I started smoking at 13.
I hated the taste but thought it made me look cool, rebellious and grown up. My parents smoked and when they occasionally caught me they were upset but the punishment was light.
From a very early age I was always an athlete. I backpacked for days and played football, baseball, racquetball. I lifted weights, raced dirt bikes and had very physical jobs, all while smoking. I was a perfectionist and in the back of my mind I always knew I'd quit smoking someday. I kept smoking through my 20's and tried to quit a many times unsuccessfully. I set a hard goal of quitting on my 30th birthday. This was something I was sure I could do because what I put my mind to got accomplished, willpower was never lacking.
On my 30th birthday I quit, cold turkey. I was extremely irritable and my fiancé, supportive at first, said after 6 months "smoke already your miserable." I do not blame her. I was craving cigarette's and no fun to live with, smoking calmed my type A personality. I started smoking again. I felt pathetic for being so weak.
I continued to be an athlete and had added running to my competitive racquetball and tennis routines. I ran 6 miles a day 6 days a week all while continuing a 1-2 pack a day habit. I'd light a cigarette right before I ran and right after. I was continually teased about it.
In my early 30's I started a rewarding business career which was high stress, high pressure and high responsibility. My image began to matter more and more. Again, I wanted badly to quit and started trying everything available to quit. Nothing worked. I had found success in life but was failing badly at stopping the thing that would kill me.
Business travel became constant for me. I hated sneaking out of hotels, business meetings, conferences, resorts and my offices to smoke. I was often with business associates who didn't know I smoked. If anyone I associated with smelled it on me or saw me it was always "I didn't know you smoked you don't seem like the type!." I really wasn't the type. Several long flights every single week year after year were an exercise in planning when and where I was going to smoke. It was exhausting hiding smoking, I felt like a pariah with a dual life. I was highly motivated to quit.
More and more I was aware the clock was ticking. Though I never experienced any shortness of breath and was continuing athletics at a high level, I did start to feel symptoms. My mouth and throat became sore, I was having pronounced heart palpitations and developed a dry persistent cough. A feeling of stupidity was always on my mind. My physician had been after me for 17 years to quit. He was educating me constantly on the horrors of what he see's. EKG's came out normal. Repeated lung function tests showed strong lung function but I knew instinctively that the news would sooner or later be bad. My Mother was diagnosed with COPD from 50 years of smoking, her symptoms are bad and I knew I was headed to the same fate. My cough and heart palpitations were beginning to really scare me. I sensed my mortality.
Repeatedly I kept trying to quit with Nicorette, patches, nasal inhalers, lozenge's, therapy and numerous other methods. Everything else about my lifestyle was healthy. I was on a USTA tennis team and playing competitive racquetball but could not stop smoking. I had come to the conclusion that if I could just get past my high pressure business career I might be able to quit. Finally, I retired at 49 and quit with Nicorette gum. Nicorette caused shooting pains down my arms, made my jaw sore and made me sneeze uncontrollably but fear kept me using it. All of a sudden after 4 years of not smoking I found myself smoking again. Completely horrified I screamed, no way am I doing this again!
I bought an electronic cigarette and found it satisfied my nicotine addiction like no other smoking cessation product had. It is 4 and a half years later and I have not touched tobacco in any form. I feel terrific. No cough, no heart palpitations, no sore mouth or throat, no negative consequences whatsoever. Meanwhile my Mothers COPD gets worse and worse, killing her while she continues to smoke. Addiction to tobacco is so strong will power alone is very seldom enough. Electronic cigarettes cannot save my Mother, it is too late for her, but they can save me and millions desperate to quit .
I implore any FDA decision maker who may read this to empathize with the smoker and consider how you may impact the companies we depend on. We know what we are doing to ourselves. Often we feel pathetic because many have tried everything and still could not stop. Please help insure that the best alternative ever created to one of society's worst heath problem remains available.
Electronic cigarettes and other nicotine vaping devices are the most powerful smoking cessation tool available today. Society benefits greatly from this effective alternative to tobacco. Restricting adult access would be devastating to millions of us who have been desperate for a viable solution.