I have smoked a pipe since before I left school 55 years ago. Alright, I always smoked a “boy’s tobacco” and only about 2oz (50 grams) a week. It has always been part of me. I couldn’t really do without it. I even used it to measure the severity of life’s little problems – how many pipes it would take to solve one!
Two weeks ago I put Old Smokey away together with half a packet of tobacco and about 15 lighters. Not required anymore.
No, this isn’t some steel willpower. I didn’t even know I was going to give it up. No-one even suggested that it would be a good idea. Yet I am very content with … well, another pipe which doesn’t need tobacco!
I bought an e-pipe. It is really an inhaler like people use when the suffer from asthma except that this one is designed to look like a really nice rosewood pipe. I can puff away at it and instead of smoke it gives me water vapour, rather like cooled steam and has nicotine mixed with the steam. The hat has nothing to do with it – I was talked into buying it by a part-time Monk, but that is another story!
The idea is that nicotine is the stuff us smokers are addicted to, not the rest of the 4,000 odd chemicals that processed tobacco contains. And because the steam evaporates almost instantly, there is no chance of anyone getting a dose of it from me. And nicotine isn’t carcinogenic! I’m even able to spell that word now.
No more mucky hands. No more burnt clothes. No more pockets full of ash. No more ash trays full of stinky tars and wet leaves. No more smell of old ashtrays – yes, I knew I smelt like that!
But this last week has been much more of a journey of discovery than I could ever imagined. It has taken me into a strange new world of people who call themselves “vapers” and talk about “attys” and “carts”. That is atomisers and cartridges, I have learnt. They rabbit on about juices that they have tried. There are 410s, 501s and 901s. It seems these are all models of e-cigarettes! There are forums full of people talking about how many days they have been “vaping” and off the “analogues”. It makes Dungeons & Dragons game plying nerds look sane!
Apart from the strange language these guys get into, there is the chemistry. Actually, it is more about maths.
As a vaper, I can choose how much nicotine to add to my basic vegetable glycerine “juice” which is the “wicked” on to the hot element and turned into the steam – which is what I happily suck at as if it were the old tobacco smoke. But how much nicotine do I need?
I had to start from the basis that I smoked 50 grams of tobacco a week. But here is a very strange thing. Cigarette packets have to carry their exact nicotine, tar and Co2. But pipe tobacco carries none of this information. Cigarettes, on the other hand tell you all that information but never tell you how much tobacco they contain! So finding out how much nicotine I am accustomed to taking in becomes a problem. Probably at least a six pipe problem…
I cheated and having discovered that a pack of 20 “normal” cigarettes contain 0.8 grams per fag, I am equating my 50 grams a week to 10 cigarettes a day. Now that is 40 cells of Excel spreadsheet just getting that far.
A little more surfing the net and I discover that the strongest nicotine solution that is legal is 7.5%. The strongest actually sold is 5.4% and the common “full” strength is usually 36mg per millilitre. Whoaa! There is another little mathematical trap for the novice chemist. We suddenly swap from % to absolute weight. Burn up a few dozen more Excel cells and I calculate that what I am used to puffing equates to about 6mg per ml – about half of the lowest manufactured juice. I am forced to mix my own juice using the concentrate and mixing it with zero-nicotine glycerine to get the wimpish strength that I am used to smoking.
Here is the portable lab:
The good news is that all this stuff is readily available. Even the flavours are easy to come by. Did I mention flavours? There is a whole new dimension I’ll tell you about in just a moment!
The whole vaping scene is about making up the right juice for an individual need and taste. The basic glycerine is used in everyday cooking so easy enough to buy. But flavouring? Yes, we are talking about tobacco flavours but we are also, it seems, talking about food flavourings. That is what the happy vaper buys. Candy flavours, as the Americans will insist on calling it. The stuff they put into boiled sweets. Of course, the vaper’s chemistry is all water based, so the oil based flavours are out of the equation.
So, if you see me happily “smoking” my e-pipe with a satisfied smile on my face, it is quite likely that I am actually enjoying a Chocolate smoke, or Strawberry, or Bacon Sandwich or… Of course there are tobacco flavours too. I guess there has been a bit of a row between the tobacco manufacturers and the flavouring manufacturers as many of the flavours have been renamed. Mailboro is now called Cowboy Country; State Express 555 is now M4 Highway and, my favourite but not as a flavour, Camel is now called Dessert Hump! Anything Lorann.com sells in their food flavourings may now be legally “smoked”.
For those interested in going down the vapour route, the result of my calculations in Excel form are is here: http://kvisit.com/S-Ydv I shall try and do a more detailed description in the next few days.