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Leaving cigarettes behind any way I can

Brandon Paykamian • Aug 18, 2019 at 12:00 AM

This month’s column will deviate from my usual theme of “curiosity” so that I can tell you about what feels like a big change in my life — quitting cigarettes.

I recently took some time to think about the need to quit smoking combustible tobacco and taper my nicotine intake with an e-cigarette. I know this is not the ideal method, and we will get into that later.

Being a hypochondriac was a terrible combination with smoking roughly half a pack or more a day for about a decade. Having experience watching family members’ bodies degenerate from cancer, smoking-related illnesses have been a looming fear of mine for quite a while.

While I enjoy the work I do most of the time, journalism is a high-pressure line of work. It’s a highly politicized job characterized by constant deadlines, stagnating pay, shrinking staff sizes and the constant dread that you could lose your job any day after devoting a degree to it. I thought, “If I have any more stressors in my life, I will fly off the handle.” I was quite serious about the notion that quitting cigarettes would make me unpleasant and that I was staying a smoker for the sake of others who’d have to deal with me.

I’m well aware that e-cigarettes are not the best cessation method, and there are potential dangers associated with their use. I have reported on this issue multiple times — we don’t know much about what they do since they’re relatively new, and long-term scientific testing has not yet been conducted by health experts.

But I have to say, using this as a temporary alternative and lowering my nicotine dosage drastically has made me feel better overall — at least physically.

My respiratory system does actually feel better than it used to. I’m enjoying not smelling like smoke and being able to taste things more, and I don’t have that vague sickly feeling every smoker knows. Most importantly, I don’t have to clear my throat as much, and I don’t start the morning hacking up as much gunk as possible before I leave the house. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have to do that.

Right now, I’m slowly trying to better myself and eventually leave behind the e-cigarettes. I figure that if I can get rid of some of the ritualistic behaviors of cigarettes — packing the pack, lighting the cigarette, rolling down my window on my commute to work — I can eventually stop the mechanical habits that come with the oral fixation I still have. For now, I am also using my renewed ability to breathe somewhat better to work out and jog around my neighborhood more often. It’s a process.

For me, I have to say it feels like progress, considering I have tried everything else including “vaping” before, and at the time, I found it just didn’t have that same bite.

Now two weeks into using it just a few times a day — ingesting significantly less nicotine than before and no carbon monoxide — I am finding that I don’t miss “the real thing” as much as I thought I would. That’s a big step for me, despite how some I’ve talked to have minimized it.

Here’s to the next big step — slowly leaving the “vape pen” behind.

 

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