The Electronic Vaporizer: Stylish Accessory and Cessation Device

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Men are beginning to rediscover the allure of clutching to a smoking pipe, and they're doing it this time without any of the health hazards

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Any smoker will tell you that quitting is not easy. From nicotine patches to peer counseling, there are now endless resources for those wanting to get off what is arguably the most addictive drug in the world. But for the type of men who refuse to ask for directions or are reluctant to try couples therapy, quitting cold turkey can seem like the only option worth considering. Unfortunately, that is also the least effective.

Joseph Abbati, founder and creative director of DQtrs, a design studio in San Francisco, quit smoking only to pick up another addiction, albeit a healthier one. "I had smoked off and on for years and the electronic cigarette was a good way for me to still enjoy the nicotine addiction without the health hazards or the smelly aftertaste," Abbati said.

Designed to rest comfortably in a sturdy grip, pipes are associated with both sophisticated leisure and Hollywood allure.

Nine months after purchasing his first electronic cigarette, Abbati ditched it for another device that was much more in his style: the electronic pipe. "The vapor of the e-pipe is bigger but smoother," Abbati said. "You can enjoy the taste of it better, especially with a flavored liquid, and it also changes your body language in how you hold it -- more relaxed and contemplative in a way."

Pipes have always had a stylish element to them. Ergonomically designed to rest comfortably in a sturdy grip, they are associated with both sophisticated leisure and rugged Hollywood allure.

"The pipe comes with that whole Scotland Yard, Sherlock Holmes, old English tweed vibe," explained John Jannuzzi, creator of Textbook, a blog which pairs historical and literary figures with contemporary fashion. "You suddenly get catapulted into this world of hunting dogs, gilded-age lounges, and 'gentlemanly' conversation."

The pipe moved from the literary world of Sherlock Holmes to the silver screens of the 20th century. In the hands of Cary Grant, Clark Gable, and Spencer Tracy, the pipe became a fashion accessory for the sensitive modern male. In recent years, however, smoking suffered a well-deserved de-glamorization largely in part to statistics released by the American Cancer Society. Mad Men -- which uses cigarettes, cigars, and pipes more as period props than endorsements -- aside, popular culture now, for the most part, avoids depictions of smoking, if only out of fear of a backlash from health-conscious audiences. It seems that, nowadays, the cool factor associated with smoking has all but evaporated.

But -- and despite the warning labels that link cigarettes to death -- smoking is still addictive, with many users looking for a way out. Although manufacturers claim that electronic cigarettes and pipes are not a proven path to quitting, their products are starting to become a popular alternative to smoking. And since there is no ignition, thus no smoke or tar, vaporizing is void of most of the carcinogens associated with smoking tobacco. The verb "vaporizing" or "vaping" refers to the water vapor that is created from atomizing the glycerin-based liquid solution inside the device.

Celebrities like Katherine Heigl and Lindsay Lohan, both publicly criticized for their smoking habits (among other things), have become e-cig advocates. And companies like blu Cigs (Lindsay's choice) and ploom are capitalizing, sans capitalization, on the early hip factor of these products.

However, e-pipes have yet to reach that tipping point. They are not yet the gadget du jour of the rehab-prone celeb. It's perhaps this under-the-radar aspect that makes the e-pipe that much more eye-catching. "My friends are always curious about it, and want to know what I'm smoking." Abbati said. "I always have to correct them. It's not smoking, it's vaping."

During my personal trial with an e-pipe, I have been stopped on the street twice for an explanation I might as well have been carrying a third generation iPad. And shortly after seeing the e-pipe, a coworker, my roommate, an old high school date, and her mother all purchased e-products of their own, each fitting with his or her own style. While there's plenty of room for personalization, there are some statements that all electronic products make: greener, healthier, sustainable.

The unhealthiest aspect of the e-pipe is the nicotine content, but this can be adjusted. The moderation makes e-pipes eligible to be considered a smoking cessation device, although health legislation around this product is still hazy. Nicotine alone, however, is hardly a reason to worry. Despite its addictive properties, it would take about 30 mg of nicotine for poisoning to occur in an adult, signaled by vomiting and seizure. By comparison, most e-cigarettes can only deliver up to 20 mg.

Even though there are no hazards from second-hand vaping, users tend to follow the same social rules given to smokers. Celebrity endorsements aside, vaporizing is still a puzzling hobby. "Once I was outside near a smoking area, and the guard told me I had to stay 20 feet away," Abbati said. "I tried to explain that it wasn't smoke but water vapor. He said, 'Whatever you're doing, you have to do it over there.'"

Image: Creative Commons.

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Oscar Raymundo is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. He has written for the Huffington Post, Wired, Newsweek, Businessweek, and Fast Company, and is currently working on his first novel.

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