E-cigarettes have begun to populate the Consumer Electronics Show in a big way. This is both completely inevitable and a little bit … weird. Technically speaking, of course, e-cigarettes are consumer electronics. But they are also a drug delivery mechanism (that drug being nicotine), which puts them firmly outside the realm of uncontroversial products like headphones and 4K televisions. (We even saw one company selling vaporizers marked with a Post-It Note that read “for cannabis.”) Times, as they say, are a’ changin’.
While most of the e-cig brands at CES 2014 come from China – where, in fact, most e-cigarettes are made – the one major standout is Vuse, the first product from RJ Reynolds Vapor, subsidiary of “analog” cigarette giant RJ Reynolds. Unlike its Chinese counterparts, Vuse’s CES booth stands as tall and takes up as much floor space as many of the major consumer tech brands. Also unlike other e-cigarette brands at CES, the Vuse e-cig is made entirely in the US by automated manufacturing processes – which, according to Vuse’s people, means the quality is superior and more consistent than the Chinese brands that use measly humans create their devices.
But the biggest difference between other e-cigarettes – especially disposables and low-end rechargeable – is what’s inside. Vuse e-cigs pack “SmartMemory” technology that “remembers” how many puffs you’ve taken on each cartridge. And it tells you how much battery is left by illuminating different colors on the tip of the Vuse battery. Hell, even the cartridges, which the company says are “tamper-proof” to prevent “kids” from opening them up and loading them with God-knows-what (Ed. note: probably cannabis), pack freakin’ encryption – encryption! – to ensure only Vuse-brand cartridges are used with Vuse batteries. To take this a step further, the Vuse uses a “QuickConnect” attachment coupling that, unlike any other e-cig you’ll find, snaps rather than screws on.
More than anything, RJ Reynolds says, the Vuse “digital cigarette” is designed to help smokers move to e-cigarettes by delivering a consistent amount of nicotine with every puff. The Vuse is the first e-cigarette to pack a microprocessor that the company says monitors and adjusts the vapor production up to 2,000 times per second to deliver the most consistent vaping experience on the market.
Furthering this switcher-friendly end, the Vuse comes in two varieties: The Vuse Solo, which costs the same as a disposable e-cig ($9), but the battery is rechargeable and it includes a USB charger in the Solo pack – just in case you want to keep using it. (If not, you can recycle the lithium-ion battery through RJ Reynolds.) You can also pick up the Vuse System pack, which includes two cartridges (original or menthol) rather than the one that comes in the Solo pack, a wall adapter and USB charger, and a carrying case. Additional cartridges – worth about a pack of cigarettes of vaping each – will run you about $6 for two.
After an evening using the Vuse, I was perfectly satisfied. While I haven’t yet vaped through an entire cartridge, it does seem to deliver a consistent amount of vapor even as the battery drains its charge. The difference between the Vuse and other rechargeable “stick-style” e-cigs is probably unnoticeable to new vapers. So far, so good. That said, I still prefer my Kanger eVod (seen above-right), which delivers more vapor, presumably lasts longer on a charge (simply because it uses a bigger battery), and lets me refill with any e-juice I like without having to buy new cartridges every time. But if you’re just getting into vaping, the Vuse is easily one of the best “starter” options on the market.
Vuse is currently sold in a limited number of locations, but will expand nationwide later this year.
Correction: The maker of Vuse was originally referred to as Vapor Corp. It is actually RJ Reynolds Vapor Company. This has been corrected above, and we regret the error.