For those who experienced the yellow-fingered 1990s, the rise of vaping seems bewildering. The success of the anti-smoking lobby – and the unequivocal science that backed it – seemed to make the nicotine resurgence impossible.
Smoking became an issue for older generations. But some of the tools that have been developed to help older smokers quit are increasingly becoming a problem for young people. (Although nicotine and nicotine products are prohibited for sale to under 18s.)
This is the backdrop against which William Porter, known for his achievements, stands alcohol explained series, decided to write That naked ghost: nicotine with Annie Grace, another well-known author on alcohol addiction.
As a recent University College London study reported that 15 percent of British 18-year-olds used e-cigarettes in January this year (up from 11 percent last year), Porter and Grace ask what makes nicotine attractive today and how a habit can be broken addiction becomes .
Both authors are inspired by Allen Carr, the legendary anti-smoking evangelist whose Easy way Books made millions quit in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
And like Carr’s work, the authors aren’t afraid to use the double-barrelled language of addiction as they see fit. Given the success of her earlier works, there is no doubt that many readers turn to her books for genuine advice and guidance.
And that’s what That naked ghost Offers, more workbook than treatise, and aimed squarely at those who want to give up. The book is riddled with thought experiments, and each chapter is flanked by action points. It’s not for the mediocre.
“We will deconstruct the entire phenomenon of smoking, vaping, chewing and dipping,” they write. “We’re going to break this down into its component parts and examine each of those parts so that in the end you have all the information you need to make one simple decision: how to move forward in your relationship with nicotine.
“You can make a decision based on common sense and knowledge rather than fear. After all, for many people, it is fear that drives them to smoke; fear that if they quit, their life will never be the same; that smoking is such an integral part of who they are that if they quit, they will lose part of their character.”
Porter (aka Sam Watts – he wrote his first book under a pseudonym, assuming it was standard practice) is a dedicated interviewee. Softly spoken and thoughtful, his day job is a solicitor in The City – the slang term for London’s high finance industry. Married with two children, his life is a reflection of bourgeois aspirations.
But although it’s been a decade since he’s had a drink or a cigarette, he says he understands how a stressful day at work or as a parent can throw people back into bad habits.
“My children are nine and eleven years old and my wife also works. You’re having bad days at work, the kids are acting up, you’re fighting with your partner. People need coping mechanisms,” he says.
“You could have a few beers, puff a vape or smoke a cigarette, go running, go to the gym or read a book. I used to smoke or drink. Now I take time to exercise, I take time to read. Now I sleep better, I feel better. Because I didn’t just give up, I got healthier.
“And that’s the thing about giving up something. People can limp from vice to vice, abstain from alcohol, then smoke too much, quit smoking, then overeat – it’s really important to get to the root of the impulse.”
It was his children that partially inspired his decision to start writing about nicotine addiction again. He was a teenager himself when he first explored drinking and smoking.
“It’s all very nice to say ‘vaping is bad for you’ but the example of other people doing it is a powerful message and teenagers are curious. It’s a very difficult message to communicate once something has reached a critical mass of popularity.”
It’s hard to dispute the popularity of vaporizers. In Europe, according to Statista, the market for e-cigarettes is expected to increase fivefold between 2012 and 2025 and reach almost 11 billion US dollars. According to a 14-country vaping study by Eurispes, Institute for Political, Economic and Social Studies, Ireland and the United Kingdom have the highest rate of vaping after Lithuania.
But where the over-18 market includes both ex-smokers who use vapes to quit their habit and non-smokers, most under-18s have never smoked. You are a greenfield user.
“I think the message about vaping was confused because the conversation was about the choice between smoking and vaping. And in this choice, you choose to vape. But given the choice between vaping and… nothing, what then? And we failed to have that conversation. This is the first point.
“Second, we don’t have enough long-term studies to know what the damage might be. Common sense says it’s not as harmful as smoking, but nicotine is still dangerous. I’m afraid we’ve gotten to a point as a society where we almost shrug our shoulders because it’s ‘less harmful’ than anything else.”
Porter doesn’t judge teenagers’ choices. If anything, he sympathizes with them. “My sisters were five and six years older than me and I thought they were cool. I wanted to do everything they do,” he says.
“When they were dating in their late teens, I would look at them and think, ‘This is interesting.’ At that time my friends were trying smoking and drinking and when word got around I would try it. Like all teenagers, it was horrible at first, but you put up with it because everyone does it.”
“Society has done a lot of work to communicate the dangers of smoking, drinking and underage sex. But vaping has largely gone under the radar.
The path from inquisitive teenager to financial lawyer was not exactly direct. After studying sociology at university and unable to find a clear career path, he completed a law conversion course. He then worked as a paralegal, but while well paid, he was eager for a bigger challenge.
Over Christmas he saw an advertisement for the army reservists in front of the television and signed up for the reserve parachute regiment: “I passed the selection process for the airborne troops and then did the wing (aviation) course. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I kept going. Then in 2005 I was sent to Iraq for six months.”
After he began dating his (now) wife before the tour, a settled life beckoned and he resigned from the army and returned to the law. They married in 2008 and had their first child in 2011, followed by their second a year later.
“I had quit smoking, but my drinking escalated into awkward weekend binges,” he recalls. “I read a lot of Stephen King, and one of his characters used to drink beers during baseball games but always kept a few beers when he woke up at night. So I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll try that’.
“The first time you fall asleep again. But after a while you find yourself in a cycle of drinking, sleeping, waking up and drinking, sleeping and then waking up and drinking again. You are unable to work until Monday and call in sick. Then there was a five day binge and it all fell apart.”
After “going through AA multiple times,” he gave up smoking and drinking entirely. Inspired by his commitment, friends and colleagues asked him for advice. He decided to eventually tell his story as a self-publisher alcohol explained, later become a series. Now he reflects on how his perspective has changed.
“If you had gone back and asked me, ‘What are your biggest problems?’ I would have given you a number of reasons – small kids, small house, didn’t like my job. And for all of those reasons, I thought I was drinking a lot. But because I drink, I can’t fix it, and my relationship with my wife is deteriorating.”
After giving up alcohol, he found that once insurmountable problems were no longer so daunting. “I thought, ‘Well, I don’t like my job — most people don’t.’ I will spend time and effort to get another one. My marriage isn’t perfect, but nobody has a perfect marriage, so I’ll work on it. The kids are tiring but I will go out with them more.
“As I got fitter, I began to feel more confident and resilient, and I got a better job with a decent raise. And then another one that enabled us to move. Both roles were huge leaps for me. To be honest, I can’t say that I could have done both if I had still been drinking or smoking.”
Alongside this career, he has continued to write and speak about understanding addiction. With the rise of vaping, he hopes to reach a younger audience — or their parents — at his perils.
“Society has done a lot of work to communicate the dangers of smoking, drinking and underage sex. But vaping has largely gone under the radar. There are many teenagers who will say, “I will never smoke,” but they will vape. That’s a lot of people who are likely to become addicted to nicotine. If I can help a teenager escape from that, then I’m happy.”
That naked ghost: nicotine by Annie Grace and William Porter, is available now in select bookstores nationwide and online
This Naked Mind guide to quitting
What does smoking bring?
“Smoking is an experience made up of a mixture of sensations and feelings all combined together, and most people never go through the process of breaking that experience down into its component parts and analyzing each of them.”
The allure of vaping
“When you vape, think about what you really enjoy about vaping. It really comes down to three things: taste, the feeling of the vapor entering your lungs, and the feeling you get as the nicotine enters your bloodstream. Think about what the main draw is, what is the great joy of it for you.”
To deal with stress
“We often smoke when we are stressed, when something bad is happening. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, it can just be one of those little things that happen to everyone every day and are part of human life: a fight with a friend, a difficult assignment, a problem at work. When this happens we have a cigarette to take the edge off things before we go and deal with it. We get very used to consuming to change how we feel.”
how to stop
“With addiction, it’s never the right time to stop. You need the knowledge that your body is incredibly strong, both physically and mentally. Sure, you may not be as strong as other people, but equally there are many other people who are not as strong as you. The key point here isn’t where you land on the scale, but that you’re at your best physically and mentally when you don’t smoke.”
https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/health-features/how-to-quit-smoking-and-vaping-forever-42070014.html How to quit smoking — and vaping — forever