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The future of smoking is here, and it charges via USB

I recently decided to try electronic cigarettes so that I could smoke in the increasing number of locations where smoking is banned. After a very small amount of research, mostly to weed out the brands that are known to contain antifreeze and other nasties, I settled on Blu.


For $60 you get two devices, various chargers, and 25 cartridges.  To re-up, I’ll be ponying out $1 per cartridge, which they dubiously claim is equivalent to 15 cigarettes.  More on that later.

The device’s function is simple: most of the length is a Lion battery, and when you puff, it feeds power to the pretty blue LED on the end, as well as to a heating element (vaporizer), which atomizes the nicotine solution in the replaceable cartridge.  You inhale the vapor, and it dissipates almost immediately when you exhale.  Watch this kid do it:

The day I received mine in the mail I chain-smoked them at my desk at work, eventually getting what was obviously in retrospect a mild case of nicotine poisoning. It felt great at the time. They’ve since mostly gotten use in social settings for their novelty value. The verdict is that it tastes and feels more like smoking hookah than a cigarette. Everyone’s favorite flavor is menthol.


So: should you buy one of these things? If you enjoy smoking and won’t miss $60, then probably. If you’re looking for a supplemental smoking device that you can use anywhere (for now), or for a novelty item to spark conversations at parties, look no further.

If, however, you’re a current smoker lured by the advertised 80% reduction in cost over traditional burning-plant-matter cigarettes, you should rethink your plan. I don’t know how they formulate their 15-cigarette equivalence (maybe on nicotine content, maybe it’s pure marketing BS), but in my experience each cartridge is closer to three or four tobacco cigarettes. This means that each virtual cigarette is about 25 cents apiece ($1 per cartridge), which is slightly cheaper than a pack in Seattle, a lot cheaper than a pack in NYC, and more expensive than most of the country. Besides the relative parity in cost, the smoking experience provided by the vapor just doesn’t cut it if you’re really craving a smoke. The pleasant but painful “throat hit” of cigarettes is faithfully replicated, but something is missing. It’s just not the same.

And as a final warning: just because you’re technically not breaking any laws with your e-cigarette doesn’t mean that people won’t look at you funny or ask you to “put it out.” This hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’m aware of the possibility. Also, “I’m not technically smoking in bed” is not guaranteed to placate your girlfriend.

Posted in Technology.

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