The kids who smoked in high school disgusted me. The posing, the smell. What need of theirs was being met by those little burning sticks? My father smoked as well - the biting smell of Winfield Reds was present whenever my sister and I saw him. Smokers struck me as being slaves, even when I was very young. I went through high school, all set for law school. I got in and moved out of home and in with a friend from high school who became my first serious girlfriend. She was a smoker. I hated the way we always had to stop for her to smoke. How undergraduate conversations were punctuated by wafting smoke and the sound of desperate dragging in the night. They make you more serious, more adult. Her kissing breath was tainted. It struck me how odd it was for her to allow her intimate moments with me to be shared by such a strong, off-putting smell. I didn't realise that she couldn't smell it. We argued one night, around 2am, and I came downstairs from our bedroom. I saw she had two cigarettes left, her packet of Holiday Kings 20s with its lid open on the kitchen table. **** her, I'm going to smoke her last cigarettes. These were precious cigarettes, I knew, back then they could set you back $6.50, maybe more. I stood alone on the patio and lit my first cigarette and inhaled. No coughing, no pain. A few more drags. The flavour felt different when it was in my lungs. I felt full, somewhat content. Then my head started to swim and I could hardly stand. It was not unpleasant. I smoked the other one, quietly certain that I was becoming a man. In the morning she came downstairs looking for her "durries." There was her empty packet, where I'd left it. I sat there silent. As I was a non-smoker, blame shifted to our flatmate. She berated him again and again for smoking her last two cigarettes until out of guilt for him I piped up and owned up to having smoked them. Their reaction surprised me. They didn't believe me! You? Him? Smoking? .comghter. I had to prove I had smoked, so we pooled together our funds and went to the corner store for a packet of Holiday Kings. Sniffing the tobacco through the plastic wrap, I power-walked home so I could smoke with them. I was joining the circle! They didn't even have to pressure me, I joined up willingly. They watched me smoke, and once the novelty had worn off, weeks later, I was accepted as a smoker, and had to stop bumming off people. I started buying my own, trying a new brand each time. I was 18. My father had always urged me never to bother trying it, which was hypocritical to me. One day in the car while living with him, I said "so I tried smoking..." expecting an angry lecture. Instead, he said "well I suppose we'd better go have a smoke then, hey?" My younger sister meanwhile had also started up, at 15. We smoked secretly, wishing to keep it a secret from our mother's side of the family, whom we had more history with. Our mother had died of bone cancer recently, so we smoked and drank and smoked and drank. Inside our empty family home, the tang of nicotine filled what was lost. The years to come provided plenty of diversion. Parties, girls, beer, spirits, sex, joints, music. I would keep it up through most of my 20s, only occasionally feeling ashamed of myself for the way I smelled, for dropping butts. The health issues stay quiet for so long, which is a b.comtifully-calculated strategy nicotine employs while it wraps you up in its python grip. In my mid-late twenties, the shortness of breath, chest and throat pains, miscellaneous illnesses and gunkiness were badges of honour. The prices went up all the time. Pay day became a holy day. I had no foresight and relied on others to keep me smoking when beer and smokes wiped my savings. Sometimes, alone in the mornings I'd pick through ashtrays looking for unsmoked butts. I started to worry that I was acting like a homeless person and that my mother's death maybe was something I would need to face one day. Other girlfriends smoked with me, some did not. Some understood, some did not. One slapped me in the face when I went back on my quit attempt. You don't understand, I said. I need it. You don't know what happens to me when I can't smoke. The thought of being without cigarettes made me panic, so I never entertained the notion for too long. It also depressed me, knowing that I had become a slave like the others before me. Patches gave me fantastic dreams but little else. Champix made me want to kill myself and others so I quickly got off that. Willpower alone was like pissing into a cyclone. I'd crawl back after a nominal time, effort made, chastened, comfortable again with the smoke in my lungs. My cousin said, "they're like a friend aren't they? Quitting is like losing a friend." All things told I smoked from 18 until I was 31. I gave up in May 2014 with the aid of vaping. I vaped a little at first, and tried to smoke less. I found it easy to not desire a real cigarette. Well now, this was new! I started enjoying the sensation of vaping in my room. Eventually it became a hassle to roll up any more Champion Ruby into a Ventii paper with a super-slim filter. And I'd loved those things. You know rollies are healthier, right? I'd been on them a long time. Years. But all of a sudden, they tasted shit next to Thug Juice. Or cinnamon roll. This felt new. This felt like no effort. The minor quibbles were addressed, like leaking, PG/VG ratios, waiting for vapemail... a sense of fun and adventure and progress seeped into me like juice to a good wick. There's an exit here and I fucking finally found it! The story of my vaping history is another story altogether. But in a nutshell, I've gone from the cheapest real fake e-cig, to an ego spinner with long wicking tentacles, got pissed off and bought some Aspire goods and a Vision Spinner, then an iTaste MVP 2 and .comtilus, and now I'm getting more and more proficient at building coils for my Magma, Tugboat and Mephisto, which all sit atop either a Sigelei 50W or a Hana Modz Mini. I like the pass throughs. I spend a lot of time at my computer. I suppose mechanicals are the next step, but right now I don't feel like mastering battery care. I feel like enjoying my freedom. My nic stains are gone, the first hungover smoke in the morning a distant memory. People are asking me how to start vaping. Plenty of my workmates are starting their own journeys with my help. Their struggle inspires a tenderness in me, and I willingly give them some of my gear, a tank, a battery, coil heads, some juices, I wish them well and tell them they'll need to find their own way but to persist through the set backs and technical aspects. If I can, anyone can. I'm the least technically-minded person I know, and yet here I am with a working knowledge of Ohm's law and simple electronics! My father started smoking at 8 years of age, nicking them from his mother's purse. When I rocked up one day with a vape pen and gave him a puff, it was the first time ever I'd seen him sit for more than an hour without a Winnie Red in his hand. "You know what?" he said. "This could work. If I gave you my credit card number, could you..."