The year was 1989. I was 9 years old, hanging out under a bridge with an older kid. He sent me into a store with a fake note from my fake mom to procure a pack of unfiltered Camels. It was one of those electric moments you only have when you’re young enough to be doing something you might get grounded for. I inhaled, felt my eyes pop out of my head, exhaled and coughed heavily. Something about the admittedly unpleasant experience had me wanting more. By 12 I was into the “buy a pack with friends, pass cigarettes around like a joint” thing. By 16 I was a regular smoker. A week ago, I was up to about two packs of unfiltered Camels a day. Today I haven’t had a cigarette in five days and I’m not craving any. What made the difference? Electronic cigarettes, which are, I promise, actually pretty good.
I’ve known I need to quit smoking for a while now. I get chest pains and it sometimes hurts to breathe. The question isn’t academic: both my grandfathers died of heart problems related to smoking, at the ripe old ages of 52 and 66. I need to quit. But here’s the problem: While I’m addicted to nicotine, that’s not why I smoke. I smoke because I really like it. No patch, pill or hypnosis program is going to make me forget that. While I’ve seen guys smoking e-cigarettes before, my main reaction was incredulity. How could it possibly be a substitute for rich, smooth flavor?
Well, I might not have bought e-cigarettes of my own accord, but I was happy to try them out for Made Man. As it turns out, e-cigarettes aren’t bad at all. They’re not quite as good as regular cigarettes, but they’re damn close and they aren’t slowly killing me while jacking up my health insurance premiums. Here are three brands worth checking out.
Pros: Skycig has a number of distinct advantages for the committed smoker. They come in a plastic box which also acts as a charger for the batteries. Anything that brings a bit of the smoking ritual to the experience is fine by me. Further, the batteries are rechargeable; The last thing I want to do is throw a bunch of batteries into a landfill. The size is pretty much exactly like a regular cigarette, which is great. Finally, Skycigs come in a variety of flavors, including menthol, vanilla and cherry. I’ll never be too manly to smoke the occasional cherry cigarette.
Cons: There were two things I didn’t like about the Skycigs. They don’t drag as easily as I would like, and I often wondered if I was doing it right, especially when smoking flavored tobaccos. The charging process (charge the box, then the batteries) seemed overly complicated to me.
Pros: Logic brand e-cigarettes arrived in the mail second. These are disposables, which means that you never have to charge them. You just open the pack, screw the battery on and you’re good to go. The convenience is very attractive, and I also got a more full-flavored drag. You can purchase Logic cigarettes based on the amount of nicotine and tobacco flavor you want. This is perfect for me as a smoker of unfiltered cigarettes—I want something with a little bite to it.
Cons: Two downers. First, they’re just too damn big. It’s not like holding a cigarette at all. It’s like holding a short pen or something. The difference was very noticeable when I switched back and forth with Skycigs. (That said, I’m not sure if the size and the fuller flavor are related, but I’d take flavor over size any day.) Second, I don’t relish the idea of throwing a battery into a landfill every other day.
WHITE CLOUD FLING
Pros: Fling e-cigs come in a variety of flavors—manly and otherwise—and give a good, hard drag. I loved the espresso ones and can actually see myself buying these for a night when I want to treat myself. The “filter” is soft, meaning that cigarette chewers such as myself won’t be messing up their teeth. While this is by no means a scientific appraisal, the Flings seemed to last longer than the other brands that I sampled.
Cons: Not crazy about the fact they are disposable (though in White Cloud‘s defense, they make rechargeable ones too). While some flavors were great, others weren’t really what I expected. Kick! (a mixture of cinnamon and honey) and Moscow Mule (ginger and lime) reminded me more of my mom’s scented candles than anything I’d want to smoke. Like the Logics, these were a bit bigger than I wanted them to be.
Smoking is killing you, and some part of you knows this and wants to quit. If you’re like me and you love smoking just about as much as being alive, you might have resigned yourself to an early death. But you don’t have to. The e-cigs are a great replacement. If I—a two-pack-per-day smoker of unfiltered cigarettes—can make the transition, anyone can. I’m not sure that I prefer one brand to another in terms of what I’ve reviewed here. The relative pros and cons seem like a wash. But one thing is certain: this technology may be to some degree in its infancy, but it’s better to get in on the ground floor. Your lungs—and loved ones—will thank you.