Thursday, May 12, 2011


by J.S. Holland

On the face of it, everything about the "Electronic Cigarette" sounds anathema to everything I stand for. Now in this Buck Rogers age of food that isn't really food and music that isn't really music, we're supposed to embrace cigarettes that are actually robotic simulacra?

I have gone on record here as comparing the act of puffing an electronic cigarette as being the equivalent to marrying an inflatable wife, but just to show you all what a fair-minded soul I am (and because I am curious), I went out and got one of these 21st century geegaws for myself to see what makes it tick.

I selected the N Joy brand, whose very name put me off - it sounds a name for a sex toy company. Oh, wait, in fact, it is. But the guy at Cox's assured me it was the best.

The next thing that turned me off was the sheer stupidity of the design. For seemingly no good reason, it mimics the appearance of a standard cigarette: a white stick with a brown end, and a silly red light at the end that glows when you take a puff, as if to simulate the burning fire. Is this really necessary? Why not just design it like an asthma inhaler, so I won't look like a idiot in public with this Fisher-Price play-toy cig in my mouth?

Not that an E-cig hangs out of many people's mouths anyway. The damn thing is so heavy, you would never just walk around with it dangling from your lips. Not only does it weigh more than a cigarette, it weighs more than a fountain pen. You pretty much have to treat it like a pipe, and keep one hand it up to your face the whole time you're sucking on it. Thanks anyway, I'll smoke my pipe.

How does it work, and what's so "electronic" about it? Well, it's a miniature vaporizer powered by a battery that you can recharge by connecting it to your computer via a USB cable. There's something about plugging my cigarette up to a computer that just screams WRONG to me on many levels, but suffice it to say I don't like it. The battery is to heat up the nicotine inside, so the refillable E-cig can give you a burst of nicotine vapor.

Why would anyone want to suck vaporized nicotine through a plastic stick? That's a good question. Despite what the ads and testamonials for these things say, my E-cig experience was nothing like smoking the real thing, and it gave me zero pleasure whatsoever. Then again, I am not actually a real smoker, I'm just a dilletante; not being addicted to nicotine, I cannot relate to the motivations of those who are. (They say nicotine is more addictive than Heroin, yet I go weeks without even thinking about tobacco.)

I was surprised to discover that you can actually see the vapor as you exhale it, although it quickly vanishes. This exhalation does have a slight odor (the vaporized nicotine has a weird, sweet, almost vanilla taste) so I wonder how long it will be before some derpy-derp decides this counts as "second hand smoke".

The E-cig, as expected, doesn't appeal to me. In the spirit of the E-cig, however, if this is indeed the way this world is headed, let's start thinking about electronic pens that shoot vaporized vitamins into our mouths and do away with this whole "food" thing. Let's huff vaporized caffeine from mechanical doodads and do away with this whole "coffee" thing. Let's get high-tech turkey basters and... well, never mind.

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