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Closet Fascination

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

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quit smoking

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!

Natural Remedies for Anxiety

I had to make a bunch of phone calls today. I hate making phone calls. This is where my social anxiety peaks. I was already feeling anxious about my Dad’s situation, but phone calls make it worse.

The following captures the pain accurately: 

Source: http://sociallyawkwardmisfit.com/post/83147191941/sociallyawkwardmisfit-com 

So I was feeling pretty anxious. Thoughts of cigarette smoking danced through my head. Instead, I went fabric shopping. Didn’t find much. Then I went tea shopping and bought a new tea as well as some of my regular varieties. Realized that, in my anxiety, I had forgotten to eat. Picked up some lunch at a local place. Still feeling pretty anxious. Thoughts of smoking return. But I know I really don’t want that. Stopped at the grocery store to pick up some herbal tea, something that helps me relax. Found some and on my way through to the tea, I went through the natural supplements aisle and noticed a supplement called L-theanine with a claim to be stress relieving.

Naturally, I was skeptical. I had never heard of it. A quick Google search, and I discovered it is an amino acid derived from green and black tea. Ok, but is actually effective. I then looked for actual research via Google scholar and apparently L-theanine is a well studied amino acid with anti-anxiety effects. I figured what the heck, the FDA approved it considering it to be not harmful nor habit forming. Worse case nothing happens or I experience the placebo effect. Best case, it is effective. So I pay the $13.99 for 30 125 mg chewable tablets. Cheaper than a bottle of e-juice or a pack of cigarettes and healthier too.  

I got home, chewed a tablet and made myself a cup of herbal tea. I wasn’t expecting to feel anything, but after about 20 minutes my anxiety seemed to dissolve. Not the rapid relief of nicotine, but three hours later, I still don’t feel anxious. It seemed to clear my mind. I suspect it would enhance meditation. Now it isn’t supposed to make you drowsy, but I suspect because it relaxed me more than I’ve been able to relax in the past four or five days, the cumulative sleep debt of the past few days was suddenly apparent and I had a nap. I plan on taking another tablet before bed and hopefully I have a better sleep than I’ve had in the past few days. 

I found another blog post that has done a great round up of primary research on L-theanine.

This amino acid might explain why I like the way tea makes me feel vs coffee. Both have caffeine, but I always feel more anxious after a cup of coffee. 

Hopefully things get better with my dad soon. I hope… 

Looking at Old YouTube Channels

I was just browsing my stats and I noticed a few people had clicked on a YouTuber I had blogged about called fusswhip. I don’t like most of the smoking videos that are on YouTube, but I always liked hers. I’m pretty sure the creeps scared her away from making videos at some point because for a long time she was just putting out regular videos, which I actually didn’t mind.

Anyhow… fusswhip, like myself, doesn’t smoke anymore. Her most recent video was published about 11 months ago and she sort of teases the audience before bringing out her vape pen. I thought the video was cute and the comments she got were actually mostly nice. Her videos are pretty random overall.

If you want to see that video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkOUFzD1loo

Tomorrow is day 20… I think I’m going to make it to 30 days no problem.

 

Why Start?

Many of you might be asking why I started if I’m considering quitting. Why take the plunge at all?

If you’ve followed this for awhile, you know that I have a history of being drawn to smoking. So much so that I end up obsessively thinking about giving in and subsequently loathing myself for giving in. And the cycle repeats…

I couldn’t give in entirely to smoking for many reasons so vaping seemed like a good way of giving in, having the experience of being a “smoker” that I so desired, without the emotional baggage I had linked with smoking. And it worked. I’ve had the experience of being very physically dependant on nicotine. I got to vape at a frequency that I never would have allowed myself to smoke at even if I had given in because I would constantly been counting and regulating my consumption.

I’ll be honest, at the height of my physical dependence, I was a little worried about the rabbit hole I had dived head first into. I was waking up in the middle of the night in withdrawal (although I wouldn’t let myself give in) and I wasn’t sleeping well. Slowly, my body told me that it wasn’t sustainable and I weaned myself down from 6 mg to 3 mg. My cravings lessened in intensity and frequency and I felt better at a lower consumption level overall. I am sleeping through the night now and don’t need to vape upon waking.

But the best side effect of this trip down the rabbit hole is that I feel free of cigarettes. Vaping is now what is coupled with pleasure in my mind and while it is still up in the air whether I quit or not, I’ll be happy either way.

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