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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Confessions of a Smoker: Is there any hope that smokers will actually quit smoking?

Chantix, the patch, hypnotism, Nicorette gum, and counseling—chances are smokers who are trying to kick the habit have tried them all. But how effective are they?

I started smoking when I was twelve years old. I was heavily addicted to the cancer stick; in fact, I smoked about 2 ½ packs per day. And it was all taking a toll on my health. I lost my sense of smell and my sense of taste, and I woke up in the middle of the night choking because I couldn’t breathe. Whenever I caught a cold, it immediately turned to bronchitis and laryngitis, and I’d be hooked up to the nebulizer. Two years ago, during my last bout with bronchitis, I was sick for nearly two months.

For years I tried to quit smoking. I tried the patch, and quite frankly, that made me want to smoke even more. On another occasion, I paid $200 to be hypnotized; I lit up a cigarette in the parking lot. I tried the gum, and it made me throw up. In desperation, I paid someone $75 a week to teach me how to quit smoking. I went through all the cessation steps, gradually cut down to the lightest nicotine levels as possible, but I could no longer keep it up when my instructor told me I had to give up drinking coffee as well. On yet another occasion, my aunt introduced me to the nicotine lozenge, and that was like eating candy; it did nothing for me. Finally, I had my doctor prescribe Chantix. The makers of this very expensive little blue pill boast of a 42% success rate. I spent $250 for my prescription; the price alone could kill a person! I took one pill as directed; almost immediately, I was in the bathroom hugging the toilet bowl and begging for death. I got so violently ill, I am surprised I didn’t literally throw up my shoes. If that’s what I have to go through, I’d rather smoke!

At this point, I had just about given up hope. I had visions of myself ending up like my late uncle, who died of lung cancer. Even weeks before his death, he’d have a cigarette in one hand and the oxygen in another. I knew that was going to be me. After taking off work for several weeks because I was so sick with bronchitis, I finally returned to work, still unable to talk, and still smoking. While I was at work, I did a paper reading service for a student. Shortly after, I got up to go for a coffee break and reached for my cigarettes. She stopped me in the hallway and told me she knew I was sick, knew I smoked, knew I was slowly killing myself, but knew of a way to help me quit. I responded, “I have tried everything, and nothing works.” I braced myself for the typical lecture of a non-smoker who doesn’t have a clue, which only irritates smokers with stupidity: “You know smoking is really bad for you.” Thank you Captain Obvious. That’s like telling Floridians it’s hot in August.

But she said something that got my attention: “Nothing the doctors give you will ever work because smoking is more than just a physical addiction to nicotine. It’s an engrained lifestyle, an oral fixation, and an addiction that’s worse than heroin.” She knew my pain; she was evidently a smoker herself; otherwise, she would not have understood the struggle that all smokers go through.

“What if I told you there was a way to quit without having to give up your life style or the oral fixation. In fact, you don’t give anything up at all, except the smell, the yellow teeth, the nicotine stained walls.” She then introduced me to the electronic cigarette. Since she had an extra one with her, she asked me to try it out.

I tried and realized that I could actually see myself doing it. But I had heard that electronic cigarettes were outrageously expensive, cost over $150. She informed that I could buy them online at a fraction of the price and gave me the website she uses. When I got paid again, I ordered my first electronic cigarette. It lasted me a month and broke. I was frustrated and started smoking again. But during that month before my electronic cigarette broke, I was off cigarettes for the entire month! The longest I had ever gone without a cigarette was two days, and that was only because I was in the hospital recovering from surgery.

I spent another week researching electronic cigarettes and read all the customer reviews. Everyone pointed to one company, one brand. I paid $65 for my starter kit of two electronic cigarettes, a USB charger, and a bottle of nicotine solution. I realized that I could even slowly lower the dosage of nicotine, so I could eventually wean myself off the addiction.

All of this happened two years ago, and I have never looked back. I now sleep through the night because I can breathe better. I got my sense of taste back, and I got my sense of smell back. I have slowly cut myself down from 36 mg of nicotine to 8 mg. My house, my clothes, and my car no longer smell like smoke. The smelly ashtrays are gone. Whereas before I couldn’t walk up a half a flight of stairs without stopping to catch my breath, I can now run up three flights of stairs with no problems. And I have not caught bronchitis in two years, whereas I used to get it two or three times per year. About six months ago, I forgot to bring a spare battery to work, and the one I was using died on me. I bummed a cigarette off one of my co-workers. I felt as if I had just licked an ashtray. That was enough for me!

Non-smokers will never understand how the electronic cigarette could be the answer, so I’ll shed some light here. It is not the nicotine that kills people, that causes cancer and heart disease; it is the smoke, the carbon monoxide, and the other 4,000 chemicals found in cigarettes that kill a person. With the electronic cigarette, there is no smoke. What I inhale is vapor, made up of mostly water, vegetable oil, flavoring, and a little bit of nicotine. In other words, what I inhale is what we eat in our foods every day. It’s much healthier and cheaper. Consider this savings. As a smoker, I spent approximately $75 per week on cigarettes; I now spend about $20 per month on nicotine solution. The $65 is a one-time fee.

Not all electronic cigarettes are the same. As with purchasing any electronic device, shop around until you find something that fits your budget. Above all else, read the independent customer reviews; there are thousands of them. Never buy them at the mall.

Now tell me, Is there any hope that smokers will actually quit smoking?

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