Monday, December 7, 2009

Who stole my e-cig?

In an October 7 blog, I ranted about anti-smoker efforts to deprive smokers, wanting to quit or cut back, of access to the electronic cigarette. I noted that, since I had written several articles on the new device, it was time to give it a real test.

Health Canada has already banned the e-cig on the basis that the product hasn't been fully tested for safety (in Canada, at least). And, I had heard that Canada Customs was intercepting shipments of the device which originated outside the country.

But, despite the potential for losing my investment, I ordered two electronic cigarettes: one from a US supplier and the other (same model) direct from China. They were cheapie models, to be sure, but I figured they'd be good enough to conduct a decent evaluation. (You've gotta give me a break here people, I'm an old age pensioner on a fixed income.)

And, as I noted at the time, whether they were stopped at the border or not, I'd wind up with the material for a blog.

The one I ordered from the US, a supplier in upstate New York, arrived within ten days, making its way through customs with no problem. And, I must say I was pleasantly surprised.

After receiving my new e-cig, I fully charged the battery, inserted a cartridge and gave it a trial run. It performed much better than my expectations. It didn't have the full tobacco flavour I've come to expect from the real thing, but the taste was something to which I could become accustomed. I honestly didn't like the taste of scotch when I first tried it many (many) years ago.

In truth, the e-cig provided the whole smoking ritual in a satisfactory manner; the hand to mouth routine, the little puff of (make believe) smoke when I took a drag, etc. All in all, a satisfactory simulation of actually smoking a cigarette. And, by the time I had exhausted my supply of cartridges (roughly a week), I had cut my cigarette consumption by half.

Part of the reason for this was my habit of lighting up while working on my computer or working on a piece of music. Usually, after a few drags, the cigarette would be placed in the ashtray where it would burn away to nothing before I could get another drag. Wasteful. The alternative was to stop what I was doing and smoke the cigarette in it's entirety, whether I really wanted to or not. Throwing away half a fag is also wasteful.

With the e-cig, after a few drags, I could simply lay it down, or drop it into my shirt pocket, thus reducing waste and cigarette consumption.

I can see why many smokers might turn to “vaping” to help them quit or at least cut back on their smoking. And, it is possible to use it to beat some smoking bans.

But, it does have its drawbacks.

To some smokers (myself included), cost will be an issue. Cartridges for the electronic cigarette may be less expensive than store bought, highly taxed cigarettes, but they are two to three times the cost of cigarettes purchased from, er . . . unapproved alternative sources.

The second drawback is availability. In Canada, the e-cig is available only from mail order sources. So, if you run out of cartridges and you're in the throes of a nicotine fit, you'll have to revert to the real thing and make a run to the local corner store. That's bad news if your intention is to quit.

The Health Canada prohibition on the electronic cigarette, as well as similar action by the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration), is the result of objections from anti-smoker groups. They are opposed to the e-cig, not because it has proven to be hazardous, but because it looks like you're smoking. And, I suspect there's a desire to protect the profits of their partners in the pharmaceutical industry. If the electronic cigarette were to catch on, the drug companies lose their monopoly on nicotine replacement products, nicotine gum and lozenges.

And, government bodies have been quick to jump on the ban-it-bandwagon, mostly because no-one has been able to work out how to levy taxes.

And, if you're wondering what happened to the second e-cig and extra cartridges I ordered, I've tracked it to a Canada Customs office in Mississauga, Ontario. It's been sitting there for the past month.

It's too bad. Those things actually have potential for smokers wanting to cut back or quit.


Anonymous said...

They are extremly dangerous to the bottom line of Pfizer, the cessation manufacturing company that spent millions using tax exempt political action committees (charities) to get these smoking bans in the first place, They are undermining the entire purpose of expensive smoking bans. Also, unlike Chantix, they have no mind altering drugs and can be safely used by airline pilots, railroad engineers, truck drivers, and others in jobs where public safety is an issue. Seeing that semi driver in my rear view mirror with a cigarette is a comforting sight.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time to call the anti-smoking industry's bluff - and make lots of noise demanding that the tobacco tax be phased out completely - and in its place, be an across the board "nicotine" tax - which of course will hit the pharmaceuticals and slow them down dead in their tracks - putting them on equal footing with both tobacco and e-cigs - and forcing the government into the position of wanting all three in the marketplace - tobacco, e-cigs and pharmaceutical "nicotine" taxable product lines.

That way, all three come up a winner, along with the consumer who has a choice.

It doesn't go to the issue of fighting the SHS Fraud and bans based on non-scientific tom-foolery, the exact likes of what the AGW Fraud is turning out to be based upon - cherry-picked and jimmy'd fraudulent data - but it at least might open government to the prospects of discontinuing further bans on tobacco and e-cigs.

The anti-smoking people would also fight a "nicotine tax" violently - which will make them look very, very "unpatriotic" in a time when additional tax revenues are needed to recover from government deficits and red-ink - a black eye to the anti-smokers and pharmaceuticals who fund them.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time to order some pizza and watch CNN.

Prozac Nation