Making the switch to vaping - Bettina and Michelle's stories

Posted by DrMendelsohn on 29 May, 2018

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Published in The Australian today. Read online here.

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Bettina van der Werf began smoking when she was 15. She is now 56, and at the height of her addiction was getting through 20 high-nicotine cigarettes a day.

Her father died of lung cancer four years ago. “About a year before he died he had part of one of his lungs removed and he was on oxygen and a lot of medication from then on,” van der Werf remembers. “We cared for him at home.”

Van der Werf, an information technology executive, had given up smoking at various times in the past, using different methods and going cold turkey, but she says she always relapsed until she and her brother turned to vaping. “I think it’s the nicotine addiction, it obviously does something for me,” she says.

“In 2015, my brother, who was also a smoker, did a lot of research into vaping and organised e-cigarettes for both of us.

“I’ve just completely stopped smoking since I’ve been vaping. I haven’t even had one cigarette.”

She remembers the process of researching and learning about e-cigarettes as complicated and time consuming, and she was lucky her brother had the time to sort it out for both of them.

Even now, she says, the procedure can be difficult. In Melbourne, there’s a vaping shop quite close to where she lives, but the shop assistants are restricted in the advice they can provide. But thanks to her brother’s research, van der Werf knows what to buy and where best to get it from. She is an enthusiastic convert.

“I’ve got more stamina”, she says. “I feel better. The big thing is not smelling like cigarettes. I always felt ashamed of smoking, but I just couldn’t give it up. I knew in my early 20s that I wanted to give up smoking but I just couldn’t.”


Over the border in South Australia, Michelle Kasenow is also a dedicated vaper. Without the help of vaping, she says, she would still be smoking cigarettes and slowly killing herself.

Lung cancer killed her 62-year-old mother four years ago, after decades of smoking and many failed attempts to quit. Oesophageal cancer killed Kasenow’s father as well, about two years ago. He was just 65 and his cancer was probably also due to smoking.

Now 42, Kasenow decided it was time to quit or die. Her brother gave her a vape machine for Christmas in 2016, and she took to it quickly, giving up smoking tobacco almost immediately. She had puffed away on cigarettes since she was 15, and by the time she gave up she was spending $150 a week on her habit, and feeling increasingly unwell. Now she spends maybe $30 or $40 a week on vaping.

An administrative assistant with SA Health, Kasenow says vaping has changed her life. Her sense of taste and her sense of smell have returned. Her fitness has improved. Her skin is brighter and her teeth are whiter. “It’s definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made, for sure,” she says.

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