Those of you who have spent some time in my company, or even a few seconds in my company, will be aware that I’m a smoker. Now, there are those who smoke because they’re addicted, and those who smoke because they were seduced into it at a young age, and those who smoke because they’re sick and tired of the pious mouthings of health Nazi whiners who wouldn’t know fun if it fell out of a tree onto their heads, but me… I enjoy it. This may seem hard to believe, but I swear it’s the truth. I’m not here doing a commercial for Marlboro. Smoking’s nice. You can tell this by looking at the vast array of people who don’t smoke unless they’re out having a drink: that is, while they’re having an entertaining evening.
There are, however, some downsides to this glorious world of tobacco. Chief among them is, of course, an early and appalling death, and when you add that it’s expensive, anti-social, unpleasant-smelling, inconvenient, repulsive, annoying, inconsiderate, and nowhere near as rebellious as every smoker thinks it is, there’s not a lot going for the whole concept.
Apart from the whole enjoyment thing, as noted, and that’s (ha!) the killer app for the whole fags idea. Beyoncé knows this: that’s why she did a song with the lyric “all the cigarettes, all the cigarettes, woah-oh-oh, a-woah-ho-oh”. Anyway, after a lifetime of smoking, it occurred to me I should probably do something about it. Combined with this, with Jungian synchronicity, came a number of things, one of which was a memory of seeing Otto “chaotic” Greenslade smoking an electric cigarette with evidence of enjoyment. Now, if I’m prepared to spend money on games for Ubuntu that might not even work on my crappy integrated graphics card, electric cigarettes ought to be a shoo-in. After some poking around on the internet, it turns out that there are a zillion different companies in this whole e-fags game. I picked Smoke Relief, because they seemed sane and they’re in the UK. (I have no connection with these people, other than being a satisfied customer.)
The way electric cigarettes work, for those of you who haven’t come across these items, is that you get a thing which looks like a cigarette but is actually a battery (the long white bit) and a little reservoir of the magic fluid (the brown bit that looks like a filter) which screws into it. The battery charges from a USB port, can you believe it? And the magic fluid is a combination of glycerine (which is apparently harmless, because it’s the stuff they use in smoke machines in nightclubs), nicotine (because, well, addicted) and some sort of flavouring. The Smoke Relief people do a “starter pack” (Benson and Hedges should take some tips here) which only costs a tenner, so you can give it a go for the cost of one box of cigarettes. One of the little reservoirs of magic is about equivalent to a pack of fags, you get five of the reservoirs in the starter pack, and the flavours are interesting — peach, cherry, that sort of thing.
So I bought a starter pack, and approached the whole thing with a gargantuan cascade of scepticism, and… that turned out to be, for me at least, entirely unfounded. I’ve now been smoking electric cigarettes for a month, and it’s just fine as far as I can tell. They cost considerably less, they don’t make your room smell, and you don’t die horribly of lung cancer, so there’s just not a lot of failure points here. Smoking’s nice (you may disagree, but whatever), and smoking these is just as nice, in my not-so-humble opinion; the experience is — amazingly, surprisingly — just the same as real fags.
There are a bunch of nutters out there — the same sort of people who refill printer cartridges rather than buying new ones, and who presumably eat discarded food from litter bins because it’s cheaper — who will recommend that you mix your own magic fluid to save money. That seems to me like way, way, way too much effort. If you’re a smoker (and therefore basically a cool person — we’re Bohemians; the last of the breed), you owe it to yourself to chuck down a tenner on one box of electric fags. If you hate it after two days, go back out and buy twenty Rothmans. But I bet you won’t. My books are now digital rather than paper, my mail is electronic rather than printed, my phone calls are GSM rather than copper wires, and now my cigarettes are too. Twenty-first century boy.