Monday, 2 June 2014

A non-smoker's view of vaping

I do not lay claim to the following article, nor have I had a part in its creation. It is an honest attempt by a non-smoking, non-vaping private citizen to put the commonsense point of view on smoking and not smoking. I commend it for its honesty and its lack of spin (which is more than I can do for the outpourings of the anti-tobacco zealots)!                                                                                                                                 Geoff Cliff.

Views of a non smoker

I am in my mid sixties and have never smoked. My father was a heavy smoker and my mother a ‘social smoker’. She occasionally smoked cocktail cigarettes which were in pastel shades and quite pretty and feminine looking. My grandmother occasionally smoked Woodbines. So in spite of being in regular contact with smokers, how come I have never smoked? I tried it once in my teens thinking I would try one of gran’s Woodbines and I sneaked one into the bathroom with a box of matches and lit up. It was awful and I coughed, choked and retched. That was the one and only time I ever tried smoking.

My best friend at school smoked, as did all her parents and two sisters. I used to call for her in the morning on the way to school and I recall the horrible, thick smoky atmosphere when I went into her house. Also her two elder sisters liked the perfume Revlon’s Intimate, which they sprayed liberally on themselves. That smell combined with the dense smoke from four smokers was enough to put me off smoking (and Intimate perfume) for life.

My friend and I had quite a long walk to school and she would be struggling to light a cigarette whilst gasping for breath to keep up with me. I never felt under any pressure to ‘have a fag’ as I had made up my own mind not to smoke.

In my later teens when I had started work I had quite a long bus journey into Birmingham. On the occasions when there was no room downstairs and I had to go upstairs I hated the smell of stale smoke that lingered on the seats and the thick fug of smoke that clung to my clothes and my hair. Even opening a window brought no relief from the smell.

My boyfriend at the time was a smoker and although I hated the lingering smell, at that time smoking was accepted socially, so I just put up with it. In spite of seeing him smoke and enjoy his cigarettes I still never wanted to smoke. My parents and boyfriend would smoke in the house and it was just accepted. The only time there was a problem was when my boyfriend fell asleep on the sofa and dropped his cigarette, which burned a hole in the settee.

We married and had two children and he continued to smoke in the house. My younger son was born eleven weeks prematurely and was very ill for a long time. He spent the first six months of life in hospital and was on a ventilator for ten weeks due to problems with his lungs. It was at this time that the dangers of smoking were made apparent by one of his doctors who said that under no circumstances should the baby be in a situation where he could breathe in cigarette smoke due to the breathing problems he had experienced. My husband didn’t like being told this, but for a while didn’t smoke when the baby was in the room. I hadn’t really considered the dangers of smoking or even passive smoking until then. My main objections were the smell that lingered, the yellowing of the paintwork and wallpaper in the house, and the cost.

We divorced after sixteen years of marriage, after he had met someone else. Subsequently I met and fell in love with the man who became my second husband. Unfortunately he was a smoker too, but in the heady days of new love I didn’t let it bother me too much. Once we had settled down to married life I did object to him smoking. He smoked in the house, which I didn’t like, and, as we had both been through messy divorces and were short of money, I objected to the cost of smoking and also the possible effect on his health. He had been a smoker for thirty years or so since he was a young teenager and, as I knew he was a smoker when I met him, he would counter any of my objections with this argument. He had a smoker’s cough and this, coupled with what the doctors had said when my son was a baby, made me again realise the possible dangers to health. Also my mum had died aged seventy of secondary lung cancer although she had given up smoking twenty years before she died. My dad had given up smoking when mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer some five years before she died. My dad died from a heart attack aged eighty-six and up until his early eighties had always been fit and well.

Neither of my two sons has ever smoked in spite of being subject to it in the home environment and in pubs and clubs during their teens and twenties.

My husband and I moved to Cornwall in our mid fifties to ‘live the dream’. My husband still smoked but as the cottage we moved into had low ceilings and small rooms, he would go outside to smoke. I worried about the effect smoking had on his health. If he was working outside he would frequently have a cigarette clenched in his teeth while using both hands to build a wall or mix cement. I hated to see this as it seemed to me he was doubly inhaling the noxious smoke.

Eighteen months after our move I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My husband gave up smoking of his own accord and supported me throughout all my treatment. I really appreciated this and knew how difficult it must have been for him. Sadly he started smoking again when he was with his brother (a smoker) on a long and tiring car journey. His brother smoked cigarettes in the car and the temptation to have one became too much. Following this, for a while he smoked less than he had before but in time it became as many as before.

When we bought a newer car he said he wouldn’t smoke in the car as it was pristine inside but before long he did start smoking in the car, which I hated. The car smelt of stale smoke, ash was dropped on the floor and a couple of cigarette burns appeared in the upholstery. On occasions when I would kiss or cuddle our dog after she had been in the car, I could smell stale smoke on her. I know my husband thought I was a nag and probably I was, but he smelt of cigarettes most of the time and even when he had been outside for a smoke when he came back in the lounge I could smell it on him and his breath.

Last year, with retirement looming and with reduced income and the constant bad press about smoking, my husband decided to give electronic cigarettes a try. He bought the necessary items, which cost probably a tenth of what he had been spending on cigarettes a month, and initially I was quite impressed. I must admit I thought it would just be a ‘flash in the pan’, a short-lived fad, but no, nine months later he is still sticking with the e-cig. He can use it in the house as there is very little ‘smoke’ or smell apart from the lovely aromas of his chosen flavour of the day.

Throughout my life I have always been anti smoking and I was really pleased that my husband had found an alternative to smoking that is socially acceptable - or so we thought. Now it seems that Wales could be the first part of the UK to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in enclosed public places. Ministers say they are responding to concern that the devices normalise smoking and so undermine the smoking ban. Ministers also argue that children could be tempted to try them, which may then lead them to cigarette smoking.

For years now smokers have been told about the dangers of smoking (whilst the government carry on reaping the tax benefits). Now that a successful aid to help smokers quit has been found, Welsh ministers want it banned in enclosed public places. I feel this is a real slap in the face to smokers who have quit smoking. Rather than implement this ban, ministers should applaud smokers for giving up smoking and just let them get on with their smoke free lives.

There are so many temptations that children are more likely to want to try. With alcohol, drugs, sex, and processed fast food on offer, who would want an electronic cigarette?

So leave the vapers alone and let them enjoy their new cigarette-free existence wherever they choose to use them. My husband no longer has a ‘smoker’s cough’, nor does he reek of cigarette smoke. He is much fitter since becoming a vaper and we can enjoy long walks without him becoming short of breath. He enjoys his vapes in the same way that I enjoy eating chocolate! (We have to have some pleasure in this life!) Neither of us are overweight and are within the normal BMI .

I would suggest to these faceless ministers who tell us how we should run our lives to back off and let us choose for ourselves how we live. Smokers have been the outcasts of society for many years and now that over two million of them are vapers, leave them to enjoy their smoke free existence.