I’ve never been much of a smoker. I am the kind of guy who usually just bums a treat every so often on a night out. To me, cigarettes are a lot like a beer. They aren’t good for you, but in moderation, they’ll harm you about as much as that McDonald’s cheeseburger. However, when our resident 21st century savant Andrew Couts started smoking e-cigarettes last winter, I was intrigued. Vaping, as it’s called, gives you most of the buzz of a real cigarette without the horrible downsides like inhaling smoke, smelling up a room, or having to taste your cigarette for the next few hours. When I discovered that electronic cigars and pipes exist, I decided to investigate this phenomenon myself.
In the sections below, I’ll describe my experiences and adventures with a rechargeable e-cigar, a rechargeable e-pipe, and some disposable e-cigars and e-cigarettes. Becoming a strange smoker from the future has been a fun journey indeed.
The next step in e-smoking
Before we go any further, lets hash out the basics. E-cigarettes and all of the other products we’re about to talk about, are made to look like tobacco smoking products, but are actually anything but. They contain no tobacco, no tar, and no flame. They do contain small amounts of nicotine (same amount, or less, than a cigarette) for the buzz, but are powered by small lithium ion batteries — the same kind of battery that powers all modern cell phones, cameras, tablets, laptops, and electric cars (yep). The battery powers a heating element in what is called an atomized cartridge. The atomized cartridge is basically a metal tube filled with cotton and what the industry calls e-liquid (water and propylene glycol, the same substances inside asthma inhalers and deodorant). The battery heats up and boils a small amount of the liquid, which produces a vapor that resembles smoke. The vapor doesn’t smell and will mostly dissipate in your mouth if you hold your breath for a few seconds.
There haven’t been any studies I can find on the long term health repercussions of vaping, but they appear to be minimal when compared to actual smoking. However, if you live a fearful sort of life, it might be best to steer clear. Nothing is for certain.
Getting Holmesy with the e-pipe
The first stop on my expedition into the deeper realms of vaping was the perhaps the most hardcore product in the vaping world: the electronic pipe. For this experiment, the folks at ePuffer were kind enough to let me try out their ePuffer Electronic Pipe 605 starter kit ($150). The kit came with the pipe, three atomized cartridges with differing levels of nicotine (zero – heavy), an extra mouthpiece, and a USB charger. After giving the pipe a good initial charge (essential for all electronic devices), I screwed in an atomized cartridge, pushed the mouthpiece on, and began my adventure.
EPuffer’s e-Pipe is made of plastic, but could pass for a real pipe to a passerby. To use it, you have to hold down a small black button on the pipe as you inhale. As you draw, the bowl of the pipe lights up red, imitating a burning pipe, though the effect is more comedic than clever.
Traditional pipe smokers, you needn’t worry about your favorite pastime being replaced by electronic pipes anytime soon. Though the e-pipe worked well, it doesn’t offer the same enjoyment one gets from the act of lighting, relighting, and puffing on a good tobacco pipe. EPuffer has gone to lengths to try to mimic the flavor and intensity of a real pipe, but it wasn’t quite there. To get a good hit, I had to use the most powerful of the three cartridges that came with the kit. With the weaker cartridges, I had to inhale a lot, which somewhat defeats the point of a pipe.
However, what the e-pipe lacks in authenticity, it makes up for in oddness. When I took the e-pipe on a bachelor party trip to Montreal, it was the hit of the weekend. Passersby tended to double take or flat out ask what it was. And like the village bicycle, everyone wanted to give it a go. Most seemed quite amused and a few were genuinely interested in how the whole setup worked.
The battery on the e-pipe is the best of all the products I tested as well. Though I can’t say I used it multiple times a day, it lasted for weeks between chargings. Cartridges seemed to last for quite a long time as well — somewhere around 5-10 times as long as an e-cigarette, though I wasn’t counting my puffs. Replacement cartridges are cheap too. You can buy a pack of 5 for $16 or buy e-liquid and refill cartridges yourself.
Overall, the only real problem of the e-pipe is that I couldn’t get over how silly I felt lugging around a giant pipe in my pocket and how hipster-ey I felt ‘smoking’ it. Though you get a better hit than an e-cigarette, it feels more like you’re smoking a light-up Sherlock Holmes toy than an actual pipe. Like Halloween, once the fun of dressing up with my fancy gadget pipe wore off, I didn’t end up using it much. Sherlock Holmes may be a master of disguise, but the ePuffer is not.
Next up: The e-cigar