This is an article by Consumerism Commentary staff writer, Smithee.
This article assumes that some people smoke and some people don’t. It won’t address the notion that smokers shouldn’t smoke, and I hope you will also avoid that controversial viewpoint in the comments below.
People are vaporizing all over town, but don’t worry, they’re doing it on purpose using a “personal vaporizer,” also called electronic cigarette or e-cigarette. These are basically just alternatives to the normal cigarettes you and I have known about all our lives. An e-cigarette is made of plastic, has a battery, is re-usable, and lets you decide what to fill your mouth with.
If the advertising is to be believed, this is a product which doesn’t rely on smoke, or fire, or tobacco, not to mention dozens of foreign toxins normally found in cigarettes, for example, tar.
So how would this affect a smoker’s finances?
It’s almost certainly less expensive
E-cigarettes use cartridges to store the liquid that gets vaporized into your mouth when you take a puff. A cartridge is equivalent to about 10-12 normal cigarettes. Taking the low end of the estimate, a cartridge lasts about as long as half a pack. Assuming a pack of cigarettes costs an even $5.00, and you can get five e-cigarette cartridges for $9.00, you’d be saving about $1.40 per “pack” if you switched from regular cigarettes to the electronic variety.
Some models don’t use disposable batteries, either. You can get one that plugs into a USB socket in order to charge it.
It’s almost certainly less offensive
As an added bonus, smokers don’t have to smell bad to non-smokers anymore. The cartridges come in countless flavor varieties. You can even mix them if you want. I’ve been in the room with many of them, and none of them smell even five percent as bad as normal cigarettes do. Of course, part of that might be due to the vapor traveling less far than smoke would. It might still get on your clothes, but at least you can choose to smell like bacon, or vanilla, or chocolate.
Furthermore, you won’t be needing the ashtray in your car, anymore. Your occasional passengers will appreciate this a lot more than you know.
I personally think it might even be okay to allow e-cigarettes into restaurants and other public places. It’s really that inoffensive.
Is it healthier?
Nobody knows for sure, though most companies are making bold claims about the health benefits of switching. There haven’t been many studies done on the numerous providers of e-cigarettes, or more specifically, the e-liquid that makes them work. Some countries have banned them altogether, but those decisions may be political as much as anything else.
Recently, the U.S. FDA sent letters to five different providers about how they’re not in compliance with the law, and explaining the pathway the FDA intends to take toward proper regulation of this new product. Maybe in the near future e-liquid will also come with enormous, purposely ugly warnings about the dangers of smoking, which other countries have been living with for years, but which is brand new to the U.S.
People do seem to agree, though, that moving from regular cigarettes to the electronic variety brings back one’s sense of smell and taste.
There’s no timer
Since an e-liquid cartridge lasts about as long as half a pack of normal cigarettes would, it’s much more difficult to tell when you’re done smoking. Someone who switches to e-cigarettes as part of a plan to quit smoking might actually end up ingesting more nicotine in a day than they used to.
In order not to overdo it, a person would have to start exerting a new kind of self-discipline, which is always difficult.
I’m not a smoker, but unless some new damaging evidence comes to light, I have to conclude that compared to the paper kind, electronic cigarettes are better for your body (if only just your sense of smell), better for your non-smoker friends, better for the environment, and better for your wallet.
Updated December 22, 2011 and originally published November 16, 2010.