E-Butts: The Marlboro Man Plugs in.

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You may have seen the recent flurry of stories about a supposed alternative to cigarette addiction called the electronic cigarette. E-butts are a move by some nicotine-dealing tobacco companies to counter their declining smoke sales. If you're one of the 13 million smokers who try to quite each year, wouldn't you like to smoke if it didn't kill you? E-butts sound like a viable alternative, don't they?

Marlboro thinks so. They're coming out with one this year to compete with Lorillard's blue eCigs and VMR's V2 Cigs. The Marlboro Man will want a charger on his saddle because you do need one to re-ignite the cartridge which is the heart of these puffing puppies.
Inside what looks like a normal smoky-butt is a battery that charges a cartridge that heats a liquid that atomizes a VAPOR of nicotine that gets sucked into your body. No carbon monoxide and tar to sear your lungs. Instead, nicotine is delivered along with a charming medley of flavors including peppermint, mint tea, vanilla, coffee, chocolate, cherry, cola, menthol and of course original tobacco for the traditionalist. The flavor option is a pitch for younger adddictoids who tend to favor taste enhancements - which means a pepperoni-pizza-butt is surely on its way.

An e-butt starter kit includes a battery, charger, a bunch of cartridges, a USB charger, an AC wall adapter and an e-butt. Costs range from $19.99 and can go as high as $199 - oh yeah. The pricier options come with the ability to control the amount of nicotine invading your body. There's no ash to drop in your lap, no second-hand smoke, no noxious odor to stink up your breath and no fire producing ember tip to burn down the homestead. E-butt makers realize how important that burning end is so there's is a red glowing tip that brightens with each puff. One e-butt cartridge lasts as long as two packs of smoky-butts.

Cost is not the sell here - fear of death is. We've tried patches, hypnosis, gums and thumbs to help us quit only to find ourselves inhaling a quart of Ben & Jerry's which only produces guilt which leads back to smoking. One audiobook on the market seems to include all of the above, and then some: "Quit Smoking with Subliminal Affirmations: Smoking Cessation and Stop Tobacco Addiction, Solfeggio Tones, Binaural Beats, Self Help Meditation Hypnosis."

So are e-butts the answer to folks who want to quit? No, no and more no. Whether a tobacco-packed paper tube or battery-operated atomizer, both these puffers are designed for one thing only: as a nicotine delivery system. Nicotine, combined with all the other ingredients, IS addictive. According to health officials, nicotine changes the structure and function of your brain. Each puff delivers nicotine to the brain - fast. It feels good, so we take another hit - then another. Soon the brain's chemical structure actually changes. It becomes hooked into wanting more and more nicotine to make the effects last. At this point, we be hooked.

And because e-butts are heavier than smoky-butts, forget the image of dangling one from your lips, Hoagy Carmichael-style, as your fingers dance over the keyboard.

Time is another factor against them. Traditionally, the length of a smoke break is defined by the length of the cigarette. When it's done, so are you and it's back to work. With e-butts, break-time is up to you. Way too loose. We like to think of ourselves as the embodiment of individualism but we do tend to stick to imposed schedules. It's the German in us.

So here's the nub: e-butts don't taste, feel or act like cigarettes. They are not an alternative to smoking. And they're certainly not very effective if you're trying to quit. The only device for that is located in our brains.