I come from a family of cigarette smokers. Both my paternal and maternal grandparents smoked throughout my childhood, and a couple of them held onto the habit well into my early adult life. My parents have been cigarette smokers since they were teens. I couldn’t blame them, having myself learned how pervasive and effective the tobacco industry’s marketing efforts had been, and how much of a stronghold the industry had (read: has) over lobbying efforts attempting restrictive legislation.
Even in media, smoking was commonplace for my parents’ generation. I remember watching The X-Files with them when I was younger, and being drawn to the mystique and aloof-cool of the “Smoking Man” character. Cigarettes were normal. They were everywhere. It wasn’t even until I was already into my twenties before real smoking bans took hold across businesses, colleges, and other public spaces around the country.
The subliminal, covert manner in which smoking as an acceptable activity seeped into my own life took longer than did my parents’ (I was 24 when I started), but held tight as addictive tendencies are wont to do. My decision to become a smoker came from a different place than pop culture influence and mass marketing campaigns, but it was still born of a sense of cool and belonging – something that the idea of smoking seems to cling to. Word of mouth really is the best advertising. But, then the word changed.
Just like the cool of cigarette smoking in the past, eventually the crowds and scenes with which I ran adapted to the cool of vaping. By the time I discovered vaping, however, I was already well aware of the health problems and risks of smoking – and thus was leery of vaping as a reasonable alternative – until I tried it myself.
After some research (of which there is a slow, but steadily-growing body), and hearing countless testimonials from friends and colleagues alike, I finally kicked my habit – so to speak. A few missteps and cessation/cold-turkey attempts, and I eventually listened to those around me who were shifting their own habits to curb nicotine intake, and altogether stop smoking paper cigarettes and leaf tobacco. I started vaping.
I’m old enough not to care if vaping is “cool” (it is, apparently), and wise enough to know that it’s not “healthy” per se, but that’s not my point. My point is that vaping helps people quit smoking cigarettes. And, if we’re running the numbers, cigarettes are one of the worst health offenders, and deserve a run for their money. On a relative scale, vaping is not going to cause the laundry list of physical and mental health problems that are so obvious to us now in other nicotine products. With that information in mind, I have recently taken the conversation to my parents.
A couple of times over the years, I’d hear my parents discuss the need to quit, themselves – and it even “took” once or twice for some months. But, something always drew them back to the habit. Their techniques for quitting were old-school. Cold turkey and other oral fixation replacements were all they knew (my mom even tried to quit smoking with just Jolly Ranchers). My folks are from a different time. I needed to bring them up to speed.
It’s been a multi-part conversation, and is still ongoing. I often tell my parents that without vaping, I’d still have a terrible smokers cough (which I was horrified to have developed after having only smoked cigarettes for a few years). I’d be well on my way to a stroke (having had a TIA at only 30 years old). I tell them how different my lungs and my head feel by keeping the disgusting list of other carcinogens and chemicals found in paper cigarettes out of my body.
They know they need the same treatment. Having been smokers for most of their lives, the effects cigarettes have had on them are more pronounced and more dire. Whenever I can, though, I join my mom and dad for a “smoke.” I let them experience first-hand the ways that vaping can simultaneously fulfill the need for nicotine in their bloodstreams, and how it feels to have capable lungs for the rest of the day.
I think it’s working. My mom and I are going vape shopping for her next weekend. My dad’s a little tougher of a nut to crack, but he’s not nay-saying the tech. Maybe I just need to convince him it’ll help him look cool.