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Electric Cigarette

For those who can't/won't stop smoking, and don't want cancer
  (+7, -2)
(+7, -2)
  [vote for,

After years of negative publicity, most people are aware that cigarettes are {insert expletives here}. Unfortunately, since they contain a particularly addictive drug, nicotine, many people who want to quit simply find it too difficult to do. And I suspect that even the ones who don't want to quit are somewhat concerned, thanks to all the accumulated data about cigarette smoking and cancer.

Now it happens that the main "bad" ingredient of cigarette smoke is not the nicotine, but instead is the stuff called "tar". This large assortment of molecules includes quite a few which are considered to be carcinogens. Nicotine is NOT a carcinogen (an indirect toxin); it is merely very addictive (and rather directly toxic if too much enters the body). One problem that "light" cigarettes have is that they tend to reduce the content of both "tar" and nicotine. For the smoker who is addicted to a certain quantity of nicotine, this means smoking more cigarettes to get a "fix", and possibly that person ends up accumulating about the same amount of "tar" as before. Ineffective, that! They OUGHT to make cigarettes that are low in "tar" and maybe even higher-than-normal in nicotine; a smoker might put that cigarette out after only smoking half of it! (But greedy cigarette manufactures don't want their customers to go through FEWER cigarettes, so such a product doesn't exist.)

Many smokers claim that cigarettes help them to handle stress. I don't know how much data there is in support of that, but I do know that nicotine acts as a "nerve stimulant", which implies to me that some of the claimed stress-relief might be illusory. In explanation let me compare the body's nervous system to the Internet. Both exist to transmit data, and both have limitations that can be expressed in terms of the word "bandwidth". A person suffering from stress could perhaps be likened to an Internet that is overloaded with spam and virus-laden emails, not to mention peer-to-peer video downloaders. What nicotine does, by stimulating the nervous system, is temporarily increase its bandwidth/capacity --while the data-flows related to prior stress aren't actually reduced at all. The PERCEPTION of stress, however, can diminish due to the diminished ratio of same-load to increased-capacity. Temporarily....

Let me digress a moment to mention possibly the most deadly organic substance known, "botulism toxin". It is my understanding that a quantity of this, if equal to the quantity of nicotine in one cigarette, will kill you, painfully. Nevertheless, this substance is considered to be a drug which has found a place in "cosmetic medicine" --have you ever heard of "botox treatments"? We may gain some perspective from that: Does nicotine, if obtainable by some means other than {insert expletives here} cigarette smoke, and apparently useful as described in the last paragraph, HAVE to be reviled?

Because nicotine is considered to be a drug, in the U.S.A., the Food and Drug Administration becomes involved when alternative methods are considered, to introduce nicotine into the body. Skin patches and chewing gum and whatnot all had to be approved by the FDA; likely that will be true of this Idea, too. (And I wouldn't be surprised a bit if other countries have similar organizations overseeing nicotine delivery methods.)

And now for the Idea: The refillable electric cigarette! A smoker buys only ONE, ever (unless accidently broken), and the ordinary cigarette manufacturers are welcome to take their greed and go out of business.

The outside of this cigarette is covered with solar cells. Internally it contains some small rechargeable batteries (ladies-watch-battery-sized), and a charging circuit. It also contains two refillable chambers, one for nicotine crystals and one for "flavor". So many cigarette ads have made claims that cigarettes have some kind of enjoyable flavor that probably more than a few smokers believe it, and so this aspect of smoking needs to be retained. Here we have two advantages, in that most of the "flavor" of cigarette smoke is found in the carcinogenous "tar", while this gadget allows us to specify ANY flavor, using only harmless compounds.

This cigarette has a filter, but its purpose is solely to restrict air-flow. Smokers are used to EXERTING themselves to pull air through their cigarettes, and so they won't feel like they are smoking, if air flows as easily through this thing as it flows through a straw.

The mouthpiece of the electric cigarette contains a piezoelectric crystal. This is not the typical crystal which made the scientific news when it was discovered that pressing on it generates hundreds of volts; here we need only a lesser crystal that only generates a few volts when pressed. This voltage is then applied, inside the cigarette, to a standard electronic device known as a "field effect transistor". When activated, it turns ON the main power circuit in the cigarette. When pressure on the crystal is reduced (or when the cigarette is rotated in the mouth to a position where the crystal isn't pressed), the main circuit goes OFF. (I should mention that the battery-recharging circuit is separate and almost always "on"--it's only off when the batteries are fully charged).

What the main circuit does when activated is to heat the crystals of nicotine and flavorant. A small amount (less than a microgram!) of nicotine vaporizes and is drawn through the filter into the mouth and lungs. {EDIT: Actually it would be better if the filtering happened BEFORE the vaporized substances were added to the air stream. Don't need condensation inside the filter, after all.} Probably a larger amount of flavorant will need to be vaporized. Nicotine is strongly absorbed in the lungs, almost none exists in "secondhand" cigarette smoke, so when exhaling, only some of the vaporized flavorant will leave the vicinity of this smoker. Since the flavorant is by-design nontoxic and possibly even pleasant to others (and may even be invisible) --and no ashtray is ever needed!-- perhaps this sort of cigarette can become socially acceptable. After all, all it does is provide an addict with a mostly-harmless "fix"; nicotine addicts are not generally known to behave, when "under the influence", in a socially detrimental manner.

Vernon, Sep 12 2007

Wikipedia: Nicotine vs. Cancer http://en.wikipedia...Nicotine#Toxicology
It's complicated. Nicotine is not directly carcinogenic, but it may break a mechanism that helps prevent cancer. [jutta, Sep 13 2007]

Baked http://www.loongtotem.com/catalog_31.html
[senatorjam, Sep 13 2007]

US Patent 6,854,470: Cigarette Simulator http://www.google.c...+cigarette+-lighter
[jutta, Sep 13 2007]

Wikipedia: E-Cigarette http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-cigarette
With a list of 11 manufacturers. D'oh! [jutta, Sep 13 2007]

New manufacturer http://www.myvic.co.uk/
The site inidicates worldwide delivery beginning Nov 1, 2008. The Wikipedia article (thanks, [jutta]!) indicates that one outfit has a patent that others may be ignoring.... Stay tuned for future lawsuits, heh! [Vernon, Oct 28 2008, last modified Oct 29 2008]

Electric Cigarette http://www.e-cig.org
News, Videos, and Info about electric cigarettes. [jimmytenk, Dec 14 2008]

Fireless Pipe http://blog.modernm...just-weird/page/11/
Sort-of Baked in 1936 - search on page for "fireless" [csea, Dec 15 2008]

Some News! http://www.cnn.com/....smoking/index.html
The FDA treats them as drug-application devices that need more safety testing. I acknowledge the possibility of someone receiving too big a dose in too small a timespan (nicotine is toxic in quantity, even if not cancerous). [Vernon, Mar 13 2009]


       Ah, for the days when writers got paid by the word.   

       Sounds like a hash oil pipe for nicotine.
normzone, Sep 12 2007

       interesting. don't tongue it too much *BZZT*
k_sra, Sep 12 2007

       It would make a great 21st century crack pipe, too.   

       There are only a limited number of mechanisms for chemicals to affect the human body. Rather than fearing them, we should value each as a potential drug target.   

       Nicotine is a natural product that is very, very biologically active. Yet most people shy away from it because of its association with deadly, deadly tobacco.   

       However, if you look at the numbers, there are several conditions actually ameliorated by cigarettes, despite their many and debilitating toxic effects. These benefits are all caused by the active ingredient, nicotine.   

       In fact, if you look at the numbers, a much higher percentage of the mentally ill(schizophrenics, depressives) smoke cigarettes than the general population. In studies, the smoking actually seems to releive their symptoms somewhat.   

       There is one guy studying this, and he observed something like:"If only we could come up with an effective prescription for people with this condition that does not have a side effect of death."   

       The dose makes the poison- with nicotine, as any other very specifically acting molecule, there is almost certainly a condition where its action will be beneficial, in the correct dosage and timing.
GutPunchLullabies, Sep 12 2007

       [k_sra], heh, you can be sure the design will keep an insulating barrier between the electric circuitry and the mouth.
Vernon, Sep 12 2007

       //you can be sure the design will keep an insulating barrier between the electric circuitry and the mouth.//   


       oh, well! <goes in search of a 9-volt>
k_sra, Sep 12 2007

       Nicotine itself is carcinogenic, that's the rub.
DrCurry, Sep 12 2007

       I'm thinking Gutpunch has been fed a load of crap by the tobacco companies. But then I JUST finished reading Grisham's The Runaway Jury. Hah!
dentworth, Sep 12 2007

       [DrCurry], could you provide a link? This is the first I've heard about nicotine being a carcinogen. Perhaps at doses that are also outright toxic? Details matter!
Vernon, Sep 12 2007

       Baked See Link
senatorjam, Sep 13 2007

       Nice catch! Looks like this hasn't been on the market for long - just a few years. I'm guessing their vapor/smoke simulation was what made the difference.
jutta, Sep 13 2007

       I suspect that the reason this isn't successful already is this: there's no smoke. It's just not the same.
Pseudonym #3, Sep 13 2007

       Don't get me wrong, cigarettes will kill you; stopping smoking now will give you a longer, happier life.   

       But there are very few chemicals that have no situation where they can help out, see the excellent example of botulism toxin referenced above. Or digitalis, or just about any natural product.   

       Probably if nicotine's mechanism of action was perfectly understood, an even more specific drug could be generated, without all the nasty side effect. Certainly, even if administering natural nicotine, smoking is absolutely the worst possible way. Pills or patches would be the way to go.
GutPunchLullabies, Sep 13 2007

       It's called smoking, not vaporing! Note, people could put taurine crystals in this thing too. [+]
quantum_flux, Oct 29 2008

       I fail to see how this device would annoy puritans, which is one of the added attractions of smoking these days. Could they, perhaps, have an annoying high pitched whine? (The electric cigarettes, that is; the puritans already have one.)
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 15 2008

       Semi-baked in 1936 [link].
csea, Dec 15 2008

       These days you can hardly walk two blocks without seeing people using these, though the implementation is different.
notexactly, Mar 14 2019


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