The e-cig that tried to kill me! A true story

31/01/2016

I’d been led to believe that e-cigs were safer than conventional cigarettes. You got your dose of nicotine without all the nasty tar and gunk that comes in smoke. They were electronic gizmos, and we all love our gizmos, right? I was surprised that Apple hadn’t released an i-cigarette. So imagine my surprise when my e-cig came at me with a steak-knife, determined to cut out my lungs and crap on them!

Alas, my story isn’t quite that dramatic. But it could have come to a similar end.

I remember all those stories I’d read and heard, about various electronic devices burning people’s houses down. Xboxes were prone to it at a time – or was it Playstations? One or the other anway – perhaps both! Not satisfied with turning our children into crazed, prostitute-cheating irresponsible drivers through Grand Theft Auto and making old folk think they were super-fit geniuses with Wii-Fit and “brain-training” apps, now they were determined to burn down our houses!

I never thought it would happen to me. I didn’t buy dodgy devices that had “fallen off the back of a lorry”. But it wasn’t as simple as that. At the back of a drawer I found an old e-cig battery. I charged it up, connected it to some tasty blueberry e-liquid and puffed away. The battery went flat: I recharged it, and re-charged it again. I knew I ought to get some fresher batteries, so I ordered some online. But in the meantime, waiting for the new kit to arrive, I kept charging and vaping, charging and vaping…

… And that’s when it happened. I had the charger connected to a usb-plug, that has served me well with my smart-phone. But I could smell burning! Burning plastic! I looked round the room – no flames. But my spidey-sense said the e-cig charger! The e-cig charger! I quickly disconnected it and had a look. And my spidey-sense was right: the charger was hot and misshapen where it was going to melt. I had been maybe seconds away from a devastating electrical fire! Only my nose had stood between me and smoky, flamy, sparky death!

Of course it wasn’t the e-cig’s fault. Just as it isn’t King Kong’s fault when the gunner on a biplane shoots the giant ape and it falls onto your car! And, just as the commuter doesn’t quit driving after being crushed by a 10-ton gorilla, I’m not going to let Sparky the evil old battery put me off e-cigarettes. They are the safer option. And remember, conventional cigarettes have caused thousands of house fires!

I just need to learn the lesson – and you need to learn from my experience. E-cigs are not magic vapour machines powered by fairy-dust and ponies and bunnies. They run on electricity – the same stuff that tries to lightning-zap you in thunder-storms! When your e-cig battery gets old, retire it and buy a shiny new one! That way you won’t burn to death. I mean, what’s the point of trying to avoid lung cancer if you’re going to burst into flames?


The rich will vape, the poor will smoke. And guess who will died first.

29/01/2016

The EGO-CE4 e-cigarette is cheap and flimsy

The EGO-CE4 e-cigarette and others based on the CE4 battery are inexpensive; which is just as well, as it is of poor quality and easily broken. I have accidentally broken these devices a few times, and only its low price has convinced me to buy more. When first introduced, it was priced similarly to its competitors (around £17), but the manufacturer has clearly realised that the product has a short working life and has reduced the price accordingly so as to stay on the market.

ego-ce4

The EGO CE4.  Cheap, poorly made, and on its way out

The EGO’s problem is its battery. It takes only a relatively short number of recharges before it starts to fail, keeping a working charge for much less time than competitors. And the construction of the battery and the rest of the e-cigarette is poorly designed. If the user drops it a short distance (the kind of fall that a laptop computer, for instance, takes in its stride) the battery can separate from the e-cig’s body easily. The same can happen if, for instance, the user puts the EGO in a trouser pocket and then sits down: stress that should not pose a problem for such a device.

The battery easily detaches from the part of the body that should keep it in place, the mouthpiece and the part of the body that holds the operation button comes apart far too easily. If the battery wires do not disconnect, the e-cigarette can be fixed: a thin, blunt object such as the non-business end of a pencil can push the battery back into the body, and the mouthpiece/button section can be reconnected. But of course such a McGuyver-style repair is not a lasting solution. And if the battery wires become disconnected, that is the end of the e-cigarette’s useful life. The wires are far too thin and weak to attempt soldering, even if such an operation could be deemed safe and satisfactory.

Luckily, the manufacturer has recognised the problem, and has priced the device accordingly. When e-cigarettes first became popular, the cost per unit was about £17. Now, replacement batteries are available via Amazon for as little as £3.50; and the glass “clearomizer” can be found at outlets such as Poundland, costing £1 per unit. Also, it seems manufacturers of the e-liquid are finding the market too saturated: at my local Poundland, 10 ml bottles of 88vape e-liquid in a range of flavours can be bought, again for £1.

vype-epen-kit

The safer, pricier Vype e-pen.  That’s where the smart money’s going.  If you actually have any money, that is.  Twenty Benson & Hedges is so much cheaper… if you don’t mind the hacking cough and cancer…

Of course this situation will not last. Stocks of 88vape will run out, the clearomisers and batteries will not work with the pen-style devices that are now taking over the market, and so the days of cheap EGO-CE4 e-cigarettes are numbered. It is a shame that it costs more than £20 to get a starter kit of the modern pen-like device. Poorer smokers will continue to smoke tobacco, which does not have such a “starter kit” expense. So poorer nicotine addicts will keep using the much more harmful tobacco product, perhaps forming a kind of economic apartheid wherein the less affluent will get higher rates of cancer and pulmonary-cardiac illness. When the cheaper but more electrically dangerous CE4 runs out of stock, less affluent nicotine addicts will be stuch with cigarettes and will most likely live shorter, harsher lives than their richer counterparts. This will remain the case until the pen-like devices are sold for less. And at the moment it doesn’t look like a price drop is likely.


Governments hate fun… and any questioning of the status quo

08/06/2013

When e-cigarettes came out, many hailed them as the solution to getting die-hard tobacco smokers off the evil weed (tobacco, not the other “evil” weed…). After all, it isn’t the nicotine in tobacco that kills smokers, it’s the assorted poisonous ingredients like arsenic, formaldehyde, nickel cadmium… I could go on, but there’s no point really. Suffice to say, the only “harmful” effect of nicotine is its addictiveness. The stuff that gives you cancers, heart problems and the rest of it is the other stuff in the tobacco.

So, the e-cigs are the solution, right? The ingredients of an e-cig are basically nicotine, water, and a touch of propylene glycol, (which helps vaporise the liquid nicotine). So, the e-cig provides the “ritual” of smoking (the cigarette prop, the inhalation and exhalation, and the nicotine) but none of the tars and other poisons that kill smokers – all good, right?

Well actually, no it’s not all good, according to the British Medical Association and associated OORDs* The BMA squeals that there have not been enough “rigorous, peer-reviewed studies”. French bodies are actually considering a ban on e-cig use in public places, even though there are no so-called “passive smoking” dangers. And there are even illogical claims that e-cigs might be a “gateway drug” which would lead youngsters on to try “the real thing”!

I believe that e-cigs are a wonderful invention and probably the solution to the tobacco problem. Occasionally I even imagine a future in which tobacco is banned and e-cig “vaping” (ie inhaling nicotine vapour) has taken its place. But too many ignorant puritans are opposed to that. Nicotine is enjoyable and addictive, therefore it’s evil and should be banned in spite of its general harmlessness. It’s like how the government “temporarily” bans “legal highs” like “Benzo Fury” and “NBOMe” while it looks for an excuse to make the ban permanent. They say this is done for the sake of public health, but that’s a lie. The authorities don’t want us to enjoy ourselves. They let us get pissed, but make sure we pay for it – through exorbitant taxation and hangovers. Equally, the government taxes tobacco to the hilt, hence the ridiculous price-tag on a pack of cigarettes. But if vaping became more popular, it could drop in price dramatically.

I would encourage cigarette smokers to give e-cigs a try-out (I’ve tried the disposable nicolites and they’re not bad – a bit of an aftertaste, but they’re cheaper than their tobacco rivals, and if the market increases as projected the price could fall even more) – while you obviously have to take any manufacturers’ claims with a pinch of salt, it’s clear e-cigs are nowhere near as toxic as regular cigarettes, and they pose absolutely no threat to other people – so the idea of banning vaping in public places is illogical to anyone except a puritan.

Please, please, PLEASE – check out both sides of the argument before you make a judgement on this. And if you’re a non-smoker, ask yourself: if these e-cigs pose me no dangers, and they don’t pose real danger to the user, why would I want them banned? This arguments is about more than e-cigs: it’s about the freedom to do what you like to your own body. You might not like tattoos or body piercing – does that mean we should make tattoos and nipple-rings illegal? Please, give this some serious, genuine thought. If someone’s vaping in a train station, posing no danger to you and yours. is it fair to make it a crime?

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UK shops to sell cigarettes in plain packaging… whose stupid idea was *that*?

09/03/2011

It was UK health secretary Andrew Lansley’s idea, apparently. He has announced his intention over the next 5 years to reduce the number of smokers in Britain by a greater number than was reduced in the past 5 years. And he has identified cigarettes’ allegedly gaudy, inviting packaging as a chief reason why people take up the habit in the first place. He has also announced a “consultation” into the idea of banning cigarette displays entirely, so tobacco products will have to be sold from “under the counter”.

Obviously, Lansley is a massive tit. Plain packaging and discreet under-the-counter sales will make cigarettes seem very illicit… and we all know what teenagers in general think of illicit activities. I predict that these measures will not reduce the number of smokers at all. Maybe it’ll even increase the number of smokers. Which is, of course, no bad thing for a political party that counts amongst its members the very tobacco barons the government claims it wants to destroy.

The other day I was waiting in the queue for the tobacco counter at my local Sainsbury’s, and I was struck by the current packaging of cigarettes. Every single pack has emblazoned across its front in bold letters sentences like SMOKING KILLS and SMOKING WILL TURN YOUR UNBORN CHILD INTO A STUMP-HEADED MUTANT. If that hasn’t reduced the number of smokers by the “desired” amount, what in hell makes Lansley think his stupid idea will do any better? The answer, of course, is stupidity. And hypocrisy. We must never forget the hypocrisy factor when trying to figure out our Con-Dem government’s motives.

Incidentally, that same Guardian story says that 21.2% of adults in Britain are smokers. It’s a minority, for sure, but it’s one heck of a big minority. Who the hell do the government think they are, messing with more than 8 million people’s right to choose what they do? Plus the government makes a lot of money by taxing tobacco products. What are they going to do if we all stop smoking – increase the tax on road fuel (which, incidentally, is far more harmful to the general population’s health than a damn cigarette)? These pin-headed ministers really do need to think these things through…

Cigarette displays like this may soon be outlawed if the UK govt gets its way

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You are now entering the United Kingdom: No Smoking!

01/02/2010

Monday 1 February 2010

Unbelievable! First the British government banned smoking inside… now they want to ban smoking outside!

To be precise: they want to ban people smoking outside the entrances to public buildings. The health secretary Andy Burnham favours such a ban to prevent non-smokers having to walk through clouds of smoke. This is part of a wider attempt by Burnham to “improve public health”. According to the Guardian:

He will set out four principles where he says intervention is justified: where it protects the health of children, where a person’s choice affects the choices of others, where barriers need to be removed to allow people to behave healthily, and where the environment can be shaped to offer healthier lifestyles.

He wants to cut the number of people in Britain who smoke to 10% of the population. Another move he is considering is banning “distinctive wrapping” from cigarette packets and insisting they are sold in plain brown packets instead. He also wants to ban cigarette vending machines and launch a renewed crackdown on the sale of blackmarket tobacco.

He claims this isn’t “nanny-statism” – but I think this is something worse. It’s a direct attack on individual rights in the same of some vague notion of “the public good”. Okay, he isn’t proposing banning smoking in private premises. Yet. But I can see that coming. He’s already said intervention is justified to protect children’s health. So how long will it be before he bans parents from smoking in their own homes “to protect the children”? He’s already got backing for a ban on smoking in cars containing children from the UK Faculty of Public Health and doctors’ leader Professor Steve Field, who called it “a form of child abuse”. This emotive language is designed to inflame public opinion – after all, who doesn’t want to stop child abuse?

No doubt some of you will say I’m spouting nonsense, that he is not eroding our individual rights. But I don’t see how you can even doubt it. Ten years ago no one would have believed that smoking would be banned in all pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants. Yet here we are. Now he’s pushing the ban a little further; and he’s got sock-puppets like Prof Field saying parents who smoke near their children are as bad as pedophiles. In a few more years, if he gets the publicity campaign right, more people will find themselves agreeing with Field – and of course he’ll get the publicity right, that’s what the Labour government are especially good at. And then he’ll make smoking illegal. Mark my words!

Some of you will say: “So what? Smoking’s a filthy habit. You should give up, for the children’s good if not your own.” Well, when I hear the phrase “for the children”, I want to reach for my ciggies. Leave me alone, health Nazis!

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