@ilegal blogs

Vaping, not smoking

A blog about a different type of technology this time. One that’s had a very profound impact on me: the electronic cigarette


I stopped smoking and began vaping on Saturday 6th April 2013, when a good quality electronic cigarette (‘ecig’ or ‘ecigarette’) I had ordered arrived in the post. I haven’t looked back. I am much fitter, healthier and feel considerably better all round compared to when I was smoking. It was relatively easy to do I’d say. Yes, it required a desire and conviction, but nothing like the level I thought it might. It has also saved me a significant amount of money and I am no longer a creature of ritualised habit – a cigarette at the bus stop, outside the shop, immediately after a meal (and before) or when in any kind of stressful situation or when needing to concentrate

After smoking fairly heavily for over 20 years, I am now something I thought I would never be: a non-smoker. Statistically speaking at least, my likely lifespan increased significantly on the 6th April this year

There are approximately 1.3 million vapers in the UK (compared to 9 million tobacco smokers) and this number has been growing exponentially. The vaping sphere is a bit of an unknown to outsiders and comments such as “It’s still smoking though isn’t it, you’re still blowing smoke out” are understandably common (and wrong). Here’s my take:

  • there is no tar in ecigarettes, which clogs up your lungs and kills you
  • e-cigarettes do not contain the thousands of toxic chemicals present when inhaling tobacco smoke, which will kill you
  • nicotine (usually present in ecigarettes) is a stimulant, much the same as coffee or tea and has comparable effects
  • you can vary the nicotine strength of your ecigarette to suit or you can leave it out entirely
  • you can reduce the strength over time to wean yourself off nicotine altogether (which is what I am doing)
  • you are not blowing out smoke – it’s vaporised liquid, a steam/vapour
  • it doesn’t smell unpleasant, in fact quite the opposite
  • there is no known secondary inhalation risk from vaping as there is in passive tobacco smoking
  • my worst case scenario is that I will be vaping for the rest of my life as opposed to dying from smoking tobacco

What is vaping?

Vaping is a physical alternative to smoking that provides you with comparable effects to smoking tobacco but with vastly reduced risks to your own health and the health of those around you. The vapour you inhale is the product of combusting liquid commonly referred to as ‘juice’ or ‘e-liquid’ within an ecigarette device. The inhaled vapour contains the following, in varying degrees:

  • nicotine solution in varying strengths
  • flavouring
  • diluents: this makes up the bulk of the juice – propylene glycol (PG) and/or vegetable glycerin (VG). The higher the concentration of PG the stronger the throat hit, the more VG the more vapour produced
  • distilled water may occasionally be present too

You would usually buy e-liquid already made up but you can easily make your own by buying the constituent parts and mixing it up yourself if you want to save money and/or enjoy experimenting. It’s worth stressing however, that nicotine is poisonous and should be treated with care, especially in its highly concentrated – before diluting it – form

Why is it so effective at stopping people smoking?

My view is that common nicotine replacement products such as gum and patches do not address the behavioural aspects of addiction to smoking. Note I said addiction “to smoking” there and not “to nicotine”. The act of vaping is physically similar to smoking, even to producing smoke-like vapour. Vapers are still free to follow the same routines as smokers as and when they choose eg going outside for a vape along with smoker friends who are going for a cigarette. In this sense it provides an effective substitute for both the behavioural and social act of smoking whilst also addressing the underlying physiological nicotine addiction

My personal experience was that when I first began vaping I continued to follow the same routines eg vaping on a morning with a cup of tea before I did anything, vaping after meals and so on. As the days and weeks went by what I found was that I just got out of the habit of following these routines. They became irrelevant, even to the extent that now if I forget to take my e-cigarette with me when I go out it’s just no big deal

I also very much enjoy vaping in a way I never experienced when smoking tobacco! It’s totally different to smoking and very pleasant, especially when you have a nice set up and are vaping a particularly nice juice

Are there health risks?

There isn’t much research available on the health risks of vaping given it is a relatively new phenomena. However, contrary to what various regulators and the big pharma and tobacco industry lobbyists would have you believe there is some, and what there is is both robust and particularly striking. If you are interested, watch the whole of the video at the end of this post, especially from this point here (YouTube video opens in a separate browser window). The video is an abridged announcement of the results (published June 25th this year) of the ECLAT Electronic Cigarette Study (“Efficiency and Safety of an Electronic Cigarette as a Tobacco Subsitute”) headed by Dr. Riccardo Pelosa from the University of Catania in Italy. Dr. Michael Siegel from the Boston University School of Public Health also discusses the implications of the study from the perspective of public health

I’m a smoker and want to give it a go, where should I start?

Good on you. The first thing I would say is don’t spend tons of money at the outset; there are countless options and things to choose from – work out what you like and what suits  you gradually – experiment. Start with a kit, something that gives you everything you need from the get go. Spending anywhere between £20 to £40 will get you a very good ecigarette kit, including USB charger, a bottle of juice and other peripherals. For reference, the first 10ml included in the kit I bought lasted me just over 10 days. Assuming a cost of £4 per 10ml, that equates to a cost to vaping of 40 pence a day, or £2.80 a full week. Compare that with what  you spend on cigarettes if you are a smoker

Where should I buy from?

It’s up to you, you could either do some research and join one of the forums out there such as Scott Bonner’s ECR and ask questions and listen to the considered advice or, you could just take a quick recommendation and get a starter kit from somewhere like Myepack, who do startlingly good deals and are well recommended in the vaping community. If i were starting out again, I’d go for something like an iTaste vv and a Protank 3 atomiser

There are loads of other shops out there but all I’d say is just be a little careful. There are lots of sharks – have a hunt around and compare/contrast. If you have some time on your hands I would also highly recommend exploring the various vaping forums – there’s some really interesting stuff going on and they’re well worth joining and getting yourself involved in the vaping community – you’ll also learn which shops to trust and how to identify which are just out there to fleece you

Good luck! I may do some follow up blogs at some point and talk in more detail about the various paraphernalia in a bit more detail, especially the mods and repairable atomisers, the vape shops (good and bad) and so on. OK, I appreciate the vast majority of my readers work in the legal profession but, it might be an interesting diversion from what we normally talk about!


I would like to dedicate this post to my beautiful five-year-old daughter, Ruby. On the 17th March this year as we were walking home together Ruby said to me that she didn’t really like me smoking and thought I should stop as it might make me “poorly” one day. I ordered my first ecigarette online the next day. Love you angel x

Press Conference: Announcement of ECLAT Study Results, June 25th 2013


8 comments on “Vaping, not smoking

  1. mayfieldmother
    July 6, 2013

    I too have had my life revolutionised by the e cigarette. My transformation also came from the worries/complaints of my children. I have tried the will power and the nicotine patches, sprays approach none of which quite replaced the psychological pleasure I got from the act of smoking…….


    • ilegal
      July 6, 2013

      Thanks! I never tried anything else myself, I was a committed and unabashed smoker. But yes, your kids have a way of getting through to you don’t they… I’m just glad ecigarettes were an option – I don’t think I would have managed at all with tabs, patches etc


  2. NickD
    July 6, 2013

    Interesting Patrick,

    As an ex-smoker I took up nicotine ‘replacement’ therapy. Good move I thought, except my addiction remains and I find myself still buying NRT products some years after I gave up actually smoking; I won’t tell you how many years ago that was – let’s just say quite a few.

    Interestingly when speaking to others who have tried NRT products they tell me much the same, they become equally addicted to the replacement as they were to the cigarettes they used to smoke. I find myself buying from different supermarkets and chemists so as to avoid the possibility of being ‘confronted’ by those well meaning (and quite correct) sales assistants who may just point out NRT products should only be used for up to 3 months. I also squeal in mild embarrassment when others ask me how my smoking cessation is going!

    I’ve come to the conclusion; my problem is in the ‘addiction’ itself.

    I do also wonder whether the NRT market knows how addictive their products are? ,but choose not to make too much of it because let’s face it there’s money to be made out of anyone’s addictive habits.


    • ilegal
      July 7, 2013

      Thanks Nick. Yes, I think this is one of the issues. Obviously, there is massive profit in the NRT business and the pharma companies have no doubt done very well financially pursuing their valiant efforts to get people to stop smoking… however, I think it’s a legitimate charge that given their understanding of addiction, and the resources they have available to them, if they are only ever addressing the addiction to the nicotine itself – as opposed to the behavioural and social aspects – then all they are doing is cashing in on being able to provide a (presumably) healthier alternative to smoking. In other words, all they have done is just reformat the means by which smokers can satisfy the addiction; they are still facilitating addiction, arguably without working to remedy it

      The big difference I see between NRT and vaping is that vaping mirrors the behavioural and social aspects of smoking from the start. By then reducing the strength of nicotine over time you can remove the physiological addiction without having to cope with the sudden shifts in habit and so on. I have reduced the strength of the eliquid I am using by half over 3 months. What I’ve found is that now that I don’t crave nicotine as much, I am not as bothered with the behavioural and social aspects of the addition either – the habits – but it was having the behavioural and social ‘props’ to begin with that allowed me to address the physiological aspect

      I’m not saying you should become a vaper, by any means, but it might be worth thinking about how your own personal experience and addiction has developed and whether addressing the social and behavioural aspects might allow you to tackle the phsyiological ones more easily

      The one thing that I think is heartening about all this is that we are openly talking about our ‘addiction’. That has to be a step in the right direction in itself!


  3. Thanks. This fits exactly with my experience of ecigs.


  4. What is Vaping
    March 18, 2014

    The issue is addiction. I found that Vaping is a much safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. Plus I feel so much better and healthier!


  5. Katie
    October 26, 2017

    Great article! I too made the switch from smoking to vaping almost two years ago now and I feel much better. I only get tired of uninformed people who would say that I still smoke and I can explain over and over that I just don’t. Next time I hear something like this I’m going to redirect them to your article. So thank you for writing it! One question though. What ecig starter kit would you recommend? My daughter is finally considering switching too and I wanted to buy one for her for Christmas. I personally started with the Vapour2 one and it was a good one but second opinion never hurts. Cheers.


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