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Close, but no cigar

PUBLISHED: 12:29 25 March 2014 | UPDATED: 12:37 25 March 2014

Inside the small, dark windowless building two large men dressed in black were seated behind a glass counter and another, also in black, lounged in front of it... It had, I thought, more in common with a Hell’s Angels’ opium den than a spa town tobacconist

Inside the small, dark windowless building two large men dressed in black were seated behind a glass counter and another, also in black, lounged in front of it... It had, I thought, more in common with a Hell’s Angels’ opium den than a spa town tobacconist

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Adam Edwards can’t say that his e-cigarette gave him much of a buzz - and his daughter said he looked like a plonker smoking it. Then he found out about Nigel Farage...

I took up smoking the day New Labour banned it. It was July 1, 2007, and for the first time in over a quarter of a century I lit a cigarette as a demonstration of my general fury at the new legislation that banned smoking in all enclosed public spaces (with the exception, oddly, of prisons and royal palaces). And it was delicious.

I took it up with abandon. I started with Marlboro Lights, moved onto Marlboro Reds, flirted with Camels, spent some months rolling my own – not something I would recommend – and ended up puffing away at 30 Silk Cut a day.

I never once regretted the decision to re-take it up after packing it in my early thirties. I agreed with the political commentator Andrew Neil who said at the time of the ban “we are being run by puritans who are determined to squeeze any fun out of life unless it is officially sanctioned. Hunting is banned even though it doesn’t matter to 99% of the population. Drinking is increasingly frowned upon and it has become politically incorrect to challenge anyone who speaks in the name of health.”

Since lighting up seven years ago smoking has been my joy made more joyful by the 2007 legislation that has allowed me to legitimately slip outside ‘for a quick fag’ whenever I was bored.

However, a few weeks ago I decided to stop. There was no particular reason for my sudden about turn on tobacco – my cough was no worse than usual, I wasn’t feeling particularly poor and there were as many reasons to light up as there had ever been. It was at a dinner party with my friend Charles, a heavy smoker all his life, who suggested I swap my Silk Cut for an e-cigarette insisting that the artificial tube was not a bad substitute for the real thing.

So the next day I decided to buy an electronic fag. I typed ‘e-cigarette’ and ‘Cheltenham’ into my search engine and up came the name ‘eBuzzCigs’ and an address on the Lansdown Trading Estate. The Lansdown Estate, like all industrial estates, is in a rough part of town. Unit 16 with its flyblown outside door was no more salubrious that of the other anonymous units surrounding it. Inside the small, dark windowless building two large men dressed in black were seated behind a glass counter and another, also in black, lounged in front of it. All three were puffing away on steel tubes, one of which resembled a futuristic pipe and the other a Havana cigar. It had, I thought, more in common with a Hell’s Angels’ opium den than a spa town tobacconist.

In fact I had stumbled across the Cotswolds first and so far only Vaping shop. Vaping for those of you not in the know, which I imagine is most Cotswold Life readers, is using a small battery powered atomizer to turn a glycerine liquid containing nicotine and flavouring into a vapour that is inhaled and exhaled. It is remarkably like smoking except that the actual smoke is more mist than smoke. There are a score of flavours available from Apple tobacco to Cola Flavour to a Mixed Fruits Blend to a Cherry Tint. And I soon discovered that the boys in black met regularly in this dingy unit to enjoy these exotic glycerine flavours. However, I decided not to join the regulars but instead paid my £40 for a standard atomiser and the traditional ‘regular tobacco’ flavour and went home to experiment.

In truth I can’t say the ‘regular tobacco’ flavour gave me much of a buzz and furthermore my daughter said I looked like a plonker smoking it. The next morning as I was pulling on my metal stogie I read that UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been promoting e-cigarettes after accepting a hefty donation from the Totally Wicked e-cigarette company. After that I felt I couldn’t in all conscience continue with the steel gasper and anyway the vapourised glycerine juice was, I was sure, doing me more damage with one puff than a whole carton of Silk Cuts.

This left me in a quandary – should I quit completely or go back to the fags. The trouble with quitting completely is that I love tobacco and enjoy even more the fact that it is so politically incorrect.

The solution is cigars. And I do not mean the small brown cheroots that are an apology for the beauty of a pure white machine rolled cigarette. My cigar of choice is a half corona Havana. It drawbacks are that it costs the same as a packet of fags and that takes over half an hour to smoke.

The advantages on the other hand are that I don’t inhale, I only smoke one a day and I can still argue that passive smoking is nonsense.

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This article by Adam Edwards is from the March 2014 issue of Cotswold Life

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