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Are E-cigs Cool?

By Expert Author: Julia Jackson

I am staring at myself in the mirror, taking my very first drag of a cigarette ever. I look like a man who fought every man I ever thought about fighting, slept with every woman I ever thought about sleeping with, got a free song from every jukebox I thought about punching. There is smoke dragoning out of my mouth, a flame at the end of my cig—or, more accurately, vapor that’s designed to look like smoke, a red LED light that’s designed to look like a flame, a long metal tube with a cell phone-style battery inside that’s designed to look like a cigarette. I am cooler than a guy smoking a cigarette. I am a guy smoking a gadget. And until my wife shows me how to actually inhale my electronic cigarette into my lungs, which causes me to cough and tear, I look very, very cool.

Other people nearly as cool as me are smoking e-cigs too: Britney Spears, Jeremy Piven, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Moss, Paris Hilton, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Katherine Heigl puffed on one while watching The Book of Mormon on Broadway. Charlie Sheen plans to start his own brand of e-cigs, the NicoSheen. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans who have smoked an e-cig more than quadrupled, from 0.6 percent of the population in 2009 to 2.7 percent in 2010. That’s more than 8 million people.

There are now hundreds of companies selling e-cigs—although they’re buying parts from just four factories in China, where the technology was first patented by pharmacist Hon Lik in 2003. He formed the company Ruyan (which means “like smoke”) and started selling e-cigs in China the following year before getting an international patent in 2007. Since then the technology has gotten even better and the marketing more sophisticated. Some e-cigs, marketed toward women, are thinner and come in leather cases with a mirror. Some have social networking capabilities that help you find other e-cig smokers. And some come in such flavors as peppermint, Swedish fish, and bacon.

“I can remember a year ago at a restaurant having an electronic cigarette after a meal, and having a waitress say, ‘You can’t smoke here,’ and me having to explain it to her. Now the more common situation is you walk into a restaurant or a bar and smoke an electronic cigarette, and the bartender says, ‘Oh, you’re fine.’ They know,” says Jay Meistrell, co-owner of V2 Cigs . His e-cigs were sold at the Wired Store, a holiday pop-up store in New York that displays new gadgets the tech magazine considers cool. V2 Cigs says its gross revenue grew 20 percent each month last year, including one day when it sold more than $300,000 worth of products. This month, Jeffrey Hill, a former Procter & Gamble (PG) executive, sunk $7 million of his own money into Spire Electronic Cigarette, an e-cig company whose products are sold in New York bars and clubs such as Webster Hall and promoted by “brand ambassadors,” some of whom are Iraq veterans. Hill hopes to market his brand to the military.

Because e-cigs don’t create secondhand smoke, you can smoke them anywhere. “They’ve taken off because the restrictions on regular cigarettes have gotten a little ridiculous. It’s not the land of the free. It’s more like the land of the oppressed,” says Ray Story, an e-cig company owner who is also chief executive officer of the e-cig trade organization, the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Assn.

“Electronic cigarettes are like the Sony Walkman. People used to walk around with these huge boom
boxes, and everybody was subjected to the crap they were listening to. Then they came up with a way that you can enjoy the music, but no one has to hear your crap,” he says.

Few people had tried an e-cig until last year, partly because the technology was new and unrefined. “Until December 2010, the ones that looked like a cigarette were what I call ‘weenie vaping.’ They only lasted 30 minutes and the liquids tasted like dirty socks or hamster cages,” says Jan Snyder, a retired computer hardware designer in Austin, Tex., whose YouTube (GOOG) videos reviewing e-cig products often get several thousand hits.

The Food and Drug Administration gave e-cigs an even bigger boost when it tried to ban the product until clinical trials were completed, claiming it was a drug-delivery product for people trying to quit cigarettes. But Story sued the agency, and last year the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., declared e-cigs should be sold like cigarettes, only sellers don’t need a tobacco license. So now they’re for sale at Walgreens (WAG), convenience stores, and bars, as well as online.

Article Credit: www.businessweek.com

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