The Queen had her Diamond Jubilee. I have a more modest silver celebration coming up. It’s a celebration I’d rather avoid. It’ll be a quarter century of puffing on Virginia’s finest. Not an anniversary to be proud of, truth be told. But I’m a pretty hard core addict. Which isn’t surprising, given that I’ve been a smoker for more of my life than a non smoker.
I do try to give up. Every now and then I’ll post a little something about my latest attempt to quit. Be it through cold turkey or the use of an aid, such as nicotine gum. Sometimes I make it a few days. Last time I made it a few weeks. Once or twice I’ve made it a few months. But, needless to say, each effort so far has crashed. And burned. Literally. But one should never quit quitting. I remain convinced that my time will come.
I am having a new effort. With renewed enthusiasm and determination. And I have a new aid. The trendy, fashionable and – so I’m told – very effective electronic cigarette. I ordered a rechargeable battery unit online, with a whole bunch of cartomisers. It’s a pretty simple deal. The brown filter is a disposable unit that screws into the white battery section. The filter part is the equivalent of a pack of 20 cigarettes. You suck on it, and get a blast of nicotine. You exhale a soothing cloud of water vapour.
The pros are obvious. I’m not inhaling any of the 4,000 odd chemicals that accompany the nicotine on your average ciggy. There’s no stinky smoke polluting my environment and permeating my clothes. I can smoke anywhere I want. Although bus companies might be rolling out a ban soonish. It improves my performance at work – I’m sat am my desk happily puffing, instead of grouchily watching the clock wishing it was break time.
The cons are equally obvious. These electronic cigarettes haven’t really been through much in the way of testing for safety. Although I’m not convinced they could be worse than a real cigarette. And I’m not really giving up smoking. I’m not even breaking the hand to mouth association. But, you know what. Even if I ended up smoking these for the rest of my life, I’m saving a packet.
The cartomisers work out at about £2.25 a day. A cheap brand of real cigarettes costs a minimum of £5.50. If they’re on special offer. Usually they’re more like £6 a pack. Some people – exclusively non-smokers – whine how much us smokers cost the NHS. They have no idea what they’re talking about. Aside from the overlooked fact that an average smoker will cost the NHS less than a non-smoker over a lifetime, there’s also the small matter of the billions that smokers put into the taxman’s pockets each year.
I imagine these electronic cigarettes are going to become very popular. People are hard up. Really hard up. The poorest parts of society, where the biggest chunk of the smoking population belong, are suffering more than most. Bankruptcies, IVA’s and general difficulties in repaying debts are on the up and up. I think the first thing people who are looking to get help with debt management are going to be told is to quit the habit. That’s easier said that done. But this is the next best thing. There’s quite a correlation between smoking and debt, by the way. Or so some studies show, anyhow.
I’ve done my own maths. Normal cigarettes cost me about £6 a day. That’s £42 a week. Or £180 a month. The electronic variety is £2.25 a day. £15.75 a week. £67.50. A saving of more than £1300 over a year. No need for a degree to work out which option is best for my pocket. Of course, giving both the elbow would be the best result. But one step at a time.
If you’re interested in going down this route, by the by, I can offer the following tid bits from my limited experience so far. The instructions on usage were very vague. How often should you puff? Well, I puffed all day long as if I had a regular pack of cigarettes, with about 10 to twenty puffs per cig. And the cartomiser lasted about a day. So that seems the right way to use it. When you inhale, you do feel a satisfying blast of ‘smoke’ filling your lungs. It’s not quite the same, but it is so, so close. Surprisingly so.