Electronic Cigarettes

The last 5 years have brought about many disruptive technologies. Digital technology has invaded almost every facet of modern life. Google and it’s vast stores of information are accessible from your pocket, your car can call the cops for you when you get into an accident, and your TV can let you know who’s calling on the phone. Now, when the stress of all these devices gets to you, you can light up your battery powered cigarette.

Hon Lik - Los Angeles Times Photo

Hon Lik, E Cigarette Inventor

Hon Lik, 53, is the creator of a product that threatens to change not just how people smoke, but the entire smoking stigma all together. Lik, a former smoke, used to smoke through two packs of cigarettes by dinner time. When his father died of lung cancer, he decided that he would not suffer the same fate and quit smoking. Using his training as a pharmacist, and a bit of entrepreneurial spark, he had a prototype in hand in 2002, and a year later, a patent in 2003.

His battery powered cigarette is simple and consists of a high density lithium polymer battery, a heating element, and a solution similar to that used in “stage fog”, but infused with nicotine. The solution doesn’t contain any of the 43 known carcinogens in traditional cigarette smoke, and the only thing besides nicotine that is inhaled is water vapor. Advocates say it’s a safer way to enjoy smoking, and detractors are vocal that it’s akin to selling poison.

In March 2009, the FDA banned all importations of Electronic Cigarettes into the country saying that their ingredients and marketing practices, specifically nicotine and claims of smoking cessation, put them under the jurisdiction of the FDA, and without approval, could not continue to sell this product in the United States. Months later, a class action lawsuit was filed by several companies and the FDA and E Cigarette companies have been in litigation ever since. Both sides continue to fund research in order to create evidence they are right.

While the companies and FDA fight it out, they continue to sell these products stateside, and new companies continue to open up. As new competitors enter the space, and the price goes down to levels less expensive than traditional tobaccos products, these products look like they will greatly increase in popularity during 2011.

First, electronic cigarettes have the advantage of accessibility. You can smoke almost anywhere. In a nod to the “golden era” of smoking, retailers are taking advantage of marketing this fact. Lots of literature and information touts the fact that you can enjoy your electronic cigarette in your favorite bar, on an airplane, in a doctors office etc.

Flavors from the Blu Cigs Brand

Second, they have a large variety. While Obama in 2009 signed into law a bill that made it illegal for tobacco purveyors to offer flavored varieties, electronic cigarettes aren’t confined to these restrictions. This means you can drag on a cherry flavored cigarette, or a chocolate flavored cigarette. These flavors are only more compounded by the variety of nicotine levels. Instead of like traditional cigarettes you must moderate your own intake, you can buy different densities of nicotine solutions. So while electronic cigarettes aren’t approved for smoking cessation (quitting smoking), they do offer you the opportunity to taper off your nicotine usage.

Third, because they are a chemical derivative, not a plant derivative, they offer significantly cheaper options for distribution. There are no plants that suffer from bugs, droughts, or soil quality. They don’t need to be dried, processed or shipped. Instead these chemicals can by synthesized in almost any first world laboratory, and distributed. Additionally, these products aren’t taxed by the government and companies can save quite a bit of money there.

Fourth, the electronic cigarette is an item that requires consumables. Just like your printer needs ink, these e cigarettes require either nicotine solution to refill the cartridge, or as most people are using now a days, pre-filled cartridges. This gives companies the opportunity to create a “Loss leader” and give away starter kits for free or very inexpensively knowing that they’ll be selling the cartridges. This will make getting into electronic cigarettes very easy for the average smoker.

The drastic increase in companies offering these products means that their is stiff competition for your business. They’re innovating at a breakneck pace, and constantly sourcing better, higher quality. Because of the underground marketing nature of electronic cigarettes, many consumers are turning to the internet to find an electronic cigarette review. A whole host of websites that take apart, review, rate and sort the good from the bad have sprung up to meet this growing demand.

As more people learn about them, bigger and bigger businesses are starting to take notice. Because of the recession, radio advertising is at an all time low price, and electronic cigarette manufacturers have started to take advantage of this. Trend/Peek predicts this to be the tipping point required to educate consumers enough to realize these products are now mainstream, and to seek them out either via the internet or by calling the merchants on the commercial.