My e-cig shame: after 20 years I'm back on the nicotine
I take a drag of my cigarette. My mobile rings, so I chuck the cigarette on the sofa.
Goodness, how disturbing that vignette would have seemed 20 years ago. First, because that was when I gave up smoking for good, along with alcohol. Second… well, I'm not going to insult your intelligence. Obviously it's an e-cig. Even at my most plastered I wouldn't have deliberately thrown a cigarette on the sofa. Which isn't to say that my furniture was burn-free.
I can't remember who offered me my first e-cigarette, but I didn't need much persuading. The nicotine hit left me reeling, but it was a familiar sensation. What wasn't familiar was the seductive delicacy of "vaping". Water vapour tickles the throat agreeably, compared to the guilt-inducing blowtorch blast of a Marlboro Red. (Incidentally, as a desperately needy social climber at Oxford, I quickly learned to call them "Mawlboroughs", as in the school.)
In my smoking days, I was always broke, so my brand tended to be OPs. (Other People's.) If they smoked menthol, I only grudgingly agreed to scrounge one off them. As a vaper, however, I actually prefer menthol. And now I read a scare story in today's Sun that schoolkids are becoming HOOKED on strawberry, banana and toffee flavored e-cigarettes. Disgraceful. Where can I buy them?
Are e-cigs my gateway back to smoking? No. They remove the temptation to indulge in a cigarette that has occasionally overtaken me (unlike the temptation to drink again, which hasn't returned). Will they persuade some young people to smoke cigarettes? Undoubtedly, but I suspect that number will be dwarfed by those who don't take up smoking because there's now a far safer and cleaner alternative. No ashtrays. No ash. I am, however, mildly ashamed that I've discovered yet another expensive habit and adapted so quickly to the little rituals that accompany all fixes – in this case, plugging the rechargeable e-cig into the back of my iMac, a surreal demonstration of 21st-century cross-addictions.
But it's this casually-throwing-a cigarette-onto-the-sofa thing that gives me most pleasure. That and being able to stand one upright in the box that holds my pens. No doubt the novelty will wear off one day. But, as St Augustine might say, not yet.