Attack of the Vapers ; TRENDS across London a New 'Smoker' Is Lighting Up -- and Inhaling the Vapour of Electronic Cigarettes. as Recent Research Also Says They Are the Best Way to Quit, Are E-Fags the Answer, Asks Richard Godwin
Godwin, Richard, The Evening Standard (London, England)
IT WAS on Sunday afternoon at my friend George's birthday party that I realised the vapers had taken over. Usually, when there's a large group of people in the pub, they sort themselves into the smokers and the non-smokers. This time, there was a new category, imbibing their nicotinevapour inside and outside, their green tips glowing. Electronic cigarettes, released onto the market in 2007, have finally reached critical mass, and recent research shows they have helped nine out of 10 smokers quit.
"I felt quite self-conscious whipping it out when I first started," said my friend Luella, who turned to E-Lites (the most popular brand) as a healthier alternative to Camel Lights. "Gradually you notice how many people are using them. The beauty of them is you can smoke in places you can't smoke normal cigarettes -- so in a weird way, it's better." Kara agrees. "While before I'd have been popping out every 40 minutes for a smoke, now I could stay in the pub, while friends chatted away, and take a hit whenever a craving came up. It also made me realise that I was as addicted to the ritual of smoking."
In America, where Leonardo DiCaprio was an early adopter, usage has doubled in the last year. In Britain, more than 700,000 people used electronic cigarettes last year, and the figure is set to top one million this year. Prominent vapers include members of Girls Aloud, recently photographed enjoying an electronic shisha pipe, and Left-wing commentator Laurie Penny, who vaped away on a recent edition of This Week, possibly the first person to do so on live TV.
They have proved a hit largely because they look and feel like ordinary cigarettes.
When you suck on it, two things happen. Firstly, the small electric light at the end glows like a real cigarette would (usually, it's coloured green or blue so no one will mistake it for the real thing if you use it in a club). Secondly, a small internal battery heats up a sponge saturated in nicotine solution. You inhale the heated nicotine vapour and exhale a thin plume of what looks like smoke. All you need to do is keep the battery charged (usually with a USB attachment) and replace the cartridge when it runs out, every week or so.
There are three main advantages over regular cigarettes. The first is social: it doesn't smell, so there's no reason not to vape away on the Tube. The second is cost: most leading brands start at [pounds]30, with subsequent vapour cartridges at [pounds]4.99, which works out as about 80 per cent cheaper than a 20-a-day habit.
And the third, and most controversial, is health. "It does affect your throat quite a lot -- you will cough after your first e- cigarette in the morning, so it definitely does something," says Luella. But compared with smoking, it is far preferable. "Last time I tried to quit, the patches gave me chronic insomnia. It's been six weeks since I had a regular cigarette and it's been relatively easy."
Essentially, the electronic cigarette separates the addictive part of cigarettes (nicotine) from the corrosive parts (smoke, tar, carbon monoxide). …