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Smokeless Smokes

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With cigarette taxes up and smoking in bars, restaurants, and parks now banned, a subculture has grown up around “e-cigarette” nicotine-delivery devices.

HOW THEY WORK
1. A steel cartridge (found where the filter would be on a regular cigarette) is filled with propylene glycol (commonly used in fog machines), water, flavoring, and varying amounts of nicotine. (It ranges from none at all to around the same amount found in a typical cigarette.) Spent cartridges can be replaced or refilled with a dropper.

2. An atomizer vaporizes the nicotine solution when the “smoker” inhales or presses a button on the side of the device.

3. The battery—the back end of the e-cigarette—is recharged with a USB port.

4. On some models, an LED light activates with each “puff,” for verisimilitude.


THE COST

$4,562: Pack-a-day habit for a year of regular cigarettes.

$636: A year of comparable nicotine intake with e-cigarettes.


THE LINGO
Vaping: The act of inhaling from an e-cigarette.

Analogs: E-cigarette smokers’ label for old fashioned Marlboros and Camels. Used with a palpable air of condescension.


GETTING THE FIX
10ish minutes to finish one e-cigarette dose.

3ish minutes to finish a standard cigarette.


LOCATIONS WHERE ONE CAN LEGALLY SMOKE E-CIGARETTES
• Bars
• Restaurants
• Mayor Bloomberg’s office


DO THEY TAKE YOU TO FLAVOR COUNTRY?
Somewhat. E-cigarettes don’t capture the flavor of tobacco exactly—probably a good thing, given that elements of burning tobacco cause cancer—but they do re-create the burn and “throat hit” of regular cigarette smoke. (They can also be had in more novel flavors, including cigar, coffee, apple pie, eggnog, “Liquorice,” and waffle.)


POPULARITY
Posts on the E-Cigarette Forum Website:
2008: 30,000
2011: 4,2000,000


BUT ARE THEY BAD FOR YOU?
E-cigarettes haven’t been the subject of long-term studies and are not yet regulated by the FDA. But a Journal of Public Health Policy examination of their ingredients concluded that they were likely “much safer than tobacco cigarettes,” and comparable to “conventional nicotine replacement products” like patches.

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.


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