With so much debate and discussion about ecigarettes, its easy to forget that other harm-reduced options exist. We wanted to know more about smokeless tobacco use from a consumers perspective
and David Czekaj (@analoguebetter on Twitter) kindly wrote this guest blog for us.
I started smoking cigarettes regularly at the age of 15 and never looked back. I enjoyed every aspect of it, the whole ritual - the smell of a freshly opened pack, the taste of the tobacco, the nicotine buzz and the little 'lift' from smoking. I even like the smell of tobacco on my fingers lingering on from the last cigarette I'd smoked. One might even call it a hobby. It always was a pleasure comparable to a good glass of Wine with dinner or a strong cup of Coffee in the morning.
Fast forward to the year 2007... We all know what happened. The shrill whining of the Public Health lobby finally managed to smash everyone's pint glasses and ruin everyone’s lives - the Smoking ban arrived.
I hate to admit it but the smoking ban actually succeeded in getting me to try and stop Smoking. It would not have been an issue but as smoker numbers in my circle of friends began to dwindle, so did the social aspects of 'going out for a fag'. It was no fun standing out in the cold on my own like some sort of leper, so I eventually decided to give the 'Q word' a try.
I tried a number of times to quit between 2007 and 2012, I tried nicotine gum, cold turkey, self help books and Hypnosis CDs. Needless to say, all failed miserably and in the end I thought "You know what? I still actually enjoy smoking so I will carry on". That is until somebody happened to ask me "Have you tried one of those Electronic Cigarette things? You can use them inside and apparently they are really good". I was a little sceptical but decided to have a look into it anyway and thought "You never know, this could be the answer to my problems. I get to quit smoking without actually giving anything up!".
It must have been early 2012, I took the plunge and ordered a 'starter kit'. I was instantly impressed - my prayers had been answered! It looked and felt exactly like smoking a cigarette! It certainly didn't taste like tobacco but I managed to find some flavours I liked and found it to be significantly cheaper than smoking.
I was fine with it, I was a 'Vaper' for about a year and a half maybe and really got into it. I progressed from the 'cig-a-likes' tried an e-pipe and a shisha pen with a CE4 Clearomiser, I loved the fact that I was free to chose my own liquids, Nicotine strength and different batteries etc. - it was great.
The only thing that I was beginning to miss though was the flavour of Tobacco. I'd found liquids that were reminiscent of it which I was quite happy with though, so it was an issue I could deal with.
Then I start hearing and seeing this kind of thing
Needless to say, I was absolutely devastated and above all filled with rage that my chance to 'have my cake and eat it' was starting to get noticed by the same type of people that ruined smoking for me. The thought of all of my choice being taken away and having to buy some sort of watered down 'medicinal product' from a pharmacy was not a fun one. I carried on regardless with my 'vaping' all the while getting more enraged and feeling more defeated every time there was news of a government department trying to restrict me using a product that had changed my life (and my health) for the better.
Then in late 2013 came the last straw:
I was suitably angered and felt completely and utterly defeated. I think I went and bought a pack of cigarettes literally the day after and it wasn't long before my 'vaping materials' were languishing in a cupboard somewhere. I had officially quit quitting smoking.
But with smoking came the same old issues that urged me to stop in the first instance. Not to mention the fact that the price of a packet of cigarettes had skyrocketed since I stopped. I needed to find another alternative, the bottom line being that I could not actually AFFORD to keep smoking cigarettes even if I was wanted to. Something had to be done, If 'they' weren't going to let me have my e-cigs or smoke tobacco anywhere then I needed to find another solution.
[Note: Quitting nicotine was never an option, and it never will be. It's as essential to me as a coffee in the morning or alcohol on the weekend, the simple pleasures in life are, after all the best.]
So on to the internet I go to do some research on other forms of tobacco that aren't smoked. First stop, Wikipedia.
It appeared that my options were the following: Dipping Tobacco, Chewing Tobacco, Nasal Snuff, Or A Swedish oral Tobacco product that I'd never heard of called Snus (pronounced 'snoose').
Dip was crossed off the list pretty much straight away as it's not available unless imported from the USA (which could turn out to be quite expensive) So I decided to have a look a little closer to home and ended up trying some Oliver Twist chewing tobacco bits
I enjoyed using it for quite a while, It was incredibly cheap compared to cigarettes, I liked the taste and it eliminated my need to smoke. It felt really easy to switch just as the switch to e-cigarettes was. More importantly, I could use it whenever I liked and no one would be any the wiser, although with certain flavours, I did find the need to spit quite regularly which is a problem if you want to use it discreetly. You don't want to be swallowing chewing tobacco juice either - not good. I had taken a step in the right direction it seemed but chewing tobacco wasn't quite what I was looking for.
I'd starting reading a lot on the internet about Snus and a friend of mine in London who used to work with some Swedish folk had mentioned the fact that they have something similar to chewing tobacco but they did not need to spit and they placed it in their upper lip instead of the lower lip. It sounded perfect and I wanted to try some.
I'd read that it was banned in the UK and EU apart from Sweden but had also read this -
http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/tpdmanual/tpd18070.htm Which gave mixed messages on the legality of buying Snus from outside of the UK and importing for your own use. Anyhow the fact that there in black and white on the HMRC website that there is no tobacco duty payable on Snus made me think it was worth a shot at getting some. [Incidentally, nasal snuff which I also indulge in on a regular basis is NOT liable to tobacco duty].
I found a company on the web who shipped to the UK, so I bit the bullet and ordered some. That was Jan 2014 and I have not looked back. It's perfect for me,
I get great natural tobacco flavours (although lots of different flavours are available I always prefer regular tobacco with Snus) and a great nicotine buzz. It's discreet, I can use it anywhere and get satisfaction from a portion of Snus for up to an hour so it's quite economical and doesn't break the bank every time I order. Also, aside from E-cigs I believe it is the safest form of consuming Nicotine.
I also love a pinch of snuff (nasal tobacco) which is readily available from manufacturers in the UK and also exempt from UK Tobacco Duty. It's available in many different flavours, it's incredibly cheap and a 25gram tin seems to last forever. unfortunately it's not great for social situations as it can get a bit messy blowing your nose every 5 mins! Helping me concentrate on writing right now is a pinch of 'Spanish Gem' from Toque Snuff :)
After the threat of E-cigs being ruined I never thought I'd be so happy with the alternatives and although I DO have a cigar/pipe on the odd occasion I no longer smoke cigarettes and am quite happy without them. Not only that I am VASTLY cutting the health risk associated with inhaling tobacco smoke.
PUBLIC HEALTH - You win - I am no longer a cigarette smoker - Now leave Smokefree alternatives alone!!