A Frugal Smoker's Guide to Electronic Cigarettes


Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, are an increasingly popular alternative to regular cigarettes, and for several good reasons. Perhaps most importantly for smokers who watch their budget, e-cigarettes are far cheaper than the standard variety. Moreover, they don't contain tobacco, so there's no second-hand smoke and nothing to stink up the air, your clothes, or your breath. The jury's still out on the health implications, but at least electronic cigarette liquids don't contain the many toxic chemicals found in regular cigarettes. Cheap e-cigarettes also tend to taste better thanks to the raft of available flavors. And while they may be less offensive than regular cigarettes, that's not to say they're OK for kids. Most e-cigs contain nicotine, and none of the e-cig e-retailers we've come across will sell to anyone younger than 18.

Types of Cheap Electronic Cigarettes.

E-cigarettes come in two varieties: disposable and reusable. Disposable e-cigs, such as Blu, Fin, and Njoy, resemble real cigarettes in size and often in looks. One disposable e-cig typically provides at least 40 cigarettes' worth of smokes, notes the chief executive of e-cigarette maker E-Luminate, although the exact number of puffs you get depends on how deeply you draw on it. You know it's time to throw away your cheap e-cigarette when no more vapor appears.

Reusable e-cigs have a refillable tank or cartridge and a rechargeable battery. Users buy the e-liquid separately, fill the tank or cartridge, then puff away. Reusable e-cigs vary in size and shape -- some are as small as a normal e-cigarette and others have very large batteries and tanks. SmokTech, for example, makes components in different sizes and colors, which gives users a chance to mix and match to suit their preferences. Cheap reusable electronic cigarettes last as long as the battery accepts a recharge; figure at least a year.

Cost of E-cigarettes vs. Cigarettes.

One of the first questions potential e-cigarette smokers ask is: are they cheap compared with the cost of tobacco cigarettes? Puff for puff, e-cigs are cheaper -- often costing half as much as the standard version.

Consider a 5-pack of Njoy King disposable e-cigarettes, which fetches $30 online. Because each disposable e-cig is the equivalent of about two packs of regular cigarettes, $3 buys you 20 cigarettes worth of electronic smoking. You'd be hard pressed to find even a bargain-basement brand of tobacco cigarettes for that price, and big-name cigarettes easily cost twice as much. Moving up the reusable e-cigarette price ladder is still a deal; the unit price for disposable brands such as Fin and Blu is $10-$11, which translates to about half the price of a full tobacco-based pack in places like New York.

E-liquid for reusable e-cigs is quite cheap, making it the most cost-effective option for e-cig users. Even a small bottle of e-liquid (say, 7 to 10 milliliters) typically lasts several days, sometimes as long as a week. Halo E-cigs charges $5.99 for a 7 milliliter bottle; a 10 milliliter bottle from online e-cigarette store Madvapes costs as little as $3.

Reusable e-cigarettes are most often sold in kits that usually include at least one rechargeable battery, a tank or cartridge, a USB-based charger for the battery, and a case to store everything. Most kits contain at least two batteries and two or more tanks or cartridges. Prices vary considerably, depending on the specific kit and where you buy it, but the cheap e-cigarette kits cost from $40 to $60. Some kits sell for up to $100 depending on the accessories included. Many e-cigarette retailers offer "build your own" kits that let you choose the preferred contents. Well-known names in the reusable e-cig market include Joyetech and SmokTech.

How E-cigs Work.

E-cigarettes are surprisingly simple devices. Both cheap disposable and reusable e-cigarettes consist of a battery, a reservoir that contains e-liquid (either a tank or a prefilled cartridge), and an atomizer that converts the e-liquid into vapor when the e-cigarette is activated.

There are two ways to activate the atomizer: automatically by taking a drag, and manually by pressing and holding a button the side of the battery. Disposable e-cigarettes are usually automatic and reusable e-cigarettes are automatic or manual but usually the latter.

E-liquid Flavors.

Reusable e-cigarette smokers have more flavor options than those who stick to disposable e-cigarettes. There are hundreds of e-liquid flavors available for tank refills, ranging from different types of tobaccos to fruits, candies, and desserts, but just a handful of disposable e-cig flavors.

E-liquids contain some nicotine to satisfy smoker cravings. Most manufacturers offer flavors with several nicotine levels so users can get the amount they need, and some flavors are available with zero nicotine content. Halo Cigs, for example, infuses flavors with 0 milligrams, 6 mg, 12 mg, 18 mg, or 24 mg of nicotine per milliliter of e-liquid; 6 mg is equivalent to a light cigarette, 12 mg is medium, and 18 mg is a strong, full-flavored cigarette. E-Luminate offers e-cigs and flavors in three strengths: silver (ultra-light), gold (light), and red (regular).