How e-cigarettes changed my life

From: The Guardian

Demand for electronic cigarettes is booming, but experts are not convinced they help people to quit smoking. Whatever the case, I am still a fan

Stephanie Rafanelli

It all started quite early on. My first words, uttered with a not-so-cherubic look on my face and a strange baby puffing sound, were: “Light! Light!” It was as if I had come out of the birth canal sucking not on my thumb, but a mini-Marlboro. Much excitement and hand-flapping ensued whenever my grandfather fired up his pipe after Sunday lunch. Family legend has it that my parents wafted my dummy through clouds of smoke just to shut me up, such was my morbid nappy-stage fascination. Age was no barrier: everyone loved smoking in the 70s.

I smoked my first adult-sized fag at the age of 10: a John Player Superking purloined from my best friend’s dad while he was innocently buying us Funny Feet. We lit up in her den at the bottom of their garden while watching Superman kick Nick O’Teen’s butt on TV. Only three years passed before I was sourcing my own packs direct from Syd, the local newsagent. In the girls’ changing rooms at school, we chuffed up the sanitary towel incinerators. They never sussed that the acrid smoke bellowing out of the chimney came from the mouths of their year-three angels.

By 20, I had cultivated a 30-a-day habit and often went clubbing with a pack of B&H and my asthma inhaler in the same back pocket, both ending up, on more than one occasion, at the bottom of a Hacienda toilet. I knew I had a problem when I started waking up to “get a few in” in the middle of the night. Given this, it was necessary to date mainly serious smokers. One nicotine-free boyfriend issued me with an ultimatum to quit: “I love you and I just want to know that you won’t die after we get married.” Needless to say, I dumped him.

Then in my 30s, the fear began to strike. This, sadly, had less to do with the inadvisable combo of asthma and hefty chaining than a terror of ending up with a pout like Pat Butcher’s. And so I ceremonially smoked my last official cigarette – a total of seven times – with a variety of help methods, from multiple patches and compulsive tangerine-eating to Trainspotting-style cold turkeys. But the evil weed always tempted me back. The thing is, when I didn’t smoke I always felt like a limb was missing. I conducted conversations with that little baton in my hand; the sharp sucking in, the delayed exhale for emphasis. It had become part of my physical lingo. Without it, I was somehow neutered.

Then, in 2010, came the electric light bulb moment – quite literally. On a trip to New York, I was given an early version of the e-cigarette. My new contraption simulated smoking, I learned, through a battery which heated and vaporised liquid nicotine in water and propylene glycol. It was a giant, white plastic stick, akin to a supersize tampon designed by Zaha Hadid, with a light at the tip that flashed fluorescent blue with each drag, like a silent police siren. I smoked it on the plane all the way back to London, hiding the gaudy light show under a blanket. I was cured in that seven-hour journey.

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