No Need For Smokers To Stand Outside in the ColdTuesday, February 1. 2011
Since the introduction of the smoking ban in 2007 record numbers of people have tried to kick the tobacco habit. Nicotine replacement therapies are by the far the most popular aid to giving up, but with so many options on the market, it can be hard to know where to start. Riah Matthews tries out one of the new kids on the block…
Relaxing in a bar – glass of white wine in one hand, cigarette in the other – the smoking ban feels like a distant dream. A few people across the bar double take as they see the cigarette glow at the end and smoke come out of my mouth.
No I'm not flouting the law. I'm actually using the SmokeStik electronic cigarette.
This revolutionary device resembles a cigarette and delivers a nicotine hit, but without the harmful effects of tobacco. The electronic device can be charged (much like a mobile phone) and nicotine filters are placed in it. It comes in a range of colours, including pink, and is designed to look like a cigarette – it even glows at the end. It's not restricted by the smoking ban and therefore it's perfectly legal to “light up” in restaurants, bars and clubs.
The device is already popular in the USA and has many celebrity users including Knocked-up star Katherine Heigl who recently raved about SmokeStik on one of America’s highest rated chat shows, the Late Show with David Letterman. The host himself couldn’t wait to have a go, saying: “Now I look cool.”
As a social smoker in my early twenties, I always enjoyed a cigarette or two on a night out. But when the ban came in, it just became too inconvenient to go outside in the cold and I began to detest the smell of smoke in my hair and clothes. Thankfully I gave up and have managed to stay on the wagon since.
For serious smokers the task of giving up can be much harder. Popular choices are nicotine patches and gum, but these don't give the user the same satisfaction as smoking a cigarette. Smokers miss having something in their hand and blowing out the smoke – something the SmokeStik enables them to do.
On a night out with friends in Nottingham, I tried out the SmokeStik. I was intrigued to find out whether bar staff would think it was a real cigarette and whether the public would be alarmed by it.
My first stop was at a plush wine bar in an upmarket part of the city. It wasn't that busy and, as I reached into my clutch bag for the stick, I was concerned I would stand out and be asked to leave. As I took a drag I could taste a slightly sweet taste in my mouth, which I think was down to the fact I had chosen a menthol flavoured filter.
My friends were all amazed when they saw me inhale on the SmokeStik and blow out smoke. They were all convinced it couldn't be legal and giggled as they looked around to see if anyone had noticed. However, the SmokeStik is perfectly legal as the “smoke” blown out is a mist or vapour. This vapour is created as liquid glycerine, propylene glycol, and food grade flavourings are vaporised by a component called the atomiser. This is guilt-free smoking. It won't harm the user and it certainly won't harm nearby companions, unlike cigarettes.
After a few drags in the first bar, we moved on to a slightly busier cocktail bar where there was a small congregation of smokers outside littering the pavement. As a bit of an experiment, I joined them and tried out my SmokeStik to see if they'd notice the foreign imposter.
As a non-smoker I'd always imagined the “cool” smokers were having a wild time outside in their little cliques – why else would they spend so much time in the cold? But this gang were actually pretty boring and just stood in silence while chuffing away. After a minute or two I went back inside and none of them had even noticed that my “cigarette” was actually glowing at the end and the smoke didn't smell of anything.
Back at the bar I decided to have a chat with the bar man, as my SmokeStik hadn't provoked any reaction from bar staff yet. Asking him why he hadn't even batted an eyelid when I “lit up” he explained that staff are quite savvy to cigarette replacements and, although the faux smoke element of the SmokeStik was different to what he'd seen before, he definitely wasn't concerned that it was real. Phew, I was relieved to hear I wasn't going to get arrested!
A friend of mine with a 50-a-day habit also offered to try out the SmokeStik and they were actually shocked at how cigarette-like it felt. After taking a deep drag, he laughed as he watched the water vapour leave his mouth and said: “Actually, that's really good.” He'd been on his way outside to smoke a cigarette, but said the urge had gone.
After a cocktail or two we headed to a big club and made our way to the dance floor. As it was later in the night, everyone seems a bit drunker and when I got the stick out it provoked much more of a reaction. As I was dancing and inhaling one girl looked aghast, pointed at the stick and mouthed the word “naughty” at me. Other people just looked slightly shocked but I think they quickly noticed that although I was blowing smoke, the “cigarette” itself wasn't.
Later in the night I was at the bar using the SmokeStik when I felt a tap on my shoulder and a member of the club’s staff exclaimed: “You can't smoke in here!” But when I turned round he realised what it was straight away, although he did seem shocked at how real it had looked initially.
Although it makes a great talking point and provides that all important nicotine hit, the real beauty of it has got to be felt the next day. From my days of social smoking I distinctly remember waking up with a hangover and then the smell of smoke in my hair sending me over the edge. With the SmokeStik there's none of that. In fact there was still a slightly sweet taste of menthol in my mouth.
All things considered I would definitely recommend SmokeStik to any of my smoker mates who want to quit the evil tobacco or who simply don’t fancy standing outside the bar in the cold winter months. Light up a SmokeStik and stay inside in the warm. As Katherine Heigl told Letterman, “There really is no excuse to smoke tobacco now.”