E-cigarette: Put this in your pipe and smoke it

Published: April 28, 2013
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Noticed people sporting the robotic-looking e-cigarette indoors? As it turns out, it’s not necessarily the best way to kick your habit.

Noticed people sporting the robotic-looking e-cigarette indoors? As it turns out, it’s not necessarily the best way to kick your habit.

The people who use the electronic cigarette don’t seem to mind looking foppish while sucking on what basically looks like a colourful pen whose tip lights up. For what else is this new-fangled ‘gadget’ than just a neutered version of its carcinogenic prototype?

The e-cigarette, which is slowly turning up in mouths across main cities in Pakistan, is designed to behave just like the tobacco one but with one major difference: You don’t need a match. There is no lighting up and no smoke. This does, however, kill the theatrical production of leaning forward to light up and nonchalantly exhaling.

Instead of smoke, the inventor, Hon Lik, a Chinese chemist and engineer, found a substitute in vapour in 2003.

The e-cigarette holds a battery, a vaporiser and a cartridge filled with liquid nicotine. Taking a drag heats the liquid, turning it into a nicotine-filled vapour. As you inhale the nicotine goes to your lungs. When you exhale, it looks like you’re smoking a regular cigarette, but there’s no smell, because nothing is burning. There is no tobacco, tar or carbon monoxide.

Where can you buy them?

Electronic cigarettes are generally available in major supermarkets and kiosks in Karachi and Islamabad. They are less widely available in Quetta and in Lahore they are only available at select departmental stores. Tobacco vendors do not keep them, saying there is no demand. You can also find them at specialty cigarette stores in some cities.

How much do they cost?

Starter kit

Rs2,000 to Rs20,000

is the range for a typical starter kit, which contains the e-cigarette device, a battery, a charger and several cartridges. Price depends on the manufacturer, model and style. Awais Chaudhry, who bought an e-cigarette from Liberty Market to quit smoking, says the entire kit, including an adaptor to charge the ‘cigarette’, had cost him Rs5,000.

Refills

Rs750

is the price of a pack of five cartridges (each cartridge is equal to about 30 cigarettes). You can buy the liquid in bulk and refill the cartridges yourself.

Are there different types?

Cartridge doses

high =16 mg

medium =12 mg

low = 6 mg

is the grading of the amount of nicotine in the cartridges.

They are also available in different flavours such as chocolate, cinnamon, strawberry and even bubble gum. There are also cartridges that contain liquid without nicotine, for users who want the sensory experience of smoking without its effect.

Where do they come from?

The e-cigarette is being produced by several companies in China, the United States and Europe. Most of the cigarettes available for sale in Pakistan come from China. “Our company’s electronic cigarettes come from China but these are exclusively made for us, which is why we are able to offer a warranty on our products,” says Salman Ansari, the sales and marketing manager of E-lite Corporation.

In Balochistan there is a slightly different story. “Most of the e-cigarettes available in Quetta come from China usually smuggled over the border at Chaman,” says Arif Khan, a wholesaler in the city. “I sell about 300 cigarettes every day to cigarette shops.”

Can they help you quit smoking?

The doctors T magazine spoke to were not keen on them but international opinion is still divided on the medical effects of ingesting liquid nicotine and if the e-cigarette is a healthy way to quit smoking.

“The problem with these electronic cigarettes is that just like normal cigarettes, they are extremely addictive,” says Professor Javaid Khan, who is the chairman of the National Alliance for Tobacco Control and head of Pulmonary Diseases at Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi. “The flavoured ones are even worse, if the nicotine is irritating your throat, you won’t feel it because the flavour will mask it and you would keep on smoking without knowing.”

cigrat

He said he did not recommend them as an aid or alternative to smoking. “If you want to stop smoking, you have to get away from all types of tobacco,” he advises. That means you cannot smoke cigarettes, shisha, cigars, pipes or any other tobacco products. The only way out is to consult your doctor who can prescribe approved medicines that can help.

This opinion was seconded by psychiatrist Dr Shahin Hussain, who uses hypnotherapy to help people quit at the Markaz-e-Nafsiat free clinic in Karachi. “You can’t stop unless you are motivated,” she says emphatically. And using an e-cigarette is more like a crutch.

Dr Nadeem Rizvi, who is the head of chest medicine at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, in Karachi, has seen people unsuccessfully trying to use the e-cigarette to quit smoking. “The problem is that nicotine is highly addictive,” he explains. “While the e-cigarette does not contain tar, it is still not a safe alternative to smoking regular cigarettes. I have seen numerous people who have used these e-cigs to quit smoking but have become addicted to them instead.”

Can you smoke it indoors?

E-cigarette manufacturers claim that their products can be smoked anywhere since they don’t emit second-hand smoke and they merely give off vapour. In Pakistan, there is no legislation regulating the import and sale of electronic cigarettes. Since e-cigarettes do not contain any tobacco, they may not be subject to the tobacco law, which ostensibly means that children can buy them.

The verdict?

Smoker Awais Chaudhry says his attempt to use the e-cigarette to quit did not last for long and he was back to smoking within a week. “It’s too much of a hassle,” he said. “You need to buy cartridges and then charge the thing… I’d rather go cold turkey than use e-cigarettes if I want to quit.” 

With additional reporting by Taimoor Farouk in Lahore, Mohammad Zafar in Quetta and Obaid Abbasi in Islamabad

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, April 28th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Michael Walkden
    Apr 28, 2013 - 1:52PM

    Sorry but this report is factually incorrect. I gave up smoking cigarettes 15 months ago using e-cigarettes and found it an excellent way to quit. I was smoking 40 normal cigarettes a day and started on the high nicotine level cartridges. I quite easily reduced through medium to low and then zero level nicotine cartridges and feel my breathing and lungs have improved tremendously. I would not go back now to regular cigarettes.

    I still use the e-cigarette but I don’t feel that I am addicted to it, as time goes by I use it less and less. I would recommend this method to anyone wanting to give up tobacco, and I speak through personal experience.

    Recommend

  • Mr Mark
    Apr 28, 2013 - 2:12PM

    “Smoker Awais Chaudhry says his attempt to use the e-cigarette to quit did not last for long and he was back to smoking within a week. “It’s too much of a hassle,” he said. “You need to buy cartridges and then charge the thing… I’d rather go cold turkey than use e-cigarettes if I want to quit.”

    He’s not representative of everyone who uses them.

    Yes, they do not seem quite as good to smokers at first – but they are the BEST, and I mean BEST way to come off of normal cigarettes.

    It’s been over three years since I had a real cigarette, and before that, I was smoking for 17 years. Yes, they have nicotine – so do patches, and nicotine gum, etc.

    They are far FAR less harmful than smoking a normal cigarette – there is ZERO tar.

    Many people who use them actually now prefer them to normal cigarettes. They can be used in doors. Real cigarettes are CLEARLY far worse. It’s a no brainer.

    Recommend

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Apr 28, 2013 - 2:41PM

    We could not have e-government during the last 10 years, but we got e-cigrattes in Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • Kbrown
    Apr 29, 2013 - 6:39AM

    I strongly promote the use of electronic cigarettes! I’ve stopped smoking completely because of those things. I personally recommend the refill-able units, that way you can control the nicotine strength and slowly decrease it over time. I bought mine at http://www.tasty-vapes.com

    The “Electronic Cigarette Guru”

    Recommend

  • Geetha Mohan
    Apr 29, 2013 - 8:00AM

    Humans have bad habits that cannot be stopped. If I could suggest coffee or lower nicotine level be approved. That would help. Others out.

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  • Apr 29, 2013 - 5:45PM

    Going cold-turkey doesn’t work. Sudden cessation of nicotine not only causes extremely bothersome withdrawal effects, but increases the chance of relapse. In all likelihood, you’ll be back to smoking in a year or so, if not months.

    The withdrawal needs to be gradual, whether you use e-cigarettes, nicotine patches, bupropion…whatever.

    Recommend

  • Muhammad Almas
    Apr 29, 2013 - 7:50PM

    I have also given up smoking with the help of e-cigs and it is almost one year by now. Previously I had tried many other methods, such as nicotine gums, inhaler, etc. but this e-cig was only successful method in my case. I used e-cigs in replace of actual cigarettes for about two months. I gradually decreased the use of e-cigs and eventually got rid of my smoking habit.

    Recommend

  • Nimueh
    Apr 29, 2013 - 10:58PM

    That article is just wrong – I was a smoker for over 36 years and had tried to quit smoking several times before, using patches or going cold turkey – it never worked. On Christmas 2011 I bought my first e-cigarette and haven’t smoked at all since January 2012.
    So yes – they DO work and due to the lack of tobacco and all the chemicals in that it’s also much better for your health.

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  • Imtiaz
    May 1, 2013 - 12:55AM

    It is undoubtedly a true fact that smoking is harmful and has considerable side effects to one’s over all well-being and health in general. When one has to quit smoking, there is a two-edged battle which confronts the willing quitter. One is the physical part. According to all the medical research related to nicotine cessation, the physical addiction usually lasts for 2-3 weeks. The hardest being the first week.

    The second is the psychological part. This is the most tricky and grueling aspect of quitting smoking. Of course, one can fool oneself to quitting smoking gradually or using cigarette alternatives like e-cigarettes, nicotine patches, gum, etc. The fact of the matter is, and numerous studies have shown this, to deal with the psychological dependency on nicotine, the “long-term” success is more visible in people who go cold-turkey. Just look up the relapse rates of people who have used smoking cessation aids. The rates are very high and this is all because of one unequivocal truth: The nicotine drug is the real culprit, not the cigarette. Just swallowing nicotine gums, putting on nicotine patches, or even using e-cigs is just fooling your mind and body and what will you do when you have to quit those smoking cessation aids. Food for thought.

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  • breizh-e-cig
    May 16, 2013 - 9:56PM

    The business of the electronic cigarette is rapidly expanding. My shop of electronic cigarette does not stop making sales and the request becomes almost too strong to be able to supply everybody. That is amazing.

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  • Jun 7, 2013 - 5:17PM

    In France the electronique cigarette shop are in danger. The pharmaceutical and tobacco lobbies are pushing for their laws are positive.

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