BY MATT BUNN
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
IT was the middle of February, freezing cold and snowing, but undeterred by the weather I still went outside and sparked up.
Nothing anyone has said to me has ever really made me want to quit the fags – yes I know it is extremely bad for my health, I know it makes me smell and, yes, I do know it is expensive.
But since I started about eight years ago, it has always broken up my work day and given me something to do when I was bored.
Over the years I have tried to quit and I don’t think there is a single method or smoke cessation aid that I haven’t used.
No matter what I have used, however, it still feels unnatural to start the day without a coffee and cigarette or to forgo the after-meal smoke – always a personal favourite of mine.
But that night in February I had an epiphany – all of us smokers have had them, haven’t we?
Speaking to a friend of mine from back home, he proudly told me he had been off the fags for two months.
“I’m not coughing as much and I’ve even started running,” he told me.
I decided I wanted that. In truth, I could barely walk up the stairs to the Star’s offices without feeling out of breath.
So I stubbed out my cigarette, threw my near-full pouch of tobacco in the bin, that was painful, and I went for it.
The words from one of my housemates, an anaesthetist at Ipswich Hospital, were: “Well done, you will feel so much better for not smoking.”
One colleague even spoke of her pride at my decision – being one of the only smokers in the office, people normally know where to find me.
The reaction of my fiancée – well, she squealed with delight.
So I traded my papers, filters, tobacco and lighter for what is quickly becoming one of the most popular pleasures for thousands of smokers like me – the electronic cigarette.
I went for the SkyCig Freedom brand of e-cig, which comes complete with several different flavours, my personal favourite being the cherry.
It would be a lie to say I have not slipped up at all in the last month – last week was exam week after all, very stressful, and I did succumb once or twice.
But despite that, I can honestly say I have not felt so good and so fit in years – and I really do now have the confidence that I can give up.
E-cigarettes effectively run off a battery and heat up a small amount of liquid nicotine which turns into vapour and can then be inhaled.
The strangest thing for me was smoking it in the office – it felt so wrong.
Equally odd was when I took it outside. There was no point in going over to the smoker’s shelter in the car park.
But it has been a big help and while ‘smoking’ it, I have felt no real need to pop to the shops and ask for a pouch of tobacco.
It took away my need for nicotine, it looked and felt like a cigarette, complete with light and I even blew out smoke – it didn’t feel like I was forgoing any of my favourite cigarettes of the day.
While I was on a run with my housemate a few weeks ago, that’s right, I can run now, he said he was astounded by the progress I had made.
Just a month ago I was spluttering, struggling to breathe and ready to collapse as I took on a measly 1km run along Nacton Road, but after a few weeks without cigarettes, a 3km run posed no major difficulties – great progress.
Now after a little blip, I am ready to get back on the horse, get back to running and live a life free from cigarettes.
Admittedly there are still many debates being held over the safety of the e-cigarettes and whether or not they can even be labelled as a nicotine replacement treatment.
The simple answer is that health bosses at this stage don’t know whether they are bad for us or not.
But a decision will need to be made soon, with the number of users expected to reach one million by the end of the year.
For advice and help on quitting smoking, contact Live Well Suffolk by calling 01473 229292 or visit www.livewellsuffolk.org.uk