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Closet Fascination

A blog about a journey, smoking, not smoking, vaping and everything in between

Smoking and the Media: The Rise of the Juul

This weekend I came across this article New Yorker article about Juul.

This lead me to read this Vox article about Juul which started a decent down a Juul rabbit hole, a phenomenon I find interesting but by no means surprising. I’m not sure how I came across the articles about Juul. Was it initially some sort of targeted marketing? Who knows? If so, well played google or facebook or wherever I was browsing.

What is Juul? A small, e-cigarette with disposable pods containing an flavoured e-liquid with about 5% nicotine salts. The salt is what makes it special as it helps the nicotine be absorbed more easily. Back when I was still vaping, Juul was in its infancy and I longingly wanted to try nicotine salts as vaping no longer provided any buzz. The only reason I was vaping was the relieve withdrawal. Instead, I quit which was probably the better option.

The TL:DR of the articles is that teens are getting addicted to Juul and everyone is freaking out. Some call it “A public health nightmare”, which I find to be overly alarmist. Again, if we didn’t just scare monger on smoking and actually taught kids more of the why it might not be a good idea to expose your developing brain to potent neuro-stimulants that can alter how your brain works maybe less kids would be taking up the Juul. In some ways, it kind of reminds me of what it might have been like to start smoking in earlier days when cigarettes weren’t labelled as addictive. People who took up smoking, typically became daily smokers. I’m not sure how much I buy this, but some of the surveys claim that many kids don’t even know that they contain nicotine. That surprised me. Regardless, teens report that most people that start juuling, become regular juulers. Is this surprising? No. Is the fear mongering about this phenomenon warranted? I’m not sure.

I think kids need to be properly informed about the risks of using Juul because based on the stuff that is floating around, I could be easy to be misled. I posted this video on the called the “Truth about Vaping: The Nicotine Misconception” awhile back, I think perhaps even before I started vaping. It claims nicotine isn’t the bad guy and that it is all the additives in cigarettes in combination with the nicotine that causes addiction, not nicotine alone and that nicotine isn’t that harmful. Part of this is true. Nicotine doesn’t cause cancer and while toxic, beyond that it is not the worse part of tobacco inhaled into the lungs while smoking. While nicotine delivered through patches and gum might not be addictive, nicotine is still addictive. I didn’t imagine my addiction and the withdrawal was very real. I was also only vaping 3% liquid at the end. But I needed it… first thing I’d do in the morning is vape until I didn’t feel anxious and shitty anymore. Juul uses a nicotine salt which is more easily absorbed. It spikes nicotine levels in much the same way cigarette smoking does. Which means it is probably addictive in the same way cigarettes are. They say each pod is the equivalent to 200 puffs (or a pack of cigarettes). Interestingly, most of the regular users use about one pod a day.

Is it a public health nightmare? I’m not sure. If we, as a society, don’t want people to be addicted to drugs, then yes, start the moral panic it is a nightmare. Being addicted to nicotine kind of sucks if you can’t get your fix but isn’t the worse addiction someone can have. Since our society favours prohibition, we are moving toward regulating vaping in the same way that cigarettes are regulated, at least in Canada we are. But as far as science can tell us right now, it is less bad for teens to be juuling than picking up a pack-a-day smoking habit. What people are arguing is that many of these people that are juuling would have never smoked. This is likely true. But to me it is a false equivalent. We know smoking kills. We know what juuling likely leads to a pretty strong nicotine addiction is some but not all people, just like cigarettes. I think the biggest concern is the effect on the brain development of teenagers and perhaps that is where the hyperbole in these articles come from, despite the fact that brain development is only briefly mentioned in most of the news articles that I read.

Based on some of the research in this field, the effect of nicotine on the developing brain, is the greatest cause for concern with teen users. To quote this study:

The prefrontal cortex, the brain area responsible for executive functions and attention performance, is one of the last brain areas to mature and is still in the process of developing during adolescence. This places the adolescent brain in a vulnerable state of imbalance, susceptible to the influence of psychoactive substances such as nicotine. In prefrontal networks nicotine modulates information processing on multiple levels by activating and desensitizing nicotine receptors on different cell types and in this way affects cognition. The adolescent brain is particularly sensitive to the effects of nicotine. Studies in human subjects indicate that smoking during adolescence increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment in later life. In addition, adolescent smokers suffer from attention deficits, which aggravate with the years of smoking.

So perhaps that is a nightmare. The more I read about brain development, the more certain I feel that I can’t think myself out of my fetish. I developed it and a liking for nicotine when my brain was in the process of developing.

The problem is: how do you communicate the risks without being moralizing or unintentionally making it more attractive?

Regardless, I’m finding watching this play out fascinating. Especially this quote from the New Yorker:

Leslie had also noticed “a weird paradox,” she said. “You’re expected to Juul, but you’re expected to not depend on it. If you’re cool, then you Juul with other people, and you post about it, so everyone will see that you’re social and ironic and funny. But, if you’re addicted, you go off by yourself and Juul because you need it, and everyone knows.”

Addiction is highly stigmatized in our culture. To me, the attitude above is how our society encourages drinking. Drink, but not too much and only socially and if you happen to become dependent hide away, don’t let anyone know that you sometimes drink alone or in the morning.

I’ll bet a lot of these Juul users are using way more than their friends think or know. I used to vape in bathroom because I didn’t want my friends to know how addicted I was.

Nobody stealth drinks coffee because caffeine addiction is accepted by society.

I think to help people with addictions you need to destigmatize being addicted. Stigma only drives people further into isolation.

Juuling is the new smoking. If it weren’t, there wouldn’t be all these PSA style videos about it filled with hyperbole. Filled with, “We don’t really know what the long term health effects are going to be…” which to be fair, is totally true. We don’t know.

Here are those videos if you are interested:

and:

Also, no need to worry, I think this next gen will have Juuling fetishes instead of smoking fetishes:

So if you come across this because you searched for Juul stuff, welcome to my weird corner of the internets.

If you are addicted, I get it. I’ve been addicted to the milder non-salted nicotine and I found it really hard to quit. But it is possible… All the nicotine salt does is make the buzz better which I know has probably all but disappeared for you if you were as addicted as I was. I literally could vape all day and all it would do is return me to normal, which I now call nicotine normal because it is slightly different than my baseline is off the stuff.

If you are happy Juuling, I’m fairly confident it is better for you than smoking. If you aren’t happy, I suggest cold turkey. I found I could always rationalize stepping the nicotine content back up or vaping more. Cold turkey was like ripping a band-aid off. I felt weird and sucked for awhile but after a certain point withdrawal actually doesn’t feel worse and eventually you start feeling better. If you do choose to gradually wean yourself off, I’d start by getting a vape that you can refill with any juice. This allows you more control over your use and nicotine levels.

I’m finding the parallels between this and smoking fascinating. It is almost like the pharmacology of the drug affects the behaviour. Because many of these Juulers don’t remember when you could smoke inside or a time when smoking was cool. Juuling mirrors my exact high school experience with smoking. At my first school, 50% of students smoked regularly. Rumour was, we had the highest teen smoking rate in the country. The only difference being that potentially more people are trying Juul because they perceive it to be less bad than smoking.

The worse part is my nicotine fiend brain that mostly lies dormant kind of wants to experience “the Juul rush”. Alas, I think I’ll leave that to the kids.

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Feeling like myself again

Other than a pretty intense craving post lunch yesterday, I felt like my non-nicotine dependant self again later yesterday and all day today.

I read somewhere that green tea was good for people quitting and drank a significant amount yesterday and a bit today. It seemed to given me the alert calm my body and mind were looking for.

It is almost like all the bad stuff (withdrawal) didn’t happen. Which I swear sets my brain up to smoke again in the future.

Until then, I’ll enjoy the peace of not needing to smoke. I suspect if I had smoked regularly as a younger person, by brain would like nicotine normal better. But I definitely prefer how I feel without…

Until my next smoking adventure…

Ok, one more, just to be sure

I smoked again today. This will actually be my last for a bit because I threw the last four cigarettes in the pack in the garbage. One- they were starting to go stale and two- smoking today after a 48 hour hiatus, even though I had an intense craving to do so, didn’t feel great. It felt ok. I recorded a video, but deleted it because I look tired and haggered in the video. I found the sight of myself smoking didn’t live up to the fantasy. It never does.

Also, sneaking a cigarette in my backyard is so not my fantasy. I hate closet smoking. I hate sneaking around. I think part of what made smoking so fun on my trip is that I was doing it openly. People probably thought I was a regular smoker, except when we were sharing cigarettes. But I don’t want that full time. It was fun in the short term, but I’ve smoked enough in the past 8 days to tire of it.

Not surprisingly, my cravings have all but disappeared since throwing the pack out. The psychological burden of keeping the cigarettes was the ponderance: Maybe I’ll smoke one more, finish the pack, nobody has to know. Turns out I don’t actually want the last 4 but I probably would have smoked them because I had them.

Hopefully I’ll have some time to work on my fiction. My Fiction that does live up to my fantasies. Until next time happy smoking or not, whatever you choose.

One Last Cigarette

I had one last cigarette yesterday. It temporarily made me feel as good as can be expected. Initially, I didn’t think the Marlboro Ice were super strong, certainly no light cigarette, but there is something in them, it must be an additive that seems to intensify withdrawal. I’ve heard Marlboros have a decent level of free base nicotine so maybe it was that since my symptoms were classic nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

About 3.5 hours later, I wanted another. By 5.5 hours later I had a splitting headache and a hunger food couldn’t cure. I was feeling so shitty, I almost said f-it to go have a smoke outside my friend’s house but I didn’t.

Feeling shitty eventually turned into, I want to go back to not needing cigarettes to not feel shitty. So I told my husband I needed some of my anti-stress pill- a supplement called L-theonine that I’ve found affective in the past for anxiety and some melatonin to help me sleep since I’ve been sleeping shitty since dabbling in smoking again. Both my husband and I were super tired so I took one of each and I was sleeping like a baby by 10 pm. Got a full 8 hours of sleep so my withdrawal symptoms today are less by virtue that I’m not tired. I suspect I’ll feel even better by tomorrow as the feeling of emptiness and anxiety.

But I can honestly say I really enjoyed the experience. It was the first time I was able to smoke freely without worrying about who would catch me or smell me.

I also noticed something interesting while I was smoking this past week or so. I think it is the feeling that brings me back over and over again that I find fades into dullness as I get more tolerant. It was the feeling I got when I’d initially inhaled back when I was 17. It would typically come towards the end of the cigarette (or half cigarette) and it was like everything is the world would sharpen and come into intense focus combined with a feeling of intense calm and euphoria. I noticed smoking beyond this point was pointless and usually led to nausea. When I was vaping, I got this feeling at the beginning, but became so tolerant the feeling almost never came. This magic zone is often where I’d feel most aroused as well.

So if you wonder why I’d chance the self inflicted torture that is withdrawal, it is that blissful feeling, the one that brings the world into sharp focus that lasts mere seconds. It seems kind of stupid when I write it down, but there it is.

Will I smoke again? I have no doubt. As terrible as it is for me, the amount I smoke in a year isn’t really significant. Maybe one day I’ll give up entirely. Will I smoke the last 5 cigarettes from that pack? Right now I say no, because I’m just starting to feel better again. But I’m off from work next week, so who knows. If I don’t post again, you’ll know I chose not to. Until next time…

The Price of Pleasure

I had my last cigarette of my trip this morning at 6 am. We each smoked a whole one because we had lots left. I’m feeling the withdrawal now. Honestly, it isn’t as bad as when I quit vaping as I was smoking very little, usually three times a day, first two times half a cigarette, always ending the day with a whole one. I tried to give the last of the cigarettes to my friend to give to our co-worker, but she wouldn’t take them. So technically I have six left and a whole week off. Damn…

I probably should just throw them out. By Monday 6 am, it will have been 72 hours since last cigarette, the nicotine gone from my system and I’ll basically be back to not smoking again very easily.

But my fetish brain and my nicotine addict brain doesn’t want the cigarettes to go to waste.

My fetish brain really wants to record what I look like smoking, amongst other things.

My addict brain would do anything to keep nicotine in my system at this point.

Regardless of which road I choose, I’m reminded just of how powerful nicotine is and also how powerful my fetish is. I was constantly aroused on my trip. Heck, the thought of being in withdrawal right now kind of gets me going. I realized that is kind of messed up, but it totally distracts from the uncomfortable feeling in my lungs and body.

More to come next week. At the very least, I think my smoking excursion has put me in the right mindset to work on the story that a few of you are eager to have me finish.

Happy smoking!

A smoking excursion…

I’m currently at a week long conference for work with my fellow occasional closet smoking co-worker. Needless to say, it was always the plan to buy and share a pack this week and I’m enjoying it thoroughly. It is day three of the conference. The first night we only split one cigarette, the next day we shared two and each had a whole one in the evening and we repeated the same smoking today. My body remembers quickly how to respond and I’m already feeling regular urges to respond.

In the past, I would have found these alarming or fear inducing. But now I simply see cravings as the associated cost of indulging and I honor them willingly. My coworker seems to want to smoke on a similar schedule which is nice.

We chatted about how neither of us wants to return to smoking with any regularity, but enjoy indulging a few times a year.

We are also enjoying smoking menthols, something we can no longer buy in Canada. We chose Marlboro Ice, the new Marlboros in the resealable pack. We both find them to be a nice, easy to smoke cigarette.

Tonight’s cigarette was pure bliss. I find during these indulgent days where I smoke somewhat regularly for a few days, the cigarettes toward the end of the week are always better because not only do I still get a bit of a buzz due to lack of tolerance, but I start to crave more strongly and the cigarette hits the spot.

One more full day of smoking. I’m not sure if we will smoke on Friday at all since it is our travel day and it would probably be best not to as we will both be going back to our non-smoking lives soon. For now, I will just smoke em’ while I got them.

Letting go of Control

At first I was going to entitle this post ‘Planned Indulgence’ but that implies that I am actively controlling my smoking, which I am not. What I really have experienced since quitting vaping is a complete mindset shift around smoking. I’ve smoked a few times since I’ve last blogged about it. Before Christmas, I shared two cigarettes on two different days at lunch at work with my co-worker. On New Year’s eve, I smoked one on my own given to me by my brother-in-law’s girlfriend. Most recently, I shared cigarettes with her, maybe a total of 6 times over three days (I lost count because I’m not keeping track). I really enjoyed smoking over the past three days, but not enough to run out and get my own pack and commit to doing it regularly.

Three days, was just enough to become tolerant enough again to enjoy it. It was also enough to start feeling slight physical cravings again. Nothing like the pain of withdrawal when I quit vaping cold turkey, but enough to remind me of the price of regular use. Enough to remind me what I don’t like about regular use. I get how people get sucked back into regular use pretty quickly after relapsing when they have quit. The draw of making that uncomfortable feeling go away so easily is attractive.

Chatting with my co-worker who smokes occasionally too, she says she wants to quit entirely one day. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel that way about smoking. But my mindset shift is this: cigarettes are not off limits, if I want to smoke, I can. 95% of the time, I don’t want to anymore. Maybe, one day, that percentage will shift to 100% of the time. As I listen to my body and become more attuned to it, I have a feeling that the answer will start being no more often. For me, the allure of smoking comes from making it forbidden. I also find the loss of control from addiction attractive in a weird way. It is like my mind has fetishized a binge-restrict cycle, so the only way to stop the cycle is to give up the control or the illusion of control. Because I have changed my mindset and don’t view smoking as something super forbidden any more, I don’t find it as arousing to smoke anymore.

I’ve been listening to a lot of a podcast called Food Psych- By Christy Harrison. My issues with food come down to this same idea of control and I’ve been working on giving up control recently. Because when some foods are deemed bad or forbidden and you restrict your eating of said foods or force yourself to eat in a particular way, you set up a restrict-binge cycle where the next time you access to said food, you overeat or binge on it. I gained some weight since I stopped the food tracking insanity. I wasn’t in a good place with it. I was obsessive. I felt anxiety about eating foods that weren’t on my plan or that would have me go over my carb grams for the day. I’m done with dieting and going back and forth between restricting and overeating. I’m working on changing my mindset, listening to my body. No foods are off limits. At this conference I go to, I normally end up overeating. For the first time, I didn’t feel like I didn’t this year, minus one meal where I totally ate too much dessert. Normally, this would cause me to restrict the next day, but no more. I enjoyed the dessert. I enjoyed smoking. I’m not going to beat myself up over what probably amounts to a few hundred extra calories or few cigarettes over the past three days.

But I’ve noticed that the same psychological craving that would make smoking irresistible is what drives me to overeat or not be able to stop eating despite being full. I have control issues and learning to let go is the only way I will find peace with food. So far I’ve noticed that I feel less pressure to finish my plate (or a cigarette) when I’m feeling done with it. In binge-restrict mindset, you finish your food (or cigarette) because you aren’t sure when you’ll have some next. I normally clean my plate regardless of how much I am enjoying my food. I’ve started leaving stuff if I am not enjoying it as much.

I’m working on loving me for who I am right now. The shape I am in right now. The choices that I make right now. The paradox of yielding my control to gain control still blows my mind, but it appears to be working.

9 years…wow!

So WordPress just notified me that it has been 9 years since I first started writing my blog.

Thanks to all of you that have been following me over the years…it seems like yesterday to me that I was deciding to document all my feeling since I felt fairly alone.

The internet is an amazing place that has allowed me to connect with others that were going through the same thing. I owe my peace of mind to the people that commented and others I’ve met along the way that have helped me get here.

Thanks again and here is to many more years blogging!

Something about Weddings

I will start by saying I didn’t plan on smoking this weekend. But there is something about weddings. I have to say, I’m bolder than I used to be. My mother and father were both present at this wedding and probably both know that I smoked but I didn’t confirm or deny anything. But I was outside with the smokers for too long for it to not be suspicious.

It was my cousin’s wedding. I had a few glasses of wine and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I can’t say I really regret the decision because I actually enjoyed the cigarette more than I thought I would. Not so much that I will be running out to buy a pack, but enough that I don’t regret doing it, which depending on your perspective could be a bad thing.

I can’t quite remember how it happened. I think the thought occurred to me after a few drinks that my cousin has cigarettes and I can ask him for one later when I want one. Then I was chatting with my sister and she mentioned finding someone to bum a cigarette off of (as she also smokes occasionally) and I mentioned that our cousin has cigarettes and we were off to find him. He was outside smoking, of course. She didn’t want a whole one and neither did I, so we split one. They were Belmont Blues and I actually thought they were pretty good for a regular (not menthol) cigarette.

We stood outside for a long time socializing with ‘the smokers’ of which there were only two or three. There were about 4 people outside with us not smoking just socializing because it was hot in the hall.

Prior to the wedding, my cousin had asked me if I wanted to ‘get baked’ at the wedding. Me, wanting to hide my darker side from my parents, said only if I can do so without getting caught, so my cousin just dropped the plan. But someone at the wedding had some weed and this was noted by my cousin’s wife and suddenly I was outside smoking weed with the best man. By smoking weed I had one hit and apparently that was enough for one of the best highs I’ve had since the first time I smoked weed in university. I’m an opportunistic pot smoker. Of the 7 times I’ve smoked weed in my life, I’ve had three great experiences, two meh, why do people even bother experiences and one- OMG I’m dying and never doing this again experience. Obviously, I’ve smoked twice since my awful, never again experience. I’m looking forward to legalization, not because I think I’m going to go out and smoke more, but because when I do decide to smoke, it will be nice knowing what I am getting. The last two times have been since people have been able to get medicinal grade stuff and let me tell you, it makes a difference.

This was the first time I’ve smoked pot and experienced distorted time perception. I noted it as I looked at my watch when I said goodbye to the bride and then again 20 minutes later and honestly it felt like I had said goodbye to her hours ago. There is more on how they think marijuana distorts time perception here. One thing the article mentions is that if a user is having a bad trip, this side-effect makes the trip even worse. Luckily I was having a great time and didn’t mind the effect. To me, it seemed like everyone who had smoked weed was in one ‘time-zone’ and the others, in a different time-zone. So time was passing differently for us, my brain rationalized, because we were high. The other effect that was particularly noticeable this time is I felt very heavy but also that the heaviness felt awesome, like almost like a heavy blanket is calming. This makes me want to get a weighted blanket to recreate the experience sober.

All and all, I had a great time at the wedding. Do I want to smoke, drink or get high all the time? No. But it reminded me of the old quote, Moderation in all things, including moderation. And oddly, it has made me more motivated to seek out the positive things in my life that I’ve kind of let slip in the past couple of months. Like exercise and meditation. I need to do more of those because they naturally give me some of what I experienced in my debaucherous weekend. Until next time…

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