrounding this new technology is the potential death throes of those who make a significant amount of money off of the misery and suffering of everyone affected by cigarette smoking. They have a lot to lose – and they are not going quietly.

Based on my own personal experience with both cigarettes and “vaping,” I have decided to stand up to Big Tobacco, “nicotine replacement” pharmaceutical manufacturers, healthcare systems, and government agencies who require cigarette taxes to stay viable – and I am saying enough is enough.

Investigate “vaping” for yourself and whenever you run across the broad and repetitive criticisms of the technology, you should ask who stands to gain from the suppression or demonizing of “vaping” as a safer and actually effective means of ending cigarette dependency.

The answer to tobacco dependency is here. The “vape” industry is in its infancy, and just as it’s starting to provide the means to a better, healthier, and longer life for current cigarette smokers, it is being smothered in its crib by the people and organizations who need you to keep lighting up those cigarettes; who need you to stay dependent; who need you to continue getting sick and dying.

Screw that.

 

(For more information on the vaping debate, please read my three-part series which starts HERE.)