E-Cigarettes (Part 1)

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There’s a cigarette plugged into the side of my laptop. A year ago this would have sounded silly – to be honest, it still does – but that may have more to do with my reluctance to admit just how hard it is to quit. I am a failed quitter. The little white tube ticking out of my computer says so, just as much as the half-finished pack of real cigarettes waiting for me in my kitchen. It’s a remarkable simulation, the e-cigarette. Market researchers call it “fauxthenticity” – a replica that looks, tastes, sounds and feels like the real thing. It’s still nicotine addiction, though. Just dressed up in better tech. Product manufacturers know this. They make some- thing called a USB “pass through” e-cigarette, for when you can’t wait however long it might take for the pseudo cigarette’s battery to charge. Passthroughs allow you to smoke while the front of the cigarette is plugged into your USB, like a digital nicotine didgeridoo. This, apparently, is the future of smoking.

Electronic cigarettes are nothing new.
A “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” was patented as early as the mid 1960s, but it never went to production. It was not until the last decade or so that new designs started to yield the first generation of viable e-cigarettes. In 2003 Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik invented an “Electronic Atomization Cigarette”, which resembled a long white cigarette with a black filter attached. It was a battery- operated mechanism that allowed for a liquid nicotine solution to be atomized into a fine mist or vapor (that’s why using them is known as “vaping”), which could then be inhaled. From the start, it was clear that e-cigarettes held significant commercial potential – particularly as their development coincided with the global banning of tobacco smoking in most public places. By the mid 2000s, e-cigarettes were being exported and sold in volume. That’s when they faced a new challenge: officials started asking if they were safe. That’s the billion-dollar question. Or, more accurately, $2-billion – which is what the global e-cigarette market was estimated to be worth at the end of 2013. Consumption of e-cigarettes is expected to grow by an additional 40% to 50% in the next year alone, with some projections suggesting sales will surpass those of traditional tobacco cigarettes within the next decade.


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