Not smoking and not Electrofag. The Gateway to Vaping, the Gadget with Baccy, exists and I have one.
I’ve looked at these before but was put off by the price. The special offer (also available in white but be quick, it’s a limited time offer) was enough to persuade me to give it a go. It arrived yesterday and I’ve used 17 of the microfags supplied already.
Most of what I was going to say has already been well covered from a vaper perspective. This is from a smoker perspective. The technical details are the same so there’s no point me repeating them.
Let’s open the box…
Lots of gadgetry and some unidentifiable weird things. I was forced to break with tradition and actually read the instructions.
(UPDATE: I hadn’t realised that some folk haven’t seen that charger plug [UK type] before. It’s a fold down thing. You have to slide up the earth pin for it to fit a UK socket. It’s not immediately obvious, it just looks like so many other plug variants we get here that need an adaptor.)
First thing I noticed was that it seemed counter-intuitive. You put the microfag in one end and the microfag filter is where you get your ‘smoke’. So it’s like a cigarette holder but in reverse. The weird things turned out to be cleaning devices. Like any other contraption, it needs regular cleaning to work at its best. Well that’s reasonable.
Which reminds me, my car must be due for its annual wash soon. Then again, the recent torrential rain did a decent job.
I charged up the case, which didn’t take very long, about 20 minutes or so, inserted the electrofagalike and waited for it to charge. Took roughly 5 minutes. The instructions say the case can charge the smoky thing at least 20 times on one charging of the case. Well, 17 microfags in and it’s still at 75% charge so I’m guessing it’ll last a while yet.
Oh I’m not kidding about the microfags…
They are Fifth Element microfags, as you’ll see later. You can’t light these to smoke them, the tobacco is packed way too tight in the end and it’s about 75% filter. They only work with the IQOS smoky thing.
So anyway, I fired one up and gave it a go. First impression, it wasn’t quite like smoking. There was a wisp of ‘smoke’ (contrast with the cumulo-nimbus generators some vapers use) but it actually did taste like smoking. The one thing vaping never got right for me was the tobacco taste. All the other flavours, even roast chicken flavour, they have spot on but they never really got tobacco flavour right.
This is actual tobacco. The taste is right. The thing is, it’s not burning. There’s no ash to build up as you type and then drop onto your keyboard. If you drop the gadget, it won’t burn into your carpet. All good so far.
The smoke is warm but not as hot as a burning cigarette and it leaves that ‘I’ve just smoked’ feeling in your mouth. I have the menthol ones and yeah, they work. Not right away. I’d say it took me about five tries to get the hang of it. I was trying to puff like a real one and that’s too fast for it. You need to take it slow.
Not too slow. This, unlike the Electrofags I’ve tried, has an end point. The vaper review I linked to puts it from a vaper, ex-smoker perspective. Vapers can take a puff or two and put it away. Smokers are stuck with a lit cigarette until it’s either done or they get fed up and put it out. Smokers are used to a defined length of time for a smoke.
So, the device’s programming to stop after 6 minutes or 14 puffs means it ends like a real one. A smoker trying an Electrofag for the first time is likely to puff away until the battery runs out – which could be hours. This thing stops when it’s done.
Another point from the other review – you have to wait a few seconds for this to heat up. Insert the microfag and press the button until the light starts flashing. When it stops flashing you are ready to go. Don’t press the button again, that will turn it off. For a smoker, these are the few seconds of digging out your lighter and lighting the thing. Vapers are used to just pressing the button and getting instant-on responses. I’d say this will work better for smokers than for vapers – and since so many vapers are now as anti-tobacco as the people who hate them too, they won’t try it anyway.
The spent microfag sometimes has a discolouration in the middle but look at the filter. The filter is still clean. There’s nothing like the darkening you get on a real smoke’s filter! Really, there’s not much of the bad stuff, if any, coming through when you use this thing.
And another thing. You ‘smoke’ at the filter end and then discard the whole microfag. No mouthpiece to worry about contamination. They are as single-use as real cigarettes. Smokers concerned about the hygiene aspects of sucking on the same mouthpiece over and over (I know there are some) will appreciate that.
The used tobacco end. It is tempting to think there is re-usable tobacco in there. No, there isn’t. The scorched part was in direct contact with the heater but it’s all been heated. There’s nothing reusable left. And there wasn’t much to begin with…
Well of course I took it apart. Would you have expected anything less? I wanted to know if I could make my own microfags. Sadly, at the moment, it’s ‘no’. I could make the baccy plug from homegrown but the paper tube isn’t just a cut-down of a tubing tube. It’s lined with some kind of foil and I doubt it’s kitchen foil. However, if this thing proves popular, there will be a market for empty tubes and the means to fill them. Bull Brand are no doubt already working on it.
Why would I consider making my own? As I said at the start, I was put off getting one of these by the startup price – and also the running price. At £7 for 20 microfags it’s really not much cheaper than smoking real ones. However, if they can keep that price constant while tobacco controllers push up real-smoke prices then the differential will become more attractive. At the moment though, it won’t attract smokers who are trying to switch for cost reasons. Which is a shame because that’s a really big chunk of the market.
It’s really only going to attract two types of smoker. Those who are trying to switch for health reasons and those who just love gadgets. Especially when the gadget is half price.
Verdict: I really like this thing. I have tried a few Electrofags and liked them but really only enjoyed them with the weird flavours. They could never replace smoking for me, they don’t have the tobacco flavour right. This IQOS is an in-between and I could well imagine smokers using this as a stepping stone to vaping. I will never believe vapers will use it to switch to smoking but the hysterical smokophobes will no doubt believe it. I might even be the one to prime their hysteria. Just to watch the antismoker vapers squeal. Some of us don’t care about money… 😉
It has not replaced real smoking for me but then it has only been two days. I have smoked far fewer real ones in those two days and this has the potential to almost replace real ones for me. Almost, mainly because I could not use it while driving long distances. You can’t set this up while driving and you can’t use it in the car because you can’t let go of it in use. If you let it dangle from your lips, the microfag slips out of the machine and the machine lands on the floor. At home, no problem. It won’t burn anything. It won’t burn anything in the car either but trying to find where it’s rolled to at 70 mph on a motorway is out of the question.
You also can’t flick a glowing butt out of the window at tailgaters. It always makes them pull back. ‘The road is mine’ and ‘the air is mine’ turns out to be the same mindset.Throwing a dead microfag at them won’t have the same effect.
There is also the final nail in the coffin – I really like smoking. I like the blue haze and the burning smell. This device gets close but does not quite replicate it. It can, however, replace some of my daily smoking with something that carries less risk. As the cost of smoking continues to escalate the price differential could get much bigger. That would encourage me to use this more. As it is, I think it will be in use daily because it’s far closer to smoking than any Electrofag.
It won’t make me drift all the way to vaping, but it’s likely to for some. The only thing that would do that for me would be if vaping got the tobacco flavour just right. I’ll vape the weird flavours for fun but it won’t be full time unless I can vape something that tastes like the real thing.
The IQOS does taste like the real thing. A little muted maybe but the taste is right.
If the price differential between this and real cigarettes was greater I might go for it. As it is, it’ll almost certainly cut down my intake of real cigarettes although it won’t replace them entirely.
If it does, I’ll need LED-powered fake cigarette buts to throw at tailgaters.
I could probably make those.
(UPDATE 14th March: I’m still using it but also still smoking. It hasn’t defeated the real ones and might never do. It has, however, reduced my intake of the real ones which is only a marginal cost saving at the moment. I don’t feel any different yet, maybe I’m too damn healthy for it to show a difference. I’ll see if it does anything healthy to me in a week or so.)