Confessions of a Recovering Vape God

When I was young, my mom always warned me about the teenagers smoking in the park. I promised that I would never touch a cigarette, and I really meant it at the time. But once they made nicotine addiction mango flavoured, it didn’t seem like the worst thing in the world. So, I became the teenager that was smoking in the park. And my room, at work, on the street, at parties and in the car. Whoops, sorry Mom.

I began ‘Juuling’ in earnest, during the middle of exams in April 2019 because I was able to rationalize that the nicotine enhanced learning effects by stimulating receptors for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. I planned on cutting back once exams were over, but the truth is that I very quickly became a fiend. I was going through a mango or mint flavour pod a day (roughly equivalent to the nicotine found in a pack of cigarettes) and spending approximately $50 a week on my habit. After going through a breakup, I even named my Juul (Edgar) and joked that I was in a committed relationship with him.

It was pure and blissful heady for a few months, there were all sorts of advertisements about switching to e-cigarettes because they were better for your health, so I wasn’t particularly focused on what the negative repercussions were for vaping. Did I have a nagging suspicion that inhaling chemicals into my lungs roughly 200 times a day probably wasn’t a great example of self-care? Absolutely. Did I actively ignore that suspicion and instead take another hit? Absolutely.

Then, I started to see the articles and video campaigns about the teenagers lying in hospital beds with holes in their lungs and tubes coming out of their body. Seeing the physical effects of what happened to people who had similar smoking habits to me made it more difficult to justify an expensive habit that offered momentary pleasure. The images of kids in hospital beds, along with the fact that there is no conclusive research about what the long-term effects of ‘Juuling’ are were HIGHKEY terrifying and gave me enough motivation to pledge that I had bought my last Juul pod and I said goodbye to Edgar.  

The side effects of nicotine withdrawal include, but are not limited to: intense cravings for nicotine, sweating, nausea, headaches, irritability, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and depression. When I quit, I was a bit of a monster. I had a headache for days, I laid awake at night unable to sleep because my mind couldn’t seem to shut up and every interaction I had with people left me feeling annoyed. I compensated for all the free time that my mouth and hands suddenly seemed to have by chewing gum, sucking on hard candies and eating snacks.

And if I’m honest, after a few days I coped with the nicotine withdrawal symptoms by having nicotine. At work, I was offered a cigarette by one of my co-workers when I complained about my cravings and while the smell wasn’t so crisp or sweet, inhaling the smoke felt like an incredible relief. Well, relief mixed in with a bit of guilt. On my walk home, I stopped by the corner store that I used to buy pods at and instead purchased a pack of Belmonts. I figured that a dart, (or two, or three) a day was still definite improvement.

The other issue with quitting vaping is that it feels like everyone does it. If my friends or roommates were puffing away, I would definitely have a few puffs myself. Unlike cigarettes, people can vape inside without it being particularly noticeable and I’ve even seen people blowing clouds in the middle of a lecture at my supposedly smoke-free campus. While it wasn’t exactly surprising that when I visited home, my 15-year-old brother and his friends had vapes, it was a little disturbing.

It’s been over a month since I bought my last pod and I still have only purchased that one pack of cigarettes, so I have made significant progress in cutting back on my nicotine consumption. But, I still experience cravings and if I’m offered nicotine, I don’t have the will power to refuse. If I could go back six months, I would have saved approximately $800, avoided the risks to my health that will almost certainly be conclusively linked to e-cigarettes, and a whole lot of effort if I’d never started ‘Juuling’.