Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Evil Genius Strikes Again

E-cigarettes offer smoke-free nicotine, but experts skeptical
Delores Flynn
The Detroit News

Scott Marino was recently in Kroger puffing away on a cigarette when an employee told him he couldn't smoke in the store. The 43-year-old Shelby Township resident said "no problem" -- because the cigarette wasn't real.

Marino hasn't smoked in a little more than a month due in part to electronic or e-cigarettes, which provide a nonflammable, tar- and tobacco-free alternative to traditional cigarettes. Powered by a lithium battery, the cigarette includes a liquid nicotine cartridge, a "glowing" end and smoke-like vapors.

"It's a great option, especially in light of the state considering a smoking ban," said Marino, who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for 25 years. "You can smoke it in restaurants or work, and carry it around with you and not need a lighter."

The electronic cigarette kits sell for roughly $99 to $129.99 and include a wall charger as well as a pack of five cartridges valued at $10 that come in four different nicotine levels: 16 milligrams, 11, 6 and 0. Various flavors such as regular tobacco, apple and vanilla are also available. One nicotine cartridge is the equivalent of 20 traditional cigarettes -- or a pack. A pack of cigarettes in Michigan costs about $6.

The technology was invented by a Chinese scientist in 2004, and Smoking Everywhere obtained the right to sell the product in the United States. It's one of about five major e-cigarette companies. Njoy and Bloog use similar technology.

Smoking Everywhere has reported sales of about $12 million in 2008 for the product marketed to ages 18 and older, Linscott said.

It has become about a $100 million industry, said Matt Salmon, president of the Electronic Cigarette Association.

The kiosk in Oakland Mall has sold more than 130 kits since it opened May 1, and sells about 20 packs of cartridges daily, according to co-owner John Mannino, who opened a second kiosk at Birch Run mall Wednesday.

See: E-cigarettes offer smoke-free nicotine, but experts skeptical

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