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Want to feel like a high-roller without the lung cancer? E-Cigar may offer a solution

Walking the show floor on Thursday at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2014) in Las Vegas, Nevada, I saw a few nifty gadgets, websites, robots, and accessories which I didn't get to cover during the rush of the show.

I. E-Cigar -- an Afficionado's E-Cigarette?

I already mentioned Bakbone (the ring tablet holder).  Shortly before walking over to Bakbone's stand I encountered an interesting exchange.  A pair of businesspeople were walking purposefully down the aisleway, when they were stopped and questioned by an onlooker.

Turns out he spotted the little device they had in hand -- an electric cigar.


Cigr8
An attendee (right) gets his hands on a e-cigar, courtesy of Cigr8 CEO Linda Xu (center), and a coworker (left).  [Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

Conceptually the idea is so humorous and appealing that I'm rather shocked that few (if any) have made such a device.  E-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes), after all have become tremendously popular smoking cessation devices (although some appear to continue to use them recreationally with little intent to fully quit lady nicotine).

You'd think there'd be a plethora of E-cigars (electronic cigars), particularly since cigars -- the oldest form of tobacco smoke -- were celebrated via candy and toy imitations in classic Americana memorabilia.

But a search on Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) shows that E-cigars are rare (I couldn't find any, but I'm sure there's some other ones out there).


Cigr8 closeup
The Cigr8 maduro E-cigar [Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

I'm not exactly the target audience as I've rarely smoked in my life (you have to get a hearty helping of spirits in me to convince me of the appeal of cigars or cigarettes). But I must admit, from an outsiders perspective, for E-cigarette shoppers the Cigr8 E-cigar is both entertaining and appealing.

While it's wrapped in plastic, the color is an appealing shade of dark-brown that afficionados will recognize as Maduro (in real cigars the wrapper is a tobacco leaf; Maduro cigars are made in Connecticut, Mexico, Nicaragua, Brazil, and a handful of other locations).  Indeed Cigr8 dubs the device the "Maduro E-Cigar".

The look isn't perfect -- the plastic wrapper is a bit shiny.  And given the influence of the wrapper (which typically comes from large tobacco leaves treated in various ways) on the flavor of the smoke, it's unlikely to perfectly immaculately replicate the experience of the celebratory cigar.  But overall, it looks reasonably realistic, and, according to the eager passerby who was inquiring about the device (who clearly had indulged in a cigar or two), the taste was pretty good too.

Cigr8
Linda Xu (left), CEO of Cigr8 enjoys the enthusiastic response of a passerby turned fan.
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

The Cigr8 is currently available for $88.88 USD via direct sale online.

A product site brags that the device's "e-juice" blend packs real tobacco, for a realistic taste.  Writes Cigr8:

The future of electronic cigars as arrived. Experience the ultimate inc cigar flavored vaporization with our Maduro E-Cigar Set. This premium device brings you unparalleled flavor and a realistic experience to your cigar enthusiasm. With a high capacity battery and ultra-large e-juice reservoir, our Maduro E-Cigar will generate up to 2,000 puffs on each refill. Our signature blend of e-juice is made to the highest quality standards using real tobacco. The Maduro E-Cigar comes in a beautiful line box for easy storage and gifting.

Cigr8 is based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

II. E-Cigarettes/E-Cigars: Healthy or Not?

An aside: some may question the healt of e-cigarettes.

It's a fair quesiton.  E-cigars, like e-cigarettes, may deliver nicotine in a vapor rather than a smoke, but the jury is still out on their effects on the body and lungs.  Further complicating the issue is that different vaporized chemical mixtures likely may have different health effects.

Inhaling chemicals may not be an ideal thing to do, but it's a whole lot better than the real thing.  Notably electronic smokes lack the tar and some of the other toxic carcinogens, which are produced either from fillers commonly used or by the physical burning process in mass-market cigarettes.

And one must also be cautious in that e-cigarettes are vying with other smoking cessation products (like pills or patches), which carry health and efficacy risks of their own.

The perfect case-study in such bias comes courtesy of an alarming sounding conference study published in Sept. 2012 by the University of Athens in Greece's Prof. Christina Gratiziou.  The study proclaimed that e-cigarettes "raise airway resitance" within minutes of inhalation.

The claim raised eyebrows as some pointed out that any vapor -- even sauna water vapor -- will cause a natural constriction of the airways and an increase in inhalation resistance.  The study did not note this.  Nor did it include comparisons to standard smokes.  And it didn't provide information regarding long term use, or whether the airway restriction last longer than resitance induced by, say, a trip to the sauna.

Chantix
A top critic of E-cigarettes was found to be sponsored by Pfizer, makers of the rival treatment strategy Chantix. [Image Source: Consumer Affairs]

The puzzling oversights took on a more diabolical tone when it was revealed that Prof. Gratiziou had just seven months earlier published a study funded by Pfizer Inc. (PFE) which examined Chantix, a Pfizer smoking cessation drug.  In that study she praised (or puffed?) Chantix, writing [PDF]:

[Pfizer's] varenicline [tradename: Chantix] is an effective smoking cessation medication.

By contast, at the Sept. 2012 symposium where she presented her tests regarding e-cigarettes, she commented:

The ERS recommends following effective smoking cessation treatment guidelines based on clinical evidence which do not advocate the use of such products.

The only problem?  It turns out Chantix isn't the magical dreambout Prof. Gratiziou presented it as.  After "incidents" Pfizer was forced to add warnings to the drug after caused thousands of incidences of suicide, suicidal ideation, violent episodes, and other psychological issues.  The troubling part is that those warnings -- issued in July 2009 -- were downplayed in the Feb. 2012 study by Prof. Gratiziou.

And Chantix also was tied to heart issues -- something that the Feb. 2012 study didn't even touch upon.

While it's great that the study was published in an open access journal, the biased and incomplete nature of the publication cast a dark tone on the $1,915 USD access fee.  Fortunately serious researchers will know from the journal's rock-bottom 0.847 SJR impact-factor rating to take it with a grain of salt.

E-cigarette
A smoker puffs on an E-cigarette. [Image Source: AFP/Getty Images]

Now, e-cigarette blends have been found in U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) studies to contain levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), known cancer-causing agents, similar to those found in nicotine gum.  There have also been questions of how much nicotine they really deliver.

Professor Michael Siegel of Boston University School of Public Health said of a similar study published in Dec. 2012 (which also focused on temporary airway constriction without examining the potential for long-term harm):

I find this to be irresponsible advice, because these methods that are 'known to work' actually are quite ineffective, with dismal results in terms of long-term cessation. Advising smokers to stick with the FDA-approved medications is tantamount to advising the overwhelming majority of smokers to continue smoking.

In other words, if you find e-cigars/cigarettes a viable alternative to traditional smokes, you'd be foolish not to go for it, given the lesser (if any) harm.  That is the current prevailing opinion in the medical community. 

Beware bias in science -- as the internet teaches us "haters going to hate".  When the "haters" happen to be paid to hate -- then they're really going to unleash.




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