That’s the theory at least – and it was working well, until a family tragedy forced me back to the UK for three weeks. I had to leave behind my vaporizer and had run out of Dutch Spirit, so I became re-hooked on smoking roll ups with pure tobacco.

I was back in Holland for only a couple of weeks before the school holidays began and I was off to France for a week with my kids. Again, no vape with me but I did get hold of another couple of packs of Dutch Spirit, which I smoked on and off. But staying with a cigarette smoker and with no weed around, I quickly slipped back into being a 100% tobacco smoker.

And that, my friends, is more or less how it ended. Back in Amsterdam I struggled to pick up the vape habit. My always rather lukewarm enthusiasm for quitting smoking evaporated as my life became a complicated struggle.

The experiment, so pregnant with possibility, had failed, for me, for now. I handed over the Verdamper to the next blogger wanting to give it a trial run and resigned myself to being a tobacco joint smoker for the foreseeable future.

A vape is an aid to quitting tobacco, but…

My conclusion: yes, a vaporizer can be a useful tool in the difficult process of quitting smoking tobacco while remaining a marihuana enthusiast. But you need to really want to quit tobacco – and this time around, I just don’t think I wanted it enough.

There is something uniquely satisfying about the consumption of tobacco joints: the rolling, the sharing, the double nicotine-THC hit firing off those dopamine receptors, the contemplative exhalation.

Yes, I know these are probably the words of a nicotine addict (as opposed to a cannabis addict, which I strongly suspect does not exist), but anyone who’s been there knows what I’m talking about.

PS: I’ll be back, probably with a pocket vape

As a postscript, I had a couple of blasts on the Magic Flight Box portable vape at a party recently and really liked it. Pocket-sized, operating immediately with a simple-to-use battery heated coil, and a tiny inhalation tube (so very little cannabinoid loss from condensation).

It’s perfect for the in-home and outdoor vaper on the move. I loved it, and when I can afford the 40 bucks or so, I’ll be giving this experiment another whack.

So until the next time I indulge in an experiment with vape expectations, I hereby sign off. Thanks for reading!

The new week progressed much as the previous one had ended; smoking less but still smoking nonetheless. Time to review what I’ve learned so far?

  1. That the Volcano is a useful supplement in that it does get you high without using tobacco, but it still lacks satisfaction for a smoker.
  2. That the process by which one gets high is as important as the getting high; in other words, part of me is still resisting switching to smoke-free.

I had been told that the Volcano bag gave the vapor an aftertaste, and I’m afraid that’s true. Not horribly, but there is a slight taste. It is also rather dry on the throat compared with the water-cooled vapor from a Verdamper, my only other vaporizer reference point.

Judging by the pop culture references (for instance, a Volcano features in the cult US comedy and Ted Danson vehicle Bored to Death, now in its 3rd season), I can see that this wonder of German engineering is a bit of a status symbol in the US. If you’ve got the space (and no curious kids wondering what it is), a Volcano does make a cool centrepiece and a novel talking point. And it is still a social way to indulge.

But I had been finding myself wistfully thinking of the coffee shop in central Amsterdam that’s smoke free and stocked entirely with Verdamper vaporizers. I never got as far as cycling into town specifically to visit there, and fortunately the offer was made to temporarily swap my Volcano for a Verdamper – and I jumped at the chance.

The swap was made. I located all the little spare parts, brushes and bags and packed the whole Volcano up. Then I unpacked the loaner Verdamper, assembling the finely crafted glass components and filling the chamber with water.

Sure, it looks like a chemistry experiment, and that aesthetic appeals to its fans. But where the Verdamper really excels and the reason it has become the standard vape in Amsterdam cofeeshops, is the unparalelled smoothness of the water-cooled vapor combined with the exceptional clarity of taste of the weed used.

The hit is instantaneous – strains are easily differentiated by taste alone – something you simply can’t do with a tobacco joint.

I also added a new weapon to my armoury: several packs of Dutch Spirit non-tobacco smoking/vaping herb mix, with the tip that making a joint from 50-50 tobacco and Dutch Spirit was a good way of easing me out of nicotine withdrawal while still allowing the psychosomatic need for a joint.

I have to say I was an immediate convert! The 50-50 mix of tobacco (American Spirit), and the five healthy, lung-boosting herbs (and naturally the 6th herb) is actually a sweeter, smoother taste than pure tobacco.

The idea is that you smoke the 50-50 mix for a couple of weeks, then step up to 75% herbs and 25% tobacco for a while, and gradually ease into smoking 100% herbal mix before you body even realises it’s no longer dependent on nicotine.

The German Volcano vaporizer by Storz & Bickel is quite cumbersome and takes up about as much room as a soccer ball in a bag. So it’s hardly ‘portable’ – luggable perhaps.

I hope to try out one or more vaporizers sold on their portability or stealth at some stage, since I’m not anticipating only ever consuming weed vapor at home. Before I get my hands on a smaller vape though, I’m working with what I’ve got.

On Friday, so the second day I’d been using my loaned Volcano to reduce my cigarette or joint smoking, I took it over to a friend’s in the evening. She’s a heavy and unrepentant cigarette smoker, and a key enabler in my own continued smoking habits, since I hang out there 2-3 evenings a week. Convincing her of the efficacy and good sense of a vaporizer would be a real win.

To make a short story even shorter: the vapor made her cough violently, and we ended up sharing a joint. She didn’t exactly say, “don’t bring that thing again”, but I could tell she was unmoved by the experience.

The next day I faced another test of my vaporizing resolve: a night out on the town. I’d arranged to meet a friend on the edge of Amsterdam’s red light district, since both of us noted we hardly ever go out in that touristy but more vibrant part of town any more.

Consuming a couple of Volcano bags of weed vapor before I went out, I noted my slight hesitation as I headed out the door with neither cigarettes nor lighter. But I felt good about it.

To my horror, the cool cocktail bar I’d suggested we meet in had gone down market somewhat since I’d last been there. Looking a bit shabby, what was worse was that it was either small enough to be exempt or brave enough to deliberately flout Amsterdam’s two-year old no smoking in bars rule.

Only days before, this would have been a cause for a small celebration: I can smoke with my beer! Woo-hoo! Now I was faced with waiting in a bar for my friend while 10 of the other 12 patrons were smoking. The French chicks at the table next to me were smoking; the couple opposite were smoking.

To my amazement, I resisted quite easily the temptation to bum one. In fact I sat calmly for 30 minutes (my friend was late). Chalk one up to the vaporizer!

The second test would follow quite quickly as we went out to eat. The cigarette after the meal is of course a well-known stumbling block for tobacco quitters. But again, I went through the meal with no nicotine pangs, and it didn’t even cross my mind to smoke outside afterwards as we headed for a nearby Irish bar.

We sank a couple – OK, three – whiskeys. Not my normal tipple. Then I headed for home and wham: promptly fell off the wagon.

Aware that I had no cigarettes at home and really feeling like a spliff when I got back, my resolve was loosened by the whiskeys and I had no pangs about stopping and picking up a pack of Camels on the way.

So OK, damn and all that! I guess I learned that being a little tipsy rather than a little stoned was worse for my will power. Lesson noted.

I started my vaporizer experiment with four cigarettes left and the remains of a gram of a weed going by the name of Amnesia. As usual, I’m working from home, and let’s just say the days can be long, as in the hours drag by unbroken by any social intervention.

In the continuing absence of any kind of working schedule, my day is randomly punctuated by coffee breaks, food when I’m hungry, walking to the shops and a late afternoon stroll round the park, typically.

My first ‘smokeless’ smoking break was at 11 am, when I crumbled 1/3 of a cigarette into the Volcano’s herb chamber, set the temperature for 190 degrees C., and pushed the Heat button.

The Volcano vaporizer converges on its set temperature at around a second per degree, and then I push the Air button to inflate the vapor bag. The air pump is about as noisy as a coffee maker; so no big deal.

The tobacco vapor has a pleasant ‘roasted’ taste to it. But I can’t say I feel anything else. No light-headedness, no slight up-tilt in mood. But it does mean I make it to lunchtime without experiencing any nicotine withdrawal discomfort.

Depending on workload and mood, I’ll often have a light joint after lunch, and today I’m keen to try the other weed in my Volcano. I crumble a usual joint’s worth – maybe 1/10 gram, or a pea-sized lump of bud – into the herb chamber. This Amnesia is dry and highly crystalline and does not need an herb grinder to reduce it to dust.

I try out the lowest recommended heat for cannabis: 180 degrees C. and the Volcano’s bag fills with a creamy vapor. I fill my lungs via the robust detachable mouthpiece and hold for a few seconds before exhaling.

I experience no coughing, and it’s rather pleasant. It doesn’t have the ‘bite’ of a lung-full of smoke – but that’s the smoker in me complaining, and should be seen as a positive feature to non-smokers looking to vaporize their herbs.

I fill a second bag from the same weed half an hour later, and a third a while after that, notching up the temperature to 190 beforehand. These bags are not as creamy.

I feel pleasantly buzzed and quite satisfied; I’m not suddenly prompted to smoke a cigarette or joint, so it looks as though my main fear – that once high my will power would take a dive, or temptation would become easier to give in to – is not justified.

However, as I said, it’s a long day unless I deliberately break it up, and by 7pm I feel like I’ve done enough for the day. I’m overwhelmed by the desire for the sheer languid satisfaction of a real tobacco joint. So I smoke one.

I’m not beating myself up; as I’ve said, I’m observing and noting my feelings and inclinations for the first week or so. I want this transition to being a vape user to be as natural and unforced as possible. Or maybe I’m just a huge apologist for my own smoking habit. Time will tell.

So this afternoon I finally picked up my loan Volcano vaporizer, after several cancelled appointments. The experiment can get underway! I’ve decided to start first thing tomorrow – a Friday. [click to continue…]

Jules is spending two months examining whether a herbal vaporizer can be used to gently prise himself out of using tobacco when other (admittedly half-hearted) efforts have failed.

So why now? That’s the question most friends have asked when I told them of my plan. I’ve smoked and enjoyed it for more than 30 years. Never heavily, maybe 7-10 a day, and my health (give or take the odd case of bronchitis) has not been negatively affected. [click to continue…]

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