The summer quit

’Tis not the season for smoking. A personal vaporizer, on the other hand…

If you’re a Floridian who smokes cigarettes, there’s no better time to take a serious stab at quitting than summer. You never feel more like a slave than when you’re getting up from your desk or couch or restaurant table to go outside, knowing you don’t even want to go outside, that it’s a million wet degrees and you don’t have your sunglasses and the sidewalk is full of “hot-enough-for-ya?” closet masochists “enjoying” all that moistened Florida sunshine. A cigarette outside under the blazing summer sun is never quite satisfying; it’s more like a chore, something to be checked off the list of shit that had to be done that day.

(And if you’re not sure you’re completely ready to give it up, you can always set yourself up to fail by declaring you’re just taking a summer vacation away from your habit.)

My own efforts to quit smoking have gradually grown more substantial over the last few years. My problem is simply that I still love almost everything about smoking. The way the stress seems to leave my body when I exhale the first drag. The way I can always find an entertaining conversation when I step outside to join my tribe. The way just holding a cigarette in my hand makes me feel in control, the captain of my own destiny.

Of course it’s stupid and self-defeating and gross. I know that; I’m working on it.

The desire to give up the worst things about smoking cigarettes while keeping as many of the good things about it as I can has led me to try a wide variety of e-cigarettes. They’re uniformly unsatisfying. Not because it’s impossible to look cool while pulling on a cylinder of metal and/or plastic with a fake-ass little light on the end — I’m quite comfortable in the certainty that I’ve never looked particularly cool doing anything — but because smoking an e-cigarette isn’t enough like smoking a real cigarette. It’s … thin.

A couple of months ago, I started noticing people pulling on something that didn’t make even the usual stupid half-assed attempt to resemble a cigarette — something it wasn’t, and would never be. It was something different. It was an apparatus, a sleek, modular system that looked like nothing so much as a miniature electric toothbrush from The Sharper Image, minus the bristled head.

The personal vaporizer.

I picked one up on the recommendations of several friends. It’s basically a battery connected to a tank containing a mixture of nicotine (a lot, a little or none, the level is up to you) suspended in a flavored liquid mixture of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. The difference between the personal vaporizer and the average e-cigarette is that the average e-cigarette heats a cotton batting soaked in the mixture, while a personal vaporizer employs a bigger charge, and a bigger wick, to vaporize a larger amount of the mixture more quickly.

The personal vaporizer doesn’t attempt to replicate the visual and tactile experience of smoking a cigarette. It doesn’t compete, because, honestly, nothing I’ve tried can. Rather, it offers a similar, yet obviously alternative, route to satisfying the same wants and needs.

It also offers a pull that almost approaches the thickness and “throat hit” of a drag of cigarette tobacco, and some people (read: me) appreciate the fact that it looks like a drug-delivery system from the kind of near-future sci-fi flicks that used to play on Syfy and Cinemax after prime time was over.

The FDA is as of yet undecided about the safety of personal vaporizers. Then again, cigarettes have always been legal, and we all know how safe they are. And I don’t have any illusions that adopting a sublimating novelty is the same thing as quitting smoking.

But I’ve got my novelty, and a growing desire to leave cigarettes behind. And it’s the perfect time of year for finding reasons to stay inside, where smoking isn’t allowed.

We’ll see what happens.

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