Smoking 2.0 Give Lungs a BreakBy Nicole Martinelli
MILAN, Italy -- The NicStic is a cigarette-size plastic tube with a rechargeable heating coil that vaporizes tobacco instead of burning it.
Pop a filter on the end of the tube, and in seconds it is warmed up enough for a nicotine fix without the smoke. Because it has no smoke, it also has none of the tar, arsenic, cadmium and formaldehyde of regular cigarettes; it also passes muster with local anti-smoking laws here.
"I actually don't mind doing a bit of vogueing with this," said Victor Chambers, a former model and steady smoker, who tried the device at a reporter's request inside a crowded local bar. "Shivering in the rain for a smoke is just so last season."
Vaporizers have been an underground hit with pot smokers; and with tobacco-smoking restrictions or bans in effect in 33 countries -- from Cuba to Norway, and counting -- cigarettes are primed for their own killer app.
The NicStic kit, which retails online for 80 euros (about $100), comes with a small plastic heating case, three voltage adapters and a carton of filters in boxes that resemble standard cigarette packs. The heating case is powered by a 3.7-volt lithium battery like those found in cell phones or digital cameras; once charged, it can fire up about 20 fume-free smokes.
Billed as "enjoyment without discrimination," it may seem to give smokers another crutch to maintain their nic addiction in the face of a vehement social backlash [doh!]. But the device is winning support from some health officials as a way to help smokers who want to kick the habit.
"It could be a useful bridge to help quit," said anti-smoking campaigner Dr. Giacomo Mangiaracina, of the Italian Society for the Study of the Effects of Tobacco.
On the downside, NicStic is kind of an olfactory three-card monte: There's no smoke or its lingering funk but there is a distinct tobacco smell, unpleasant even to smokers. It's easy to see that nicotine also doubles as an effective insecticide -- the smell of musky, dry tobacco sent every living thing in one apartment scampering for cover the day the kit arrived in the mail.
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