Meet Mt Baker Vapor – John Swanke’s Story

With a ringing in my ears and blisters on my fingers, I took hold of my first cigarette. I was 16 years old and had just finished my first live radio broadcast at the local station with my high school band. We moved the gear into our vehicles and proceeded to take a seat on the loading dock, critiquing our performance. Someone passed around a pack of cigarettes. Being the youngest member of the band, I was eager to be accepted by the other players, DJs and promoters that surrounded us. Hailing from a family of addictive personalities, I failed to realize I was hooked before that first smoke burnt to the filter. I gravitated to the fringe and hung with the smokers for the rest of my high school career.


At Western Washington University, I worked in the service industry where break times were sacred rituals. The non-smokers casually ate lunch, checked their phones and had time to socialize. We the smokers frantically juggled eating, smoking and running to the convenience store for smokes. I found a local shop to buy my tobacco in bulk and roll my own. At times I felt like I was always late, always on my way, or scavenging a place to roll more cigarettes. I stopped taking the bus to class because the tobacco stench offended the other passengers. I started walking to classes, smoking all the way. The walks became longer and more difficult. More and more people leered and jockeyed to avoid my clouds of smoke.

Upon graduation, I landed a summer job in Ketchikan, Alaska. I felt right at home smoking in bars, then allowed. On a hike, I realized I might be ruining my life–a troop of young school children passed me on a steep section of trail. I was coughing up a lung. Shame washed over me. Almost unable to finish the hike, I knew it was time to make a change.

I worked one more summer in South East Alaska, struggling with smoking for months. A return to Bellingham brought an opportunity at Mt. Baker Vapor. Surrounded by others quitting cigarettes, I found the inspiration and the tools I needed to stay tobacco-free.  My Flagship MOD and a hearty supply of German Chocolate Beefcake staved off my cravings.

Today, I remain active in the music community. Vaping lets me pursue the things I love without being offensive or self-destructive. With the money I’ve saved cutting cigarettes, creative adventures and hobbies are suddenly affordable. These hobbies include surfing the Washington coast, disc golf, and marching the trails off Chuckanut drive (without hacking up a lung).

 Something to think about:

As a smoker, I never considered the amount of money I was wasting every week on cigarettes. It also took me years to realize the negative impact it was having on my health. What hobbies and activities have you been able to pursue since giving up smoking? How has your life changed?



Tim Mechling

Tim is Mt Baker Vapor's resident creative weirdo. He writes, composes music, draws, designs, produces podcasts, investigates, and blows the trumpet for the Common Man.

  • Maria says:

    Thanks for your story, John. I related a bunch, especially your tired trek hiking. lol

    • John Swanke says:

      Glad you enjoyed it. The moment I saw these young children basically running laps around me on the trail was the moment I knew I had to quit smoking. Now I can continue to enjoy all the beautiful places in the Northwest without feeling like I’m about to collapse.

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