Something people may not know about me is that I'm a heavy smoker (1.5-2 packs a day). I started back in college, when I was being a dumbass and this girl I liked made some comment about how sexy some guy was when he was smoking. Yeah, I know. Stupid.

Anyway: after some soul-searching a few years back, I decided that I wasn't really interested in quitting simply for the sake of quitting. I enjoy the little rituals of smoking. I like the effect nicotine has on me. I smoke outside in the wind, and do my best to stay away from and downwind of folks to avoid exposing them more than a little bit in passing. (And yeah, I know that some people have allergies that make even that much exposure too much--but this is the best I can do when there aren't specific "smoking here is okay" areas set aside.) I do my best to be as considerate as possible.

Anyway: a couple of months ago I started looking into e-cigarettes. Part of this was just getting tired of being more and more restricted in where I can smoke, and of having to go outside for smoke breaks even when it's godawful out (parking garages are a no-no, near doors is a no-no, so it's basically down to wandering out a good distance from any nearby building and getting rained/snowed on.) Part of it was also just wondering if I can continue enjoying this habit and reduce my impact on other folks--because I have to admit, it's a nasty habit, and I'd love to not expose folks to tobacco smoke even the little bit I do now.

So, anyway: after getting back from my holiday visit to the family, I stopped by the local Rite-Aid and picked up a little e-cig they have there ("21st Century Smokes"). It's not as well put together as some of the stuff I've seen online, but it was reasonably cheap, and I could walk out of the store with it.

I'm pretty impressed so far. I went through the two provided cartridge-atomizer units in about the same amount of time that it would take me to smoke a pack of cigarettes. I had a couple of normal cigarettes during that period. I had some throat irritation (coughing up crap) that's similar to times I've gone a long time without a cigarette. Overall, my breathing felt clearer at the end, though that could be totally psychosomatic. Overall, I'm inclined to keep purchasing the cartridges for these from Rite-Aid for the time being, and look into the more serious e-cig options. (Primarily because from what I've heard, you can get refill liquid for the better units much cheaper than the disposable cartomizers that these use.)

Anybody else out there using e-cigarettes, or considering switching?

(Oh, and here's the best article I've found that's not obviously written either from a pro e-cig POV or a nicotine prohibition POV: Electronic cigarettes as a harm reduction strategy for tobacco control: A step forward or a repeat of past mistakes? The article leaves me feeling like I really hope that we get a public policy in place that makes it appealing to folks like me who don't intend to quit to switch to e-cigs and away from normal cigarettes. At the same time, I want them well regulated: it seems like the majority of stuff out there is safe, but it would be pretty easy for someone underhanded to use cheaper materials and produce e-liquid that's downright dangerous.)

Two of my coworkers use it and sweat by them.

My cousin smokes an e-cig brand called "Blu". I tried one during our brief family reunion, and I'm sorely tempted to try the switch. I used to smoke at least a pack a day, but when my first child arrived, I cut back drastically. After more than two years, I was at the point where I would go through a pack a week, and then my second child arrived so I went cold turkey. That lasted about 3 months before stress brought me right back up to nearly a pack a day, which is where I am now. I find my biggest hurdle to quitting is definitely the smoking ritual. It's a huge stress relief for me as it forces me out of my office, away from my desk. Maybe I'll hit up a drug store and try out a starter pack myself.

Picked up a Blu starter kit at Walgreens, since Rite-Aid doesn't appear to consistently stock the stuff I got from there (and other Rite-Aids in the area don't appear to have them at all). Walgreens looks more consistent... I guess I'll find out. Most of the consumer-oriented packages seem to be scoffed at by people on online forums--but I'd really rather have stuff I can buy locally easily instead of having to mail order, even if it's a bit pricier, as long as they work. Also, the people in the online forums are kind of scary. I guess they'd say the same thing about gamers if they checked out GWJ, of course.

You could always go the Oklahoma route. Try some RedMan, spread the carcinogens around.

We're not scary. Not scary at all. *twitch*

Unless, of course, you play the wrong game. Then things could get.... messy.

Glad to see someone that has tried them out and has such a positive review.
Has anyone heard about them as a stepping stone to finally quit?
At this point in my life, I've been a smoker longer than a non-smoker, and just the anxiety surrounded quitting cigarettes has been enough to stop me from really trying.

Also, how are costs compared to someone that smokes about a pack a day?

I'd think they'd probably be healthier. I know the tar is considered one of the major issues with real cigarettes, and you're not going to be getting any of that with a nicotine inhaler.

Nobody's probably allowed to actually SAY it's healthier without spending a lot of money researching it, but it strikes me as reasonable that it's probably not any worse, assuming your overall consumption level stays the same, and has an excellent chance of being much better for you. The major risk factor I could see is if the lack of tar and other ick stuff in real tobacco encouraged you to take in more nicotine. We just don't know what that actually means -- would a higher nicotine intake, with none of the other nastiness in cigs, be a health issue? Maybe, maybe not.

Yeah, that's what that paper I linked to basically said: it may not be certain to be as good as quitting, but the chemicals are a zillion times less toxic than the stuff that is inhaled from an actual burning cigarette. The manufacturers are constrained not to advertise them as a "safe alternative to smoking" or even that they're useful as a device for quitting smoking, and in fact most of them appear to include language on the package explicitly saying "we're not allowed to say that this is either one of these things". But the evidence appears to be pretty clear that they're both.

My ongoing adventures: The Blu e-cigs are... tiny. The batteries last barely any time at all. I'm having a hard time getting good drags through them, possibly because of the small area for airflow. It makes me a bit more satisfied with how well the 21st Century Smokes brand works. I'm going to get some more cartos for that setup while I look at getting something better. It looks like the prices for any of the stuff you can find in stores is a bit high compared to what you can find online, and tend to have different sorts of non-standard attachments. (The 21st Century one looks like a KR808D, but with different threading to prevent you from buying your cartos from anyone else.) Still, it's been a good starter setup for me to explore.

What I'm thinking about getting longer term is something like the Riva-T. If I'm going to have to handle my own juice to get decent prices and a consistent supply, I may as well go for something that's going to create the least hassles for me. This particular design is an iteration of something I'd seen before when I was looking at e-cig stuff a while back—but at the time, it sounded like it wasn't well tested. The reviews on this unit, on the other hand, are pretty good. Basically, you have a fairly sizable standard battery (510/eGo fittings), and then you buy "tanks" that have integrated atomizers. It doesn't use any sort of fibrous stuffing, so you just put liquid into the tank, screw the tank onto the battery, and go—and it holds quite a lot of liquid. Sounds a lot less fiddly than removing end-caps of individual cartomizers and carefully dripping liquid into the padding.

Since the atomizers experience wear and tear, the tanks will need to be replaced periodically, but the costs seem reasonable. (I've found them online for $5, and have seen people talking about them lasting a month or more—although that might be with spreading the load between two at once.) Having the tank and atomizer integrated means less different parts I have to worry about maintaining and fitting together.

Doing some napkin math, that's ~$55 for the starter kit (no liquid), then ~$10 per month in tanks. I am (was?) a fairly heavy smoker, so assume on the high side at needing 5mL of liquid a day, or about 150mL a month... somewhere in the area of $60/month for liquid, it looks like. Given local cigarette prices, I'm looking at spending a little over a week's worth of cigarette money (a carton, more or less) per month. That's not bad. (And yeah, I could cut down on cigarette costs by switching to generics.)

One of my co-workers tried to switch but went back to normal cigarettes. He said it just wasn't the same. I think e-cigs are more courteous to people around you but I'm not going to preach.

This thread humorously reminds me of my friend who tried quitting using nicotine gum.

He ended becoming very addicted to the gum because he could chew it anytime and anywhere that he wanted to. His nicotine habit soared.

He ended up pharmacy shopping because pharmacists started to limit how much he could buy, thinking he was selling it to kids or something.

Fortunately, he had a sense of humor about it, and just went back to smoking.

He says that nicotine is worse than cocaine.

LobsterMobster wrote:

I think e-cigs are more courteous to people around you

That's pretty much what I'm hoping for.

(Other posts: And yeah, nicotine is addictive as f*ck.)

My wife is a cigarette smoker who kind of needs to quit. She's been thinking about these and I want to help her. But after doing a little looking online, it's a bit confusing. Should we start like Hypatian did and just start with a kit from a store or should we go all in with something like the Riva-T system?

There are a lot simpler things out there than that crazy Riva-T thingy, too. The annoying thing about the storebought stuff is that it's the same stuff you can get online, but just a little incompatible. "This works the same way, but the screw threads on the battery are backwards, so you can't use it with parts you get from elsewhere." That's one reason to be a bit annoyed at the stuff you can possibly find locally.

Another possible factor if you're looking at this as a way to quit rather than an alternative is that I think it's easier to have control over things with the mail-order stuff. (For example, Walgreens has Blu cartridges—but I'm not sure whether they have reduced nicotine cartridges or only one strength.)

The first question I'd ask is: Would you prefer to buy stuff locally or are you okay with having stuff shipped? If you're cool with ordering things, I'd say look around online right away. Maybe look for a KR808 kit of some sort. Take a look at ECF's stuff (see the "InfoPages") for a summary of what various kinds of things are.

If you'd rather get things locally, see what you can find in drugstores or convenience stores in your area, and ask about whether they get a supply in regularly. Maybe also ask about getting reduced strength stuff in. If you might end up having to special order in refills, you might be better off going to a "standard" system instead of a vendor lock-in one.

In either case, it might not be bad to pick up a simple setup of whatever you can find locally, even if it's just disposables. The prices aren't going to be as good, but it'll give an impression of what you're looking at. (Just make sure to factor in that what you find is likely to be lower quality than you can find online, so it might not be quite up to snuff. That's the theory, anyway, based on what I've read. We'll see when I get something better than the cheap-but-expensive stuff I'm using right now.

I will definitely say, though, that I'm not real happy with the Blu. If it's all you can find and you really don't want to get stuff shipped, it might be a good choice to try out. But the $60 price tag for the kit and $15 for five cartos seems a bit steep given how inconsistently it's performed since I got it last night after work. It's telling that the "21st Century Smoke" brand that was just randomly at the one Rite-Aid closest to where I live seems to be cheaper and work better, although it's not as fancy.

Edited: Beginner's E-Cig Tutorial and Best E-Cigarette for a New User are pages at ECF that explain the majority of the equipment varieties I've seen mentioned around the web. Reading those should give you a good idea about what you're looking at or for.

I'll go ahead and just say that my experiences with the Blu have been very positive. Both my brother and I have now bought the starter packs, and have had good luck with them. He's been using his for a week straight now, I'm onto my second day. He's found that sometimes he needs to adjust the cartridge to get a good pairing with the battery, but I haven't had that issue. I will say that getting the juices flowing with a few minor puffs first has lead to getting better drags during a smoking session.

The Blu has really been very interesting. I've taken just as many smoke breaks during my work day, but I come back from those breaks feeling much better than when I was smoking cigarettes. I haven't felt the scratchy throat or after taste that I sometimes get from a smoke break. I also have felt that it's very easy to get too much nicotine on the Blu. Because you don't get any of the usual factors that tell you to stop smoking (and no physical cigarette that is actually burning down), it's easy to take drag after drag after drag and end up dizzy and light headed. That's a feeling I haven't gotten from cigarettes in a long time! I also have not had any problems with the battery dying, and my first two flavor cartridges (each cartridge is supposed to equal a pack) are still going strong. I do expect that those cartridges will be used up by the end of tomorrow, though.

I don't know if I will keep this up, make a switch to a different e-cig brand, or continue to try and quit smoking all together. But I will definitely stay committed to the Blu until I have used up the 10 cartridges I currently have; meanwhile my brother has committed to 3 months. We'll see what happens when it's time for us to restock.

See the paper I linked above (Electronic cigarettes as a harm reduction strategy for tobacco control: A step forward or a repeat of past mistakes?), which includes information from the tests the FDA cites, as well as several others. Since then there's been legal action on the part of the FDA to ban e-cigarettes, which was denied by the court (the reasoning being that they're a tobacco product and therefore cannot be held to higher standards than cigarettes, which are a heck of a lot more toxic). On the plus side, that also means they're illegal for minors (which had not been established before that action.) I'd love to see FDA standards and testing for e-cigs. I would not love to see a ban. And the paper I linked has convinced me that the current state of things is quite safe--at the very least, much much safer than the crap I'm currently inhaling.

ThatGuy42: Thanks for the info. I'm still shuffling between things. Haven't ordered anything fancy yet. Going to wait until I can get some refills for the 21st Century Smoke stuff and see how that goes. I've noticed that I can drive the Blu cartos with the 21 batteries, although they don't thread on (the Blu cartos are much smaller). I like the Blu flavors better. I should probably spend a day or two on just the Blu to see how it works for me alone--I had a couple of days with the others to figure out how to use them, and just an evening with the Blu. Could be it's more "different" than "worse".

My wife is trying to quit for the new year, I bought her the "Blu" from Walgreens. It has been working so far and they are on sale for 7.99 and last for about 4 days or so.

i havent smoked at a level where the investment in e-cigs was attractive but i did seriously consider them prior to quitting. a few of the bars I frequent are intentionally e-cig friendly, and i can detect no smell.

sad part is that a few places I used to go to banned them for fear of inviting the wrath of our state's cigarette ban, which is a pound of prevention that just costs them patronage.

I also have felt that it's very easy to get too much nicotine on the Blu.

This is the part that concerns me the most. It's easier to get the nicotine when the side effects are reduced. That just makes the addiction stronger.

Yeah. Definitely some potential for abuse there. It's slightly ameliorated by the fact that vapor is less efficient at getting nicotine into the bloodstream than smoke is, and that it's slightly easier to track exactly how much nicotine you're getting and to vary the dosage (i.e. get weaker liquids). On the other hand: how often does an addict think "I need less stuff".

On the gripping hand, a somewhat higher dosage results in a stronger addiction, but still much much less toxins. For somebody who's already totally addicted (i.e. me, my sister, my brother-in-law, my mom, and my dad), that's a good trade-off. But that's one reason these things should never be marketed straight up as a "safe alternative" to cigarettes. Going from being an addict who's sucking on car exhaust to an addict who's sucking on water vapor is good. Going from being a non-addict to an addict is bad.

It's a somewhat tough regulatory situation. I suspect that setting a reasonable maximum concentrations for juices (16mg/g of nicotine and below) for consumers would be a good thing (that appears to be what the normal consumer devices are doing--online shops will sell somewhat higher concentrations, and I have no idea what the "heavy vapers" tend to use. That site I linked says that multiple pack a day smokers may need higher concentrations to satisfy their cravings.)

I believe that doing something to require people to demonstrate that they're already addicted would be a bad thing, as I think it establishes too high a barrier of entry for the people who will benefit.

I definitely think that arguments of the form "you have to be killing yourself with this so that the side effects prevent you from getting more heavily addicted" don't fly. It's too close to a Puritan-minded "you should be punished for indulging" argument that doesn't have any reasonable ground to stand on for public health debate.

I think they will mostly regulate it for ingredients - e-cigs contain carcinogens that users are not informed about - but as long as cigarettes are legal, well...

That just makes the addiction stronger.

But if nicotine itself isn't that harmful, who cares? Addictions themselves don't matter at all, it's just the side effects. Lots of addictive substances, like caffeine, have minimal side effects, so there's no reason not to allow them.

Another way of rephrasing that.... "cigarettes are harmful, so if we remove the harm, they'll smoke even more!" But if they're not harmful anymore, why does that matter?

This would be a great chance for the government to move the entire market off a horribly carcinogenic product to one that's probably much safer, through some simple regulation on what can be in the cartridges.

Nicotine is a poison, Malor. So is caffeine. We've seen deaths in young, healthy people who had access to highly concentrated caffeine extracts, and nicotine is lethal in doses that are 2x-3x what a heavy smoker takes in. Remove the harmful side effects and the likelihood of boneheadedness goes up correspondingly.

Plus, it's nice to know what's actually inside a substance you're inhaling.

Robear wrote:

nicotine is lethal in doses that are 2x-3x what a heavy smoker takes in.

LD50 of nicotine is ~40-60mg for an adult human non-smoker. According to Wikipedia, LD50 is ~120mg for a pack-a-day smoker. One cigarette delivers ~1.7mg of nicotine. So 20 cigarettes a day (1 pack a day) would be approximately 34mg. Two packs a day is ~70mg.

One off-the-shelf cartridge contains ~1 gram of liquid at a concentration of 1.6mg/g, meaning it contains about the equivalent of one metabolized cigarette's worth of nicotine. Note that with the cigarette measurement is of the amount actually metabolized, and this amount is the maximum amount that could be metabolized from the e-cig cartridge. (I'm not sure what the delivery efficiency for the vapor is.)

As a note, nicotine poisoning definitely does make you sick before you get to the lethal dosage. I suspect that this makes e-cigs safer than patches: with an e-cig you've got to keep doing the thing that's making you feel sick (much like with a cigarette). With a patch, once you apply it you can pass out and it'll keep delivering that drug. Yes, it's not going to make you feel sick as quickly—but for a heavy smoker, you already don't really notice the everyday nastiness of inhaling smoke. The "hangover" a smoker gets from smoking way too much in one day for some reason is nicotine poisoning, not everything-else related.

I do think that not having the other nasty smoke-inhalation effects could make it easier to develop the high addiction quickly—you don't have to become acclimated to the nastiness of breathing smoke. But on reflection, I don't actually think it will make most heavy smokers even more addicted.

Anyway, I think we're agreed that the FDA really ought to be monitoring this stuff and regulating its content. I'm a little reactionary because I know that there are anti-smoking groups out there who believe that e-cigarettes should be banned straight out—and that strikes me as the worst of all possibilities.

Edit: P.S. It's really depressing how much better informed I am now about exactly how cigarettes and nicotine work than a couple of weeks ago.

As a note, nicotine poisoning definitely does make you sick before you get to the lethal dosage.

And that is indeed a plus for those hard-core enough to splurge on the things. I *do* think they solve the side smoke issue that asthmatics like me suffer from. But it seems to me that a little more oversight - heck, maybe just a full ingredients list! - might be useful for people to understand what they are getting.

Well, I think a tricky thing there is that the ingredients aren't interesting.

For a typical 1mg amount of fluid, you're looking at the ingredients being "749mg vegetable glycerine, 249mg propylene glycol, 2mg nicotine extracted from tobacco, natural/artificial flavoring". The nicotine-specific nitrosamines are remnants from the process of extracting nicotine from tobacco. The diethylene glycol contaminant in that one study was most likely the result of using non-food-grade propylene glycol.

Neither one of those would show up in an ingredients list.

So, what you're getting is always something like "25% PG / 75% VG base, 1.6mg nicotine, flavoring", which is exactly what's advertised. The trouble is in whether or not they're actually applying the standards they should to purity of the ingredients.

Good point.

I have a friend who works for one of these companies. His take was basically that they can't make health claims without extensive FDA approval processes. My understanding is that most of these companies are much, much smaller than the big pharmaceutical corporations that usually fund FDA approvals.

Edwin wrote:

Two of my coworkers use it and sweat by them.

If they're causing your coworkers to break out in sweats, maybe your coworkers should cut back.

Report from the front: I tried to go all of yesterday using the Blu e-cigs exclusively. By the end of the work day I was getting that little panicky anxiety sensation in the chest and ended up buying a pack of cigarettes to smoke one while waiting for the bus. (Even though, you know, I have half a carton left at home.) So the Blu was clearly not giving me more nicotine than regular smoke breaks through the work day would, even though I was able to use them in my office instead of having to go outside. I don't know if I'm a heavier smoker than ThatGuy, or if he's misidentifying lightheadedness from having to suck really hard to get good drags on the Blu as a nicotine high, or if my Blu batteries are just defective.

Today I'm using the 21st century, and that seems to be working better. Haven't quite hit the end of the day yet, but no anxiety so far, so I've presumably been getting enough of a hit to satisfy my cravings. If they have refills for the 21st century at Rite-Aid today (they said they'd be getting them in on Thursday, when I asked on Monday), I think I'll try to buy the amount I estimate I need for a week's use (which will be interesting—I haven't seen that much on display, so I hope they have enough) and if they are able to provide me with that I'll be able to see how long it actually lasts me and if I can go completely without real cigarettes for a week.

If I can't get a local supply of refills, it'll probably be time for me to stop browsing and make a plan for online ordering options.