Q: What’s long and thin and lights up at the end?

12 Feb

At about half past ten on Friday 4th February, I opened up my packet of cheap cigarettes, picked out the last one, smoked it in the usual fashion, discarded it down a drain and went back into my office. Not the usual method of giving up smoking, I’ll grant you, but it seems to have worked. One week on, I still haven’t lit up once, nor have I had any real desire to. I have, of course, been cheating.

Originally bought on a whim, the electric cigarette I bought off Amazon could yet be one of my canniest purchases of all time. Marketed as a cigarette replacement that you could use in pubs and clubs, I was intrigued to see one in action for myself.

As I waited for the postman to bring me my small box of battery powered joy, I tried to imagine what these things would look like in action; what they would taste like. According to the manufacturer, the device creates a tobacco flavoured vapour which is virtually indestinguishable from smoke by passing an electric charge through a filament which is coated in a tobacco flavoured liquid. As the liquid I had ordered also contains nicotine, I summised that I would get the same kind of hit from the electric ciggy as I would a normal one, but that it would be similar to sucking on the hole from a freshly-boiled electric kettle, and no-one wants to do that. When it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised that neither were the case.

The first drag on my new toy was disappointing. The light at the end of the cigarette, designed to resemble tobacco burning, flicked on then off again. A faint taste of something, but that was all. Determined to get my twenty quids worth, I inhaled again, this time deeper and stronger. Suddenly, the gadget kicked in to gear, I got that familiar feeling hitting the back of my throat, and I exhaled what can only be described as a very convincing mist, which dissipated almost immediately into the air.

Tastewise, it tastes nothing like tobacco. OK, not “nothing” like tobacco, but it’s a fair way off. Consider the difference in taste between Coca-Cola and a “Cola” flavoured chew, for instance. This e-cigarette has the same problem – or rather, the liquid does. This isn’t a bad thing in my book – I don’t like the taste of cigarettes. Whilst the box claims that the pre-filled cartridges containing the “e-liquid” are meant to resemble Marlboro Reds, I’ll happily take the taste that one actually gets from these things.

Moneywise, the e-cigarette looks like it might save me a small fortune. The manufacturer claims that each cartridge is the equivalent of about 10 cigarettes, but this past week, I’ve concluded that 6 or 7 is probably a fairer estimate. Each refill cartridge costs me 60p. Going by the manufacturers estimate, its a quarter of the price of the cheapest packet of ten I can think of. Over the course of a year, that’s a lot of spare pennies.

Now, the inevitable downsides: Firstly, the battery ain’t great. It’ll last for a day and then die on you. Luckily, a USB charger was included with the package, so its no worse than an iPhone. The e-cigarette takes about an hour and a half to fully charge. Secondly, whilst you can smoke these in pubs, I wouldn’t bother. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb, and if you’ve got an especially realistic looking one, you’ll find yourself in bother quickly. I did test mine in a well known pub chain, and was given all sorts of odd looks. Besides, alfresco e-smoking’s good for the soul.

The one concern I have about these devices is that they are a bit too easy to come by. After a cursory search, the only stipulation many websites have is that the buyer must be over the age of 18, with no clear method of enforcement. Given that nicotine is a) a poison, and b) addictive, its a little alarming to see these gadgets being openly bought and sold without regulation, though credit must be given to the vendors who place prominent warnings on their websites.

All in all, the bottom line for me is I’ve not smoked in a week, and I’m not overeating to compensate, nor am I getting tetchy with people (well, no more so than usual :-)). I fully apprieciate that I’m not really dealing with my addiction, but if I’m honest, I don’t care about that right now. I’m managing my addiction with something thats cheaper, has supposedly less carcinogens and is as enjoyable. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and after only three days of using it, my chest got immeasurably lighter and I’m finding it easier to breathe.

My only concern is that I don’t turn into one of those nagging ex-smokers. If I do, you have my permission to shoot me.

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