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Closet Fascination

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

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addiction

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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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!

150 days…already?

To be honest, I feel like I quit vaping nicotine, recently. 150 days it turns out is 4 months and 28 days so almost 5 months. 5 months is almost half a year. What? Where did the time go?

Thoughts of using again pop into my head periodically, but quickly dissipate. I think I will deal with those types of thoughts for the rest of my life. Or at least as long as I find smoking sexually attractive. I have enough other ways to deal with anxiety that my anxiety no longer triggers cravings for nicotine.

Also- I think this is the longest I’ve gone sans tobacco in a very long time. I guess only time will tell. The hardest social situation smoking wise I will have to face is still 5 months away. The conference I attend every year for work. If my work friend isn’t smoking, it will be easy. We will not smoke/vape together. I likely will bring my vaping gear, load up with nicotine-free juice and vape. Of all things, I think it will make a difference being able to ‘join in’ without actually ‘joining in’.

I have another goal for that conference. I normally get entirely too drunk. Then I spend the next day too hungover and I don’t enjoy the conference speakers. My goal for next year is to not exceed three drinks over the course of each evening. So a total of 6 drinks total… I think is is reasonable, it will just take some planning. My downfall last year was free wine at dinner and buying $10 worth of twonie bar tickets. So no drinks at dinner and I am going to only bring enough money to buy two drinks. Reasoning: you normally win or get drinks from co-workers over the course of the evening. Three drinks is my upper limit recently without feeling shitty the next day. My tolerance has way decreased since I’ve started moderating. Not to mention, I feel better the next day.

Just some random things I’ve been thinking about. Because most days I don’t have cravings anymore. Most days are exactly like before I started using nicotine regularly. But special events have always been when I’ve engaged in smoking and/or excessive drinking and this conference is literally where I started my pattern of more frequent, than everyday smoking. I teach relapse prevention and I teach my students to have a plan to prevent relapse. So I’m working on the plan… it isn’t perfect yet, but I guess I have 5 more months to perfect it. 

Day 30: Vaping is the Future

In the Poisonous Vaping Debate, Are Anti-Smoking Groups the New Big Tobacco? – http://wp.me/p4uyBp-HJ

Great article on the Vaping Debate. I’ll admit, I was scared to try vaping because of the ambiguity presented in the media but I’m glad I did. It literally changed my life and allowed me to work through many of my issues with smoking.

Vaping is what makes me confident that I don’t have to go back to using nicotine if I don’t want to. It gives me a way to ‘smoke’ without being addicted. To be honest, I haven’t vaped since Sunday morning. It is nice not needing to vape.

I’ve been thinking of where I might go from here. I find blogging therapeutic and I don’t feel like I want to start a new blog. I mean I’ve tried in the past and always come back to this one. All the weird fetishy stuff might discourage some from reading but to be honest it is where I’ve come from and part of who I am.

So I don’t think I’ll be posting every day from now on but on topics that are of interest to me, smoking related or otherwise. I already have some ideas for posts.

Excited for what the future brings. I started day one of my next challenge: get back into shape. Did a 15 minute run and I’m soooo slow. I guess that is what I get for my slacking.  Until next time…

Day 24: A New Hope

While today had some ups and  downs, on the whole I felt the most stable and happy that I have felt in a few days. Perhaps it is the weight of having phoned my father is off my shoulders. Perhaps it is the vitamins recommended for PMS that I’ve started taking.

Cravings were back today as well as relapse fantasies. These don’t necessarily mean anything as I’ve had these sorts of fantasies since I was very young. Only they were just fantasies before, not relapse fantasies. As bad as it sounds, it is comforting they are back as they are part of my “non-nicotine” normal. They have changed in a way too. In the past, I felt compelled to act on the fantasies. Buy cigarettes. Smoke. I actually had the same fantasies when I was vaping. Fantasies where I smoke instead of vape. Never once did I have the urge to act on them. I think what I’ve realized is that those fantasies are sexual and have nothing to do with wanting or even needing to smoke.

I sometimes will start thinking of where this fetish might have come from. Today I noticed that my mom talks about smoking more than most people. Today it came up twice in a conversation that I was having with her. The first story she told me was about an 80 year old woman at the senior’s centre and how to look at her you’d never suspect she smokes. I said ‘You can’t really tell who smokes or not by their look. Lots of people smoke that you’d find surprising.’ Next, she started telling me a story about how the 50 year old man that she used to work for started smoking. Apparently he was 12, had a train ticket for the smoking car on the train. Was scared they would kick him out if he wasn’t smoking so he bought a pack and started right then and there.

I only find it suspicious because most people don’t just talk about these things. I love hearing how people started, but I always feel creepy asking. Anyhow, I’m not suggesting my mom has a smoking fetish, but more that she is fascinated by people that smoke. I mean, she used to smoke, quit when I was three. I’m probably just ultra sensitive to this topic and it is nothing.

Anyhow, here is to a good day and hopefully another good one tomorrow.

Day 23: Mostly Down Still

I was down again today. My husband threatened to spike my drink with nicotine today. He was just joking, but he says it is hard for him to see me sad. I told him I needed to give this at least 3 more weeks and if my mood still hasn’t corrected itself, I would see at doctor about it.

I got the courage to phone my Dad tonight. He is Bipolar and was hospitalized again. He still sounded pretty manic to me on the phone. Increasingly, as he has gotten older, he lacks insight into how he is doing. Actually, he has great insight into his illness when he is depressed but when he is manic he thinks he can do it all. It is hard for me to listen to his plans because there is no way he can do the things that he thinks he can do at his age. That is all I did today: listen to him rant and tell me about all of his plans. If his plans didn’t involve purchasing expensive vehicles or spending all his money when he retired, it might not be so bad. Regardless, he was happy to hear from me and I felt better having talked to him.

Anyhow, I still didn’t have any cravings today despite feeling down. The closest thing were thoughts considering going back to vaping. These were passing and not the same as the obsessive thoughts/cravings that used to appear.

Until tomorrow…

Day 22: Not Myself

Today started OK but as it went on, my mood dipped down and then down again. My husband, who doesn’t like talking about emotions or what not, confronted me about it on our drive home.

He said, “What is up with you? You aren’t your normal bubbly happy self?”

I got defensive and insisted there was nothing wrong. I mean there is nothing wrong. Or at least there shouldn’t be.

He asked me, “Is this about your Dad?”

I figure it might be. I actually feel like a shit human being for how I am dealing with my father’s situation right now. It feels like that is part of it. I really don’t want to get into that situation on here.

The thing is, as selfish as it is, I feel barely capable of taking care of myself right now. I think I’m mildly depressed. I don’t have dark thoughts like I did in my teens, but I feel blah, like I’m only doing things because I know I should. Today, I oscillated between this blah feeling and weepy.

The positive in all this: no cravings? Or at least I’m taking it as a positive. The alternative is that I’m more depressed than I think I am and no cravings means I’ve lost total interest in something I used to enjoy.

Until tomorrow…

Day 20: No Craving Day!

They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. I’d say depending on the habit sometimes it takes longer. That said: today I have had zero cravings. I was even in the company of smokers and not once did I long for a cigarette. Nor did I long to vape nicotine laced vapor into my lungs.

It has been a long time since I’ve felt this way. No seriously. I remember longing to smoke from a very young age. A feeling that would often present itself when I was around smokers. The only smoker that couldn’t conjure this feeling in me was my father.

I don’t need to smoke to feel happy.

I don’t need to use nicotine to feel happy.

I can handle my ups and downs without nicotine.

I no longer feel like a non-smoker trapped in a smoker’s body. I am a smoker. I am a vaper. I am a nicotine fiend. I think I will always be all of these things, but I’ve realized I don’t have to be doing any of them actively to have a satisfying fulfilled life.

I found a draft called “Reasons to Quit” dated to May 2009. I never posted it, I think because I wasn’t ready to be done. Funny, I look back at my reasons to quit and they were good but I could tell I wasn’t convinced. Even though I knew they were true I hadn’t really experienced enough to not want to regular smoke, even though I knew that my reason was rational. I mean I had smoked 4 cigarettes over three days and felt one physical craving and decided to quit. Reading what I wrote and published, my ‘quit’ actually was a lesser version of what I just put myself through recently. My body is apparently sensitive enough to feel the hooks of addiction very quickly.

This time I’m armed with months of nicotine use experience to draw on and the fact that vaping actually has ruined smoking cigarettes for me.

In  my old post I was pretty dramatic, wanting to have a funeral for the cigarettes, for their loss from my life. I no longer feel that sense of loss, like I’m giving up a best friend. I feel now like I got to have my good times, I had some bad times and just like growing out of something I feel as though I’ve grown out of it.

Lastly, in my 7 year old entry, I wrote about what I will miss about smoking:

1) The feeling of inhaling, exhaling- breathing fire, blowing the smoke into beautiful plumes.

2) Instant turn-on.

3) The good effects of nicotine… because let’s face it, the drug is not all bad.

I’ll be honest, these are all the things that brought me back again and again. This time, I think nicotine vaping has armed me with a solution, at least for the first two. By the end, number 2 wasn’t happening anymore anyways which is exactly what I predicted. But vaping gives me the feelings of 1) without the fire, which is okay because I’ve grown to like it better. And 9 months of using nicotine, had me build tolerance to the point of the good effects of nicotine becoming mundane to me. So while my brain sometimes tries to trick me by whispering, “But it will be good again, now that you’ve stopped using for a time.” I counter it with, yes but it isn’t worth it.

As it becomes easier and easier to live life nicotine free, I’m going to start working on my other goals.

I’m just 10 days shy of 30 days. If you are just starting, it gets easier- just take those first few  days, 1 hour at a time, one day at a time. While the cravings seem practically unbearable at first, you’ll know you getting to the right place when you start to feel calm without smoking or using. After that, it becomes much easier and it literally is all in your head.

Day 15: Getting the hang of this

I suppose there will be good days and bad days. Today, was a good day. I’ve discovered I really like vaping while I drive. It is my only habituated situational cue that hasn’t dissipated. I don’t get a craving so much as a light urge that I could ignore, but I figure no reason to deprive myself of the nicotine-free vapor. It scratches that behavioural and sometimes psychological itch I have.

I suspect it will would be harder to quit if:
1. I had started smoking regularly younger as I think the habits would be even more engrained.

2. If I hadn’t gradually reduced my nicotine consumption and done cold turkey straight from 6 or 9 mg. When I first switched to 3 mg, I felt weird but I got used to it.

I honestly think that with proper motivation, vaping is an excellent way to quit. For me, it was an excellent way to try on “what regular smoking might feel like” without actually smoking.

I’m still trying to work out some of my fetishy feelings around smoking. I’ve come to accept that they will always be there, in one way or another. I’ve just learned that I don’t need to engage in using nicotine every day to satisfy it.

I still wonder if I’ll be able to have an occasional pipe or cigar like I did before. I’m not even close to willing to try at this point but I suspect I’ll figure that I can one day and do it. Pipe smoking has never had that habitual draw for me but I suspect I should be prepare for rebound cravings should I go there. I also find, as long as I don’t inhale, I’m good. Right now this last paragraph currently reads like pure addict rationalization but I can’t help but wonder.

Anyhow those are my day 15 thoughts. If you are reading this and just beginning your quit, I can tell you the first few days are the worst. It gets better, so keep at it!

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