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.
Any past efforts I’ve made to quit have been at best half-hearted, partly because of this lack of visible consequences (I concede that there must be some damage being caused inside) but also because I love a good cannabis/tobacco joint. It has been and remains my Number One Vice, daddy’s little helper, a constant companion through thick and thin. I will elaborate on this in a future post.
I’m hoping to break down what the essential attractions of both these intoxicating weeds are in the weeks to come, and to dissect what it is about their mixture that appeals so much more than either of them on their own.
Why mess with a healthy formula?
I cycle, walk and practice yoga; I eat consciously and drink alcohol in moderation. I’m the same weight as I was back when I first started smoking all those years ago. Frankly: why mess with a formula that has worked for me?
So why am I? It’s not because of the money; cigarettes are still quite affordable in Holland and rolling tobacco even more so. It’s not the ever-tightening government bans on where one can and can’t smoke; if anything, this simply re-energises the adolescent anti-authoritarian streak that led me to start smoking in the first place.
It’s not the concerns of my kids either; sure, they give me shit about smoking but let them wait and see how they deal with the sheer bloody awfulness of much of adult life, whiney little bastards. No, they don’t give me as much shit as they could, bless them, given the anti-tobacco propaganda shoved down their throats these days.
A glaring contradiction
I guess my primary reason, my main push factor, is my growing unease with this glaring contradiction in an otherwise healthy lifestyle. To care about what’s in my food and chemicals in the environment and then give good money to the evil tobacco barons to fill myself with all those noxious compounds just No. Longer. Computes.
But as long as giving up tobacco also meant giving up getting high, it was always going to be a tough sell to myself. When it dawned on me that a vaporizer could be used to inhale the essence of tobacco without the smoke just as well as it could cannabis buds, I realised here was a potential escape from the bind I found myself in.
I have made attempts to dump the brown weed and keep the green in the past; gradually reducing the proportion of tobacco going into the joint, or replacing the tobacco with the leaves of the cannabis plants I grew on my balcony one summer. I’ve tried various pipes and bongs.
They all failed, for a number of reasons, real or perceived: modern marihuana is just too strong to smoke undiluted; smoking pure weed makes me cough; I don’t like metal or plastic mouthpieces; it’s just not as satisfying as a good fat bifter.
Non-physical, ritualistic pleasure
There are also the ritualistic elements of joint smoking, from the nipping to the coffeeshop to buy it, the deft rolling of the tobacco-weed mixture incorporating the fabrication of a cardboard roach (filter) and the cup of sweet coffee that frequently accompanies the completed marihuana cigarette as part of breaking up the working day.
There’s a whole complex of little dopamine reward buttons being pushed and tweaked by a host of cannabinoids, nicotine compounds, tars, smoke particles and complex learned associations.
As I thought about all these X-factors I realised how little research had been done about what is really going on in the mind and body of a stoner or regular joint smoker, how little we know about what aspects of the highs and lows of intoxication are attributable to the tobacco and which to the cannabis.
Some previous experience with vapes
I had tried a Volcano vaporizer at a cannabis fair many years ago and inspired, bought a cheapo vape that used a cigarette lighter as its heat source, and gave up after a few attempts. It went back in the box and never came back out.
I’ve also tried the all-glass Verdamper vaporizer from time to time in recent years and have been impressed with the taste and the exceptionally clear, high achieved.
Given a good vaping experience with one of these top of the range devices, I’m confident that being able to administer a tobacco hit without burning, tar, or smoke particles – pure nicotine effect – will open up a space for me to get a grip on the other aspects of habitual use: will I miss the ‘bite’ of smoke hitting lung? The oral pleasure and hand-occupying function of a spliff?
Inspiration through honest exploration
I don’t believe Marihuana is addictive, but smoking it with tobacco has to be. How often am I smoking weed when what I really want is nicotine? It’s questions like these I hope to answer with this blogging experiment.
Many old tokers, especially in Europe where tobacco joints remain the norm, are in denial about the role of tobacco in their day. By being honest with myself publically I hope I can give support and inspiration to other cannabis lovers who want the tobacco bathwater out of their lives but are not prepared to throw out the cannabinoid baby with it.