I’ve never smoked a cigarette. I just never had any desire to. The 1990s anti-smoking PSAs, the demonstrations in middle school health class that show the effect of tar on your lungs, the fact that it always seemed like an expensive hobby were all enough to make it unappealing to me. It’s not that I don’t have vices! I do, and they’re bad for my physical and emotional well-being. It’s just that smoking cigarettes isn’t one of them.
It seems counterintuitive, then, that I would find myself irritable and quietly in the throes of nicotine addiction withdrawal in the cold early months of 2019. To explain how I ended up in this situation, I first have to explain how I came to be in possession of a little nicotine delivery device called a Juul. A year ago, on my 26th birthday, I was eating dinner in Williamsburg when a friend bestowed upon me a gift. We have a long history of giving each other very stupid gifts for our birthdays and Christmas (in 2017 I gave him a custom-made fidget spinner decorated with an image of a hunky Martin O’Malley in a Superman outfit. It said “O’Malley would have won.” I was very proud of this gift in particular). A Juul is a perfect kind of dumb, ironic gift that also has functional value. Obviously, I loved it conceptually, even though I was sure I’d never use it.
Until I did! In the winter of 2019 I was very sad. I was freelancing and felt aimless, career-wise. It was dark and cold all the time because it was February. I had a lot of free time on my hands. I tell you all of this to explain where my head was at when I reorganized my bedroom and rediscovered the aforementioned Juul, its charger, and the mostly unused pack of tobacco-flavored Juul pods the aforementioned friend gave me half a year prior, in August. The Juul was dead — I had passed it around at my birthday party months before, the first and last time I’d used it. So I stuck it in its charger, and when it was full of life again I popped in one of the tobacco pods and took a hit. It was fun! I kept doing it. I liked the tingly feeling it gave me, and how mindless and easy it was. I was never hungry and I felt like I could focus better. It had all the effects of Adderall but with the added bonus of making me look like a huge dork smoking out of a flash drive. Before I knew it, I had become what I’d always hated: a vaper.