My trusty DSE701 E-Cigar
Doesn’t the title of this post sound like a fucked-up Harry Potter novel?
I’ve done a lot of pseudonymous posting around the internetz on the wonders of electronic cigarettes, but it just occurred to me that I’ve never mentioned them here on our own blog. Some of you are aware of my struggle with cigarette addiction and the number of times I’ve tried to quit with this method or that. Cold turkey, nicorette, nicoderm, nicofart, various prescription meds… nothing ever worked to keep me off the smoke.
I’ve now been using e-cigarettes for almost nine months, and today marks five months smoke-free thanks to these vapor-producing machines. If you’ve seen these advertised and thought about using one, I’d recommend you read the rest of this post and do a little research before jumping in. Doing so blindly could lead to a costly and unsatisfying experience.
E-cigs, personal vaporizers, digital smokes, smokeless cigarettes, techno-foggers… there are countless names for these devices, but the basic idea for all of them is the same; a small rechargeable battery powers a small atomizer that heats a gel of water, propylene glycol, flavoring, and nicotine. The heat produces an odorless nicotine vapor that one inhales just like “analog” cigarette. An LED on the tip even glows as you inhale. Because there is no combustion, the vapor contains anywhere from 98% to 99.9% fewer carcinogens than cigarettes. The taste is much different than smoke, but the process and sensation are almost the same.
The e-cigarette was invented in China for the 2008 Summer Olympics, as an alternative to smoking in areas where the habit was banned. I first heard of them last fall, when the NY Times profiled a company called NJoy, one of the first large-scale distributors of these devices here in the US. I immediately ordered an NJoy starter kit for $80 and began researching the growing community of electronic smoking as I waited patiently for mine to arrive. The NJoy arrived exactly as advertised, two white rechargeable batteries, one white atomizer, a charger, and a pack of five disposable nicotine cartridges. It is slightly longer than a pen when assembled, and resembles a traditional cigarette in a Hunter Thompson-esque holder.
There is a learning curve for these things, and it took me about a week to learn how to consistently inhale properly for maximum satisfaction. I immediately discovered that the NJoy claim that each nicotine cartridge was the equivalent of a pack of traditional cigarettes was totally bogus, as each cartridge actually lasted about 8-10 cigarettes, maybe less. I’ve since found that this is accurate for most users. Batteries lasted about the equivalent of a pack before needing a recharge. Most atomizers are prone to failure, and most users treat them as disposable part with an average life expectancy of 2-4 weeks. My Njoy atomizer lasted about 3 weeks before it began to act up… and I’ve since learned that even when new, the NJoy e-cigarette pales in comparison to other products on the market for much less.
There are several main styles of e-cigarettes, and almost all on the market today (including NJoy) are produced in just a couple of factories in China. My early favorite was the penstyle, models RN4072 and DES801. All penstyles were interchangeable with my NJoy batteries, and available in a wide range of colors. Atomizers cost between $7-$9, and new batteries around $15. I even have a USB “passthru” that allows me to power the pen by plugging into any USB port. The best part was that prefilled cartidges from these suppliers cost about 50 cents apiece. Whatever you do, do not buy a starter kit for $200+ from a vendor in the mall. There are literally hundreds of online complaints about these types of vendors, and most are just people realizing they paid 3-4 times more than neccessary.
In late December, I also discovered several US companies that sold the flavored liquid in bottles for less than $.50/ml. Johnson Creek Smoke Juice was an early favorite, and until they changed the formula their original Tennessee Cured was perhaps the best e-liquid I ever tasted. I’ve used a number of suppliers since, (PURESMOKER, E-Smokey treats, and GoodProphets, among others) and prefer the ‘tobacco’ flavors like Flue Cured and Ruyan4 in 24mg nicotine. Using the liquid, I refill my own cartridges for a daily cost of less than a QUARTER. (yes, just 25 cents!)
After buying or trying almost every style of techno-fogger out there, I’ve settled on the E-cigar (DSE701, RN4062) as my favorite daily digital smokestick. Hands down, it beats all others in terms of cost, battery life, performance, and consistency. The $45.00 starter kit comes with 2 batteries, an atomizer tube, a battery charger, and a number of prefilled cartridges. I do not use the cartridges in my e-cigars, and prefer to drip about 4-6 drops of e-juice on the atty. 5-6 drops of juice generally lasts 4-6 hours, or the equivalent of about 4 cigarettes. Rechargeable batteries last DAYS before needing to be switched and only cost $3 each. Also, they’re tough. I’ve been exclusively using the same 2 cigars without a problem since February, which might actually be some sort of record for e-cig atomizer lifespan. I haven’t ‘babied’ these at all, as both have been dropped, stepped on and abused repeatedly.
I bought two cigars and a few ounces of juice in February, and they’re still kicking. My next order will be for a lower nicotine juice when I deplete my current supply. I plan to slowly step the level down to zero nicotine over the next few months, and hope to be able to go even vapor-free by New Years. At this point, compared to smoking, I’ve saved over $400, even with all the trial and error I went through.
After 5 months without smoking, I just feel better altogether. No more tightness in my chest, and I don’t even crave analog smoke anymore. I spent about 3 months coughing up the nastiest goo I’ve ever seen.(Reason # 1 for never smoking again) My lung capacity has gotten much better, and I no longer wake up in the early morning hours struggling to breathe. My blood pressure has dropped and I don’t get winded walking up a large flight of stairs. I don’t smell like an ashtray, and I can taste again. Even though I never smoked in the house, even it smells better. Of course, I’ve also gained 10 lbs since my taste and smell returned.
Despite my trial and error experience, electronic alternatives have allowed me to wean myself from traditional cigarettes and I highly recommend them for anyone who wishes to reduce or eliminate cigarette smoking. They’re not 100%safe - especially compared to not smoking - but I think they’re certainly safer than the thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke.
Stay tuned next time, we plan to profile Clemson organic chemist John W. Huffman and discuss our observations on the wonderful research he has done on the synthesis of analogues and metabolites of our dear old friend, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Good stuff, and truly AMAZING work!