At the recent Structure conference, a young woman who had just moved from the east coast to San Francisco boasted of her boyfriends' addiction to "Vaping". She showed photos of all the accessories he has been obsessing about, from batteries to different colors and patterns. A young man visiting from New York echoed her story and said he was happy to be spending money on hip new e-cigarettes.
The e-cigarette contains a nicotine cartridge in four strengths – 16mg, 11mg, 6mg and 0mg, compared with the 13mg in the average manufactured cigarette. One cartridge lasts for 300 to 350 puffs, or two days. It also has a battery that enables it to emit a mist of propylene glycol, essentially fake, fast-dissipating smoke, and light up at the end when puffed on.
My first reaction was that there should be a chip in the e-cigarette that captures data to be transmitted and stored. Big data should be collected from vaping immediately. I was thinking about all the health info that could be assembled quickly from these battery powered devices. Lung capacity, amount of nicotine per second/minute/hour, draws per charge, particulate matter in external air…and trend-lines for everything.
My next thought was that they should be solar powered. Why aren't they able to absorb sunlight as power? Standing in the sun with a stick in your mouth? Use the power right there. And for that matter why doesn't the act of sucking air generate sufficient power? Hello, funnel turbine. Why are you sucking power out of the grid? Oh, that's right. You want to buy accessories, I mean batteries. Got it.
Neither of them seemed to have a firm idea about the energy use, let alone health risks or harm. They said it's "just vapor". But the fact is not much data has been collected.
The man from NY listened to me, took a long drag from his plastic tube of toxic fumes and said "By Jove! My old man you might be right! Could a teeny chip really go inside this contraption to record data? I will go start a company right now on that idea!"
I wondered if they read the news from the FDA:
Dr. Mike Feinstein, a spokesman for the American Lung Association said, “People are inhaling some type of chemical vaporized compound into their lungs without really knowing what's in it."
Authorities don't necessarily know what's inside of e-cigarettes, but the FDA tested a small sample just a few years ago and found a number of toxic chemicals including diethylene gylcol – the same ingredient used in antifreeze.
The accessory feature can actually introduce additional risks. Obviously the idea of putting a battery between your lips can be harmful to your health.
Chief Butch Parker of the North Bay Fire District responded to the call. He said a faulty battery inside the electric cigarette likely caused the accident. Parker described the explosion as if Holloway was holding a "bottle rocket in his mouth."
Parker said the explosion knocked out all Holloway's teeth and part of his tongue. The event also set fire to the room.
For some reason all the unsubstantiated buzz and positive marketing around e-cigarettes just reminds me of the tobacco smoke enema.
By 1805, the use of rectally applied tobacco smoke was so established as a way to treat obstinate constrictions of the alimentary canal that doctors began experimenting with other delivery mechanisms. In one experiment, a decoction of half a drachm of tobacco in four ounces of water was used as an enema in a patient suffering from general convulsion where there was no expected recovery. The decoction worked as a powerful agent to penetrate and "roused the sensibility" of the patient to end the convulsions, although the decoction resulted in excited sickness, vomiting, and profuse perspiration.
If only exploding batteries and unknown other "toxic chemicals" could have been used for anal treatment hundreds of years ago; today we would know better and not bother with e-cigarettes. Then again, I guess I shouldn't joke about them becoming a public enema. Given the nature of the young vaping proponents I met, they might be thrilled by the idea and interested only in new accessories they could buy or sell…