September 25, 2007 Over the past few years smoking bans have swept across the globe preventing patrons from lighting up in bars, clubs and restaurants. Necessity being the mother of invention, some tech-savvy companies have developed ways that not only allow smokers to keep up their habits in public, but also aim to deliver a nicotine fix without the adverse effects on their own health or that of others.

Products have recently been released allowing smokers to indulge their addiction and get a nicotine hit, without the harmful chemicals, toxins and cancer-causing poisons released by burning tobacco. These products are a type of “electronic” or “digital” smoking, in part designed to allow smokers to light up in places that have now banned smoking in effort to protect non-smoking patrons and employees.

One such product is the Crown7, an Art Deco styled tube with a cartridge and rechargeable battery. The cartridge contains water, propylene glycol, nicotine, and a tobacco flavor. One cartridge is equivalent to about two packs of cigarettes and each cartridge costs US$2 making it a much more affordable option than one-off use cigarettes although the initial investment in the reusable tube is significant, ranging from US$64.95 to $$149.95. The Crown7 comes in three styles to cater for all kinds of smokers: cigarette, cigar and pipe. Benefits of the Crown7 are that it contains nicotine but does not pollute the environment, emits only a harmless vapor, leaves no residual clothing or room odor and causes no harm to people in the surrounding area.

The second offering is the Vapir from AIR-2, an air vaporizer that transforms the active elements of virtually any plant substance into an inhaleable mist without actually burning the substance. “When a plant is burned its chemical make-up may change. When catalyzed by flame, many plants transform and create new compounds which were not inherent in the plant itself,” explains AIR-2 CEO Shaahin Cheyene. A patented microchip regulates plant-specific temperatures for vaporization, also known as volitization, to avoid overheating or burning. The idea is to induce the plant to release its active elements without burning it. With tobacco users get the nicotine which they need to feed their addiction, but without the harmful smoke. The concept even has the support of Harvard Medical School Associate Professor Lester Grinspoon who believes that the “applications are vast. This is the future of smoking. It may well be the future of all drug delivery.” Medicinal vaporization has the potential to eliminate hypodermic needles and oral medications which can be degenerated by digestive enzymes.

Seemingly both the Crown7 and the Vapir are risk-free ways for smokers to continue their habit in places that prohibit smoking but will they be accepted by the authorities and other patrons in these places? Smokers may have a hard time convincing restaurant owners that their metal cigarette truly is harmless. I suppose over time if the practice gains popularity then most people would be aware of the alternative to smoking and not protest. But will these new inventions do anything to address the root problems of smoking and alleviate the issues surrounding the age old custom?

Despite being fully aware of the perils of smoking many people refuse to kick the habit and every day new young consumers take it up. A study conducted earlier this year suggested that smoking and blood sugar levels are highly interrelated – nicotine causes the body to release satisfying levels of sugar into the bloodstream far faster than eating can, which explains its appetite-inhibiting effects.

Whatever the reasons for smoking, anything to ease the burden on the bodies of smokers (and the health care systems in their respective countries) should be welcomed. But doubt remains as to whether these new products will be welcomed into public life and whether or not they would make people stop smoking traditional cigarettes altogether. If they only act as a substitute for the real thing in situations when one can’t legally partake in their poisonous past time then what is really the point?

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