LGBT Community & Harm Reduction: Nicotine Addiction

First I want to thank one of our champions, Damon L. Jacobs of New York for raising awareness of the damage tobacco/nicotine is doing to our community. Visit his Facebook page Rethinking nicotine in the LGBT Community. Damon is putting out some great information on this topic. Many of you know him for his awesome work with PrEP!

Being a former smoker myself I know that nicotine addiction is probably one of the hardest drug addictions to beat. I quit about 9 years ago now, and before that, I had quit for 5 years then stupidly picked them up again while at a club. I found it the hardest to resist when I was out partying with friends at the bar, alcohol, and cigarettes were a match made in heaven for me. When I quit for good 9 years ago I wasn’t aware of vaping being popular. The first E-cigarettes became popular in about 2007 in the US if memory serves, approximately a year or so after I quit.

Tobacco has affected me at the most personal and tragic level, my younger brother Ken died of lung cancer at 46 on April 1, 2012, he had started smoking very young and was a 2 pack per day smoker. I left my job and graduate studies to help my mother care for him. He passed 5 months after initial diagnosis leaving behind my 10-year-old nephew.  My mother, Judy passed away Sunday, June 22, 2014, of the most aggressive small cell lung cancer. She had never smoked until she was in her late 30’s and was a moderate smoker. We caught her cancer earlier than my brother’s and she went through aggressive chemo, but in spite of everything being done that could be done; cancer eventually spread to her brain, then her liver. I was with her, holding her hand when she passed. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The anniversary of her death is coming and she is especially on my mind now and during the holidays, I suppose losing your mother or father is one of the hardest losses to face. It has forever changed me and I miss them every day.  The reason I share these events is not to scare people, but to remind people. Our choices do have consequences not just for ourselves but for those we love. I used to think the dangers of smoking would never affect me and they may not directly time will tell but smoking was the cause of great heartache and loss in my life.

The first time I quit I was the typical ex-smoker nightmare that all your friends warn about, I was a nag to everyone around me, thankfully this go-round I’m not such a bitch about smoking. I do encourage people who are trying to quit and I know vaping has helped many of my close friends kick the habit. I kicked it by buying a pack, smoking one, then cutting them up! It was an expensive way to do it but it worked for me and I encourage my friends and family by supporting them in whatever way works best for them whether it is vaping, nicotine patches, lozenges, or the gum. Sometimes it takes several tries as it did with me but keep after it, it’s worth it, and you’re worth it. With the evidence all coming together it looks as though vaping is the safest way to kick the habit. Just for the record, the temptation to smoke when out clubbing with friends has completely passed.