I have said it before, and I’ll say it again — I’m really good at being addicted to nicotine. I’m not addicted to nicotine in that habitual way, where you have to get a rollie sorted for the minute you wake up. I wouldn’t happily spend my last £5 on a blue razz over, say, dinner. No, I crave a hit on a fresh Lost Mary the same way I crave an ice cold can of coke on a hangover, a twister lolly on a warm day, a pint at 5:PM on a Friday. Vapes take the edge off, they make me feel ready to take on the world, they hoist up my weary soul and give me that little spring in my step that only a direct hit of alkaloid to the brain can provide.
So I, like many other nicotine “addicts”, became pretty alarmed by the news that Glastonbury Festival would be banning disposable vapes being brought to Worthy Farm in 2023. Now, I’m not naive, and I know that my habit is having a detrimental environmental impact. I can’t say I don’t get at least a tinge of guilt every time I place a husk of expired-lithium and polyethylene into my waste paper bin. I know full well that I have probably contributed far more to the relentless plasticising of our planet since my adoration for vaping started, than ever before. I agree with the policy, I respect it.
However, I also find Glastonbury incredibly stressful. I’m sad to say I’m not one of those people that relishes in the idea of four days of camping, anxiously looking for your pals, running to try and make a set, trying to find somewhere to stand at the Pyramid Stage with a vantage point. No, despite my deep love for it, Glastonbury Festival to me represents the very pinnacle of needing a little pick-me-up from papa Elf Bar. But, like any “addict,” I still subscribe to the basic tenant that I am not actually, really addicted. I can still quit if I had to? Right? I don’t actually NEED to vape? If I couldn’t have one tomorrow I wouldn’t care? Right?
Of course there are alternatives. For one, I could get a reusable vape and still be able to blast my raspberry scented breath all over Somerset this weekend. But, let’s all be honest with ourselves, they don’t hit the same… a pale, pathetic imitation of their fruity, disposable cousins. Another route, is that I could just smoke actual cigarettes, you know, like they did in the olden days. But the reality is, as someone pushing 30, the prospect of dealing with black-lung on top of a military-grade Glasto hangover is not something that I can really see myself coping with.
So, I have decided that for Glastonbury 2023 I will go full cold turkey. I will take my last, longing puff before I enter the festival and not touch another until I am safely back in London. Can I handle a full-throttle weekend in Pilton without my sacred vice? Or will I crumble, beg cheat and steal for an illicit go on someone else’s? Could the the crisp, clean, South West air be the key to finally kicking my habit?
Full disclosure, for this experiment I will not consume any vapes though I will be carrying an emergency pack of cigarettes as a precaution. I have also instructed my friends not to allow me to vape for the entirety of my three days on Worthy Farm.
Is it possible to go full cold turkey at Glastonbury? Well there’s only one way to find out.
So here it is, on our way. Due to an issue with my ticket I am driven to run outside the terminal with just 10 minutes to go until my train leaves to have a last go on my blue razz cherry. Concerned about how this will pan out when I land on the farm.
In the hour and 20 minutes it took to get to Castle Cary Station, I am already gasping. I’m enough of a goodie two shoes not to break transport laws — but I must confess I stepped straight off the train, without a care for my heaped luggage, and took a sweet sweet puff. This is not looking promising.
Well, there’s no going back now. My hand hovering above the bin. I was tempted to have just one last go before abiding by Glastonbury’s new policy — but made the decision not to. It’s better to not have the memory I think. I make my way through security and I’m in.
Why does no one ever remember how stressful the trek to the campsite with your luggage is? Cockily walking through the gate with a wheelie suitcase, I think that the 19 minute walk to my friends won’t be a problem. However in the heat, I am completely exhausted by the time I reach my destination. All the drinks in my bag are the temperature of the NYC Downlow interior, I have about 2ml of water left and I find myself reaching for my emergency pack far quicker than I expected. However, I resist. Though as soon as I catch the view of the Pyramid Stage – waiting for Texas to come give me that ‘Inner Smile’ – it’s too difficult to counter the temptation, and I have one of my 20 cigarettes. Want to know the worst thing? It’s so, unbearably dissatisfying. Burning down my throat in the way a vape moves with a caress.
Though my friends have thus far done a stellar job at trying to curb me burning through my emergency supply, by the time I wander off alone to find another group to go to Arctic Monkeys with I have already had seven more. I complain endlessly about how dissatisfying each one was. We’re down to 12 cigarettes.
Having spent the past four hours in the depths of NYC Downlow has helped, I’m not an indoor smoker — I don’t want anyone to choke on the fumes of my Sterling Duals as Midland warps through his set. But upon exiting and being greeted by the fresh Worthy Farm air I have two more.
It’s so hot. It’s so hot that people are taking shelter next to flooded bins. It’s only 24 degrees but it feels like 34. I’m down to 10, just half my pack left in the early stages of day two. Due to my precarious smoking last night I already have a sharp cough, and everything tastes like ashes. Despite the ban, I can see countless people walking around with vapes — tut! To make myself feel better I spent £6.50 on the worst sausage bap I have ever eaten in my life. Hoping today I’ll reach non-nicotine enlightenment.
The heat is making everything unsatisfying. The drinks aren’t cool enough, the food is too hot, I’m having to stand under a tent playing swing to try and catch a bit of relief. In my desperation I have two more cigarettes, which are also horrendous. We’re down to eight.
I’ve managed to resist any more cigarettes thus far, though I’ve had more than a couple of drags on my friends’ (sorry!). After losing my friends three times in efforts to see Lana Del Rey, I’ve spent £18 on three different sets of chips — each one worse than the last.
It’s that perfect Block9 Glastonbury weather. The sun is just starting the rise behind the trees, I’m surrounded by all my friends, Ben UFO just blasted through everything bass and UKG, and now Bashkka is treating us to some buoyant, speedy house. This moment is so perfect, it’s 99% perfect. The only thing I know that would make this better is if I had a vape. I’m half tempted not to run through any of my pack out of the knowledge that it will just not hit the spot, but I cave and somehow guzzle through all but two.
I’m on the way to go get my spot for the Blondie-Lil Nas X-Elton John triple slammer. I had one of my two final cigarettes this morning and I’ve, admittedly, also stolen more than a couple of rollies from kind but disappointed pals. Was this a fools errand? Have I even achieved anything close to the post-niccy experience? I catch someone behind me taking a huff of a vape that is the size of a M&S cocktail tin and yearning stirs in the pit of my stomach.
Despite a couple of tugs on other people’s rollies I’ve resisted the urge to have my last one. As Elton John belts out ‘Rocket Man’ to a sea of people, bathed in the light of fireworks – and though I am still aching for a tiny, little vape – I feel at ease. Satisfied.
I save my last cigarette for that difficult journey back to the campsite from a night in the South East corner. I’ve stolen more than a few tokes of people’s cigarettes – sure. But the important thing, I didn’t vape. I contemplate what this means, am I cured? No. Do I want to vape though? No. What I have gained is the world’s sorest throat, and a newfound hatred of smoking. Hopefully this will last until I get home — we will see.
Now safely back in London, I think I can truly reflect on what the experience of resisting vapes has taught me at Glastonbury. For one, I saw thousands of people vaping in unison — which probably meant that despite the ban, I probably could have done it anyway. Another thing I learned, is that smoking a twenty-deck of cigarettes in three days will not only make you lose your voice for a prolonged period of time, but also make you cringe at the idea of puffing on vape all day. Though, by not going cold turkey from nicotine completely at Glastonbury, I do wonder if I actually achieved my goal – have I really given an insight into how removing vapes from the rotation at this festival could be? Or have I bored you with tales of me trying to ration a pack of cigarettes and annoying my friends all weekend. Who knows, but since I’ve returned I have not bought another one. Maybe I’ve actually cracked the code, it’s not hypnotism, or literature that can get you to kick the habit… but a cough caused by overexposure to Sterling Duals and heatwave Worthy Farm dust. Will this last? I’m not sure, but I’m glad I didn’t leave any vape husks on the farm this year.
Megan Townsend is Mixmag’s Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter
Written by: Tim Hopkins