Who wants to try an electronic cigarette?

19 September 2012

Matt Harper

Matt Harper

Delivery Director

It is no secret that whilst smoking tobacco is down to individual choice, there are side effects to consider for the individual smoking and those around them. There is also the challenge in the UK and other countries where legislation has meant that smoking inside public places is against the law. Not so great when the weather is unpleasant...but this has been put in place to reduce the harm of 'second hand smoke'.

So is there an alternative?

Enter 'the smokeless cigarette'.

It comes in a number of forms like electronic cigarettes (or 'e-cigarette'), tobacco vaporisers and nicotine inhalers. Manufacturers of brands like Vapestick, ClearSmoke, Skycig, Genesis, Vapouriz, Ploom and Steamlite are quite bullish about the 'advantages' that such products can boast over the traditional cigarette. Over two million Britons have a tried the devices and ~650,000 have become regular users. Estimates for the size of the UK's e-cigarette market range from £10m up to £70m. They are almost entirely unregulated in the UK, are not subject to uniform standards, but have been banned elsewhere including Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Canada.

The claim is that you get the same sensation as you do with smoking tobacco, with the same physical and visual 'look & feel', but without the tar, carbon monoxide, ammonia, smells, ash and second-hand smoke dangers. Conventional smokers are encouraged to stop smoking by state regulations, increased taxes and health warnings, which do not appear to be aimed at the e-cigarette user. Some of the larger e-cigarette manufacturers are showing annual turnovers over $15 million, so consumers have not only heard of them; they know about them and are buying them.


The pros

  • Not affected by the smoking ban
  • Feels like smoking, but it's not. There are plenty of flavours to choose from too
  • Cheaper - Same look & feel of regular cigarettes but claims to be less expensive
  • Less Harmful
    • Same satisfying sensation of smoking without all the harmful chemicals
    • No second-hand smoke danger
    • No toxic smoke, just vapour
  • More convenient. Smoke anywhere in public, albeit be warned that not everyone is familiar with e-cigarettes...
    • At your desk
    • In a pub, cafe or restaurant
    • On a bus - although try not to spark off a terror alert!
    • Even on a plane - check out these tips on smoking electronic cigarettes on planes

With the list above, it looks like a solid case for the e-cigarette. But what are the downsides? There must be some to consider!

The cons

  • Perceived as something new and the side effects are not fully known - cigarettes have been around for centuries whereas e-cigarettes have not
  • E-cigarettes are unregulated in the UK
  • Will an e-cigarette ever truly replace the taste and experience of a traditional cigarette?
  • What about something for people who socialise and meet new people through smoking? One could argue that you could still do this with an e-cigarette...

I decided to try an e-cigarette out of curiosity. To set the context, I'd be classified as a social smoker, but I am quite happy to go without a cigarette for days or even weeks. Sometimes though, I just fancy one, and I have been known to have more than one in an evening if the mood takes me! I suspect this may resonate with a few people reading this. The main point is that I am not a 20-a-day regular smoker.

My Impression


I found the taste to be 'different'; essentially to me like an exaggerated case of trying a different brand. The flavour is not something to get too hung up on as there are countless flavours out there so I'm sure you could find one to suit you! The sensation is different, with vapour Vs smoke, but the act of smoking is very much the same - put cigarette to mouth, inhale, exhale...the good bit is the complete lack of the smell of smoke on clothes, and breathe. I don't smoke in my car or house, but to others who do, they could see the benefit of car & house not being effected by smoke. And if I want to smoke in a pub while having a beer then I don't have to go and stand in the rain to do so.

People do give you a bit of an odd look, but I think this reaction will diminish over a relatively short period of time. One other point to consider is that because the e-cigarette is not lit, there is no rush to chain smoke and 'finish it'. You can have one puff and put it away for another day or you can, in theory, suck and puff away for hours on end. The only limitation is the battery life and/or the nicotine filter. Reserves of both are easy to carry around, and many I know carry spares.

For someone like me, I often have an e-cigarette in my pocket when socialising, but it won't prevent me from never having a real cigarette. I tend to have a cigar these days if I can find the time. Sometimes I like to have a cigarette with a friend, and perhaps that will be when I opt for a real one. Like many, my choice depends on many criteria, and there is no single right answer for me personally.

To conclude

Do conventional smokers consider the e-cigarette as a worthy contender to their tried and tested brand that they have smoked for years? If the conversion to e-cigarettes does take off then is it an opportunity or a threat for the Tobacco industry to deal with? Perhaps pharmaceuticals that may see this as an opportunity to add to their portfolio of products to help people stop smoking? All the large tobacco manufacturers invest heavily in research & development, so they are taking e-cigarettes seriously, but it remains to be seen whether they become part of their portfolio of products / brands. As more and more facts are gathered about e-cigarettes, this will no doubt determine whether the popularity grows, or whether their growth is stunted. If there are no hidden health issues with e-cigarettes then I can't see why they would not be something that some conventional smokers may use as a substitute, whether just to replace, or as a stop gap before 'kicking the habit' completely.

I welcome your thoughts.

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