Paul Diamond Blow's Huggy Talk
The wit, wisdom, zen, and philosophy of Paul Diamond Blow.

Electronic Cigarettes (E-cigs): The Future of Smoking, or Unsatisfying Gimmick?
Are Electronic Cigarettes a "healthy" Alternative to Real Cigarettes, or Just a Gimmick? Author Paul Diamond Blow "Lights Up" and Finds Out

by Paul Ace Diamond "Huggy" Blow

As a cigarette smoker of over ten years I've always known that the best thing I could do for myself is to quit smoking. As I've gotten older I've tried to take better care of myself: I work out, try to eat right, take plenty of vitamins and supplements for my health, but... I still smoke the gosh danged cigarettes. I have to admit it: I enjoy smoking cigarettes. As a friend of mine once told me, smoking a cigarette is like "taking a break from life." A little five minute break, that is. Over the years I have cut down from a pack a day to 8-10 cigarettes a day, but gosh darn it -- cigarettes are just plain unhealthy and these days are mighty expensive as well (currently $7 and up for a pack of 20) so when I heard of the electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) I decided to take the plunge and purchase an electronic cigarette starter pack to try them out.

The electronic cigarette is billed as a "healthy" alternative to real cigarettes, as instead of inhaling harmful smoke and chemicals into your lungs you inhale vapor which has none of the chemicals that cigarettes contain. Electronic cigarettes do contain nicotine but supposedly nicotine in itself does not cause any diseases (although it is an addictive drug). An electronic cigarette has a battery, an atomizer, and a flavored nicotine cartridge. There are many flavors to choose from (regular tobacco, menthol, java, chocolate, cherry, etc.) and I've found that one cartridge will last for the equivalent of six or seven real cigarettes. The electronic cigarettes look like real cigarettes except they are made of plastic, are much heavier than a real cigarette, and when you take a puff on one the tip of the e-cig glows blue.

The electronic cigarette starter kit that I purchased (the Blu e-cig) cost $59.95 and contained two batteries, two atomizers, a charger pack, one electric wall adapter, one USB cigarette charger adapter, and 25 cartridges of mixed flavors. The first thing you do with an electronic cigarette starter kit is to charge up the charger pack, then you use the charger pack to charge up the battery in the electronic cigarette. You can also charge up the electronic cigarettes by using the USB adapter and connect them to your computer to charge up. Once the electronic cigarette is fully charged, it's time to smoke!

Smoking an electronic cigarette is basically the same as smoking a real cigarette. You put it to your lips, inhale a puff, and exhale. As you inhale, the atomizer vaporizes the liquid nicotine in the cartridge and you inhale vaporized nicotine. As you exhale, you release what looks like smoke but is in fact harmless vapor. As you inhale, the atomizer actually produces a sound (as it is heating up the liquid nicotine) that sounds like a real cigarette burning. So, with an electronic cigarette you have the same effects as you would with a real cigarette: the sound of burning tobacco, the "smoke", and of course the dose of nicotine which your smoker's brain craves.

That being said, how does an electronic cigarette stack up against the real thing? Here are my findings after smoking e-cigs for a few weeks:

The satisfaction element: If you are a cigarette smoker, you know the satisfaction of smoking a cigarette during a work break or after a long day, or whatever. I have found that the electronic cigarette -- while it does deliver a dose of nicotine -- is about 50% as satisfying as a real cigarette. I've found that out of ten puffs on an electronic cigarette, only 3 or 4 of them will seem like a real puff. It does seem that you must inhale deeper and slower with an electronic cigarette to get the equivalent of a "good puff" from a real cigarette. I was hoping that smoking electronic cigarettes would be satisfying enough to replace real cigarettes totally, but I find that I still must smoke a few real cigarettes during the day to get the satisfaction my smoker's brain demands. You do get a nicotine buzz from the electronic cigarette, but the vapor you inhale from an electronic cigarette is not nearly as smooth, rich or robust as a real cigarette and oddly enough the vapor actually irritates my throat more than cigarette smoke does. But, on the plus side, the vapor is not harmful as cigarette smoke is and that is the whole point to smoking an electronic cigarette.

The taste: Electronic cigarette cartridges come in many flavors. I've only tried the flavors that came with my starter kit, but I must say that my personal favorite so far is the "medium tobacco" flavor that doesn't really taste like a real full flavored cigarette, it tastes sweeter and has a hint of coffee flavor (my opinion) that lingers for a few minutes after smoking and is quite nice. I tried the "cherry crush" flavor which to my horror tasted like a Swisher Sweet cigar and made me feel nauseous after taking too big a puff on one. I've also tried the vanilla flavored cartridge which tasted a bit too bitter, and the java flavor which was okay but not great.

The cost: After you purchase an electronic cigarette starter kit (there are many brands on the market averaging between $50-$70 for a kit) the main cost is buying more liquid nicotine cartridges. You can buy 25 cartridges for $25, so that's one dollar per cartridge. I've found that one cartridge lasts for the equivalent of seven real cigarettes, so that's about 15 cents per e-cig smoke. Real cigarettes, at $7 a pack (and up) cost 30 cents and up per smoke, so the electronic cigarette lets you smoke for half the price.

Health benefits: let's face it -- there is nothing healthy about smoking. It is one of the most unhealthy habits you can pick up, and this is the real benefit of smoking electronic cigarettes as they contain none of the smoke or harmful chemicals that real cigarettes do. While smoking electronic cigarettes is not "healthy" and does contain the addictive drug nicotine, at least you are not doing further damage to your body with the smoke and chemicals that real cigarettes deliver.

More pros for the electronic cigarette: You can smoke an electronic cigarette anywhere as there is no harmful second hand smoke involved. You can smoke electronic cigarettes on airplanes, in bars, in the supermarket... anywhere! You may get some dirty looks and rude comments from people, but the glowing blue tip let's them know you are not smoking a real cigarette. You can also take just a few puffs from an electronic cigarette when you feel the urge to smoke and then put it away. If you smoke a real cigarette for just a few puffs you either have to throw the rest away or put it out and carry a stinking butt in your pocket (not good). Electronic cigarettes also produce no foul cigarette and smoke odor, will not discolor the walls in your home or your teeth, and since there is no flame involved there is no fire hazard. Not to mention that you do not need any ash trays or cigarette lighters, and you do not end up with a pile of stinking cigarette butts in your home. An e-cig is also a cool gadget to show off at the bars, as it shows people you are "hip" and "high tech."

Final thoughts on the e-cig: While electronic cigarettes are not as satisfying as the real thing, I believe they can help a smoker such as myself at least cut down on the number of real cigarettes smoked per day. My personal goal is to quit smoking cigarettes totally and hopefully over time the electronic cigarette can help me do that. Electronic cigarettes are NOT for children or for non-smokers -- they are intended for cigarette smokers who want to quit but are having a hard time doing so and need a healthier alternative -- a crutch, if you will. I give the electronic cigarette a rating of 3 out of 5, and that's good enough for me to recommend the electronic cigarette to cigarette smokers who would like to quit.