E-cigarettes: Worth the money?

By Michael Vass | January 25, 2011

There has been no end to the persecution that smokers have received in the past 2 decades or so. Smokers have been so demonized that few have even noticed the infringement of Rights that this moderately sized group of Americans now must endure. All the while being a cash cow for cities, States, and the Federal Government – all of which are about as fiscally responsible as a sieve.

That’s the problem that smokers face today. In fact its so bad that in California (home of the hyper-reactive eco-fanatics) some towns – Belmont, Pasadena, Calabasas, ect – have tried to ban individuals from smoking inside their own home. On the opposite coast, New York State has had the brilliant idea of creating taxes in excess of the product itself – a concept that neither stops smokers nor increases State revenues as smokers just buy from outside the State at a cheaper cost. In the face of such pressure alternative are sure to flourish though.

Thus there is the E-cigarette. The concept is simple, take all the good things about cigarettes (from a smoker’s view) and get rid of all the things that eco-fanatics hate. The realization of that concept is compact, clean, reasonably priced and a fractured marketplace with numerous competitors.

To give all of this some perspective, I am an unabashed smoker. I’ve been smoking about a pack a day for 20 some odd years. To date, my health is generally above average for a man a few years younger than my age. I say that because making a choice to use an E-cigarette is not always out of some irrational (my opinion) fear of death for myself or via second-hand smoke.

The big question for any smoker is if E-cigarettes are an effective substitute for a real cigarette? Well if you smoke the black tobacco of Russian cigarettes, everything is better. But compared to American blonde tobacco cigarettes, E-cigs are very different.

I received my E-cigarette as a gift in January 2011. The brand doesn’t matter that much as most of the E-cigarettes are similar in design and function. You have a rechargeable battery device attached to an atomizer attached to a (sometimes) refillable cartridge. The cartridge contains a liquid suspension of nicotine, water, and a couple of other chemicals that bind it all together. When you want to smoke you charge the atomizer, turning the nicotine water into gas, and inhale. Simple enough.

The feel of the E-cigarette is odd. It’s the general right shape, perhaps a bit long for those that don’t smoke 100′s and/or those extra skinny and slim straw cigs. The weight though is definitely off-balance, besides being far heavier than any cigarette. The balance might be an issue with the particular brand, but it seems common that the battery is furthest away from the smoker and thus off-center weight.

So the E-cigarette will not fit into pockets properly, nor will it feel right being held. Plus there is the fact that it is fragile. Not like a real cigarette, but still delicate as most technomogy goes. You can drop it and have it work, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so repeatedly. Sitting on the E-cig is also a bad choice. All common things, from time to time, for smokers to do with a real cigarette that will make E-cigs very expensive with replacements.

Putting aside the feel of the E-cigarette, and ignoring the look (various brands can make it look tech/geeky or pusedo-real but in the end it doesn’t matter) a smoker really wants to know how it tases. Which again has the answer of different.

The water vapor and nicotine mixture is incredibly lighter than real cigarette smoke. At first heavier smokers will be unsure if they are doing it right as the draw is so much less than they expect. But the rush of nicotine will satisfy most cravings with one or 2 puffs.

What the E-cigarette does not do is provide a nice cloud of smoke, which can be visually pleasing to some smokers. It also does not have the same flavor, obviously because so many ingredients are removed for the benefit of the smoker. Even flavored E-cigarettes are lacking. Menthol, my particular brand choice, is decent with a big enough blast; but often a quick minor puff before a real drag is needed to get the full aruoal sensation.

After 20 days of use, a pattern has emerged. As well as some realizations that non-smoker never consider as they hype this product.

  • Generally a single drag of the E-cigarette will be enough nicotine to last 1 – 2 hours or so. That’s the equivalent of 2 – 4 cigarettes. I am a heavy smoker so the effect might be even longer for light smokers, or shorter for those that do not inhale as deeply.
  • The E-cigarette needs to be recharged about once every 3/4 of a day. Then again I tend to have odd and very long hours, plus different brands use different batteries so again the individual experience may difer though not too greatly. Learning the charge rate and length is annoying but easy.
  • Since the E-Cigarettes are odd shaped they are easy to misplace. They don’t fit where a regular cigarette or pack might, so old habits on carrying don’t apply.
  • E-Cigarettes make you feel weird. Since they take about 5 seconds to get the same effect as a full cigarette (or several) having to step outside – where the other smokers have been banished in NY and other States – is not necessary. If you do, then you feel out of place as you are immediately done while other smokers continue. Adding to that is the fact of the odd feel of the E-cig. You may feel like you are supposed to be doing something, and can’t figure out what it is.
  • Smoking an E-cig indoors, particularly around non-smokers, feels like bad etiquette. Younger readers/smokers may not care about this, but I was raised in a different generation. You don’t smoke when others eat, nor blow smoke in their face, and similar situations. The E-cigarette promotes, encourages, in fact was made to do just those things. Stepping away for 5 seconds is more disruptive than the minutes a cigarette would require. Thus while such rudeness need not be done, it leaves the E-cigarette smoker in an odd position.
  • At times, without any other smoker being present, you will just want a real cigarette. Just because of the feel, the taste, the real smoke. It will give a head rush, and will feel heavier on the lungs, but it will also feel “good”. That desire may be even greater if interacting with regular smokers.

    Given all these factors, has the E-cigarette worked? Has it saved me money? Also will it cause me to quit smoking?

    Yes it has worked in saving money. Tax on cigarettes in New York State is ridiculously high, making the purchase of cigarettes in-State unreasonable at $10 a pack (some parts of the New York State are higher, with some dumb politicians planning an even higher rate due to taxes). That would mean, by current rates, a cost of $70 a week or $280 a month.

    The E-cigarette package that was given to me cost $60. The key to that cost was the refilling nicotine solution. The small bottle of the mixture actually has enough nicotine to provide the equivalent of more than a month of smoking. At this moment, 20 days into using the product, I have 2/3′s of the bottle still unused. At this rate, I will save some $500 every 2 months or so. Which makes it worth the price.

    At the same time, I have not bought a pack of cigarettes. Which is great since the thought of denying politicians my money for absurd taxation policies is thrilling. Yet, to be honest I have smoked probably about 10 cigarettes in the same timeframe. These were ciugarettes given to me from friends that are fellow smokers (and get their real cigarettes outside of New York State – So much for the revenue raising plans of politicians, again). I expect that the ratio of real cigarettes to E-Cigarettes will likely stay the same for some time.

    Which brings me to the last thought. Will E-cigarettes make me quit smoking? No. Not even close.

    I enjoy smoking, and have no intention of stopping. That doesn’t mean others should start, or that E-cigarettes can’t be a tool for someone else to stop smoking. Quiting smoking is a mindset, and unless you have it you will not quit. No matter what means you use to try.

    For me, E-cigarettes is a means to avoid paying a ridiculous tax. Eventually politicians will notice that they are losing revenues, and will place huge taxes on E-cigarettes or more likely the nicotine. At that time, we’ll see what I decide. Until then Its E-cigs with an occasional real cigarette for me.

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