The Best E-Cigarette

Electronic cigarettes change everything for smokers. One day you're a societal menace, a pariah forced out onto the street to get your fix—the next you're dosing yourself with nicotine in the New York Public Library.

It's actually absolutely possible to banish your smoking habit with ecigs—it was possible for me, anyway—but only if you choose the "smoke" with the most vaporific satisfaction.

Disclaimer! The jury is still out on the safety of electronic cigarettes. They're not regulated by the FDA, and anything you're going to pour into your lungs really should be. Manufacturers go out of their ways to avoid rules by not making direct health claims. We're operating under the assumption that smoking cigarettes is amongst the worst things you can do for your health, and that—at worst—ecigs are that bad for you.

That said, if you smoke, you really should quit. And, like I said, ecigs can help. But if you're not a smoker, and you're considering ecigs as a healthy, social alternative to cancer sticks, let me be the first to call you bonkers.

Testing Methodology

We wanted to know which ecig did the best job of busting our cravings. Is there a product so satisfying that we could just leave tobacco behind once and for all if we wanted to? Factors we considered include potency, design, durability, flavor, and battery life.

We picked four different brands of ecigs based on their popularity and reputation and smoked them like crazy: at home, in the subway, in taxis, at the office, and everywhere else we could. Frequency of smoking varied from constant to incessant. During the course of this research, I actually ditched my 10-year-old, pack-a-day habit.

Meet the Electronic Cigarette

Ecigs don't differ all that much. The basic design is simple: a cigarette-shaped cylinder from which you suck a nicotine-enrichened vapor. In slightly more technical terms: a battery powers a heating element that energizes a mixture of vaporizing fluid (usually propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin), flavoring, and nicotine until it's a gaseous mixture you can inhale. The nicotine is heavier than the vapor and so you exhale a big cloud of (theoretically) harmless gas.

Three of the four brands (Vapor4Life, Safe Cig, Blu) we tested share a similar overall design: Rechargeable batteries that screw into refills that look like cigarette filters. You buy into a system with a starter pack ($50-$100) that gives you a few batteries, assorted chargers, and some refill cartridges to get started. Batteries vary from tiny and cute to Cruella-de-Vil-sized; mixture strengths are similarly diverse. We also tested one non-rechargeable ecig option (Njoy). These are ready-to-smoke ecigs that you later recycle.

Honorable mention

V2 Cigs
V2 is a huge online purveyor of basic, nondescript ecigs available in a million different battery-size and flavor combinations. Sure, they work, but they're not going to inspire anyone to kick the habit.

MadVapes
For the hand-rollers and DIY enthusiasts of the world there are MadVapes personal vaporizers. If you want a huge battery that'll never die or custom refills you whip up yourself, this is the way to go. Cool! Cheap! But it's too much trouble for most.

4th Place: Blu

The Best E-Cigarette

Blu's ecig system oozes awful effort. It really, really wants to be cool. Pull an ecig out of its "pack," and its tip lights up a conspicuous and unnatural blue that's probably attractive in weird euro clubs. It's jarring in any normal human context. And the all-black "cig" is shiny like a cosmetics case, which isn't very appetizing. The starter kit comes with a black box that looks just like a pack of cigarettes. Except when you open it up, it blasts another horrible blue light into your eyes. The box also has built-in social feature that detects other nearby Blu smokers using a built-in radio. We never found anyone. But at least the box charges your battery!

Unlike other manufacturers, Blu uses 100-percent vegetable glycerin as a vaporizing fluid. When you exhale this vapor is thicker than propylene glycol—another showy gimmick that, for some, might be more satisfying. Flavors include Vivid Vanilla, and Peach Schnapps. They're all repulsive.
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Blu

• Basic starter pack price: $70
• Refill price: $12 ( 5 pack)/ $2.40 (each)
• Six month price: $514
• Six months of cigarettes: $800 (West Virginia) / $2000 (New York)
Gizrank: 2.5

3rd Place: The Safe Cig

The Best E-Cigarette

Unlike Blu, Safe Cig has done everything in its power to make ecigs as stealthy as possible. But everyone knows fitting in is boring—that's why you started smoking in the first place.The flavors don't have fun names, the batteries look like porcelain casts, the refills ends look like real filters, and when you take a drag the tip glows a convincing orange. People might not even notice you're smoking an ecig right away—if at all.

Smoking Safe Cigs is a pain in the butt. The regular battery will get you through about a half-a-day of heavy use, and even the large battery can't make it a whole day. The refills, each of which the company claims is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes, falls short of that mark—Unless I'm now a world-champion nicotine fiend: one lasts you maybe a day and a half before it stops hitting hard, but really we're talking about a half day. Keeping up with your Safe Cig requires constant attention: You better carry an extra refill and an extra battery with you everywhere you go, and make sure you're always charging up for the next time your lifeline peters out. But don't worry! Safe Cig sells just the accessory to hold all your extra power and refills—The Blink case. It's $50.

In the Safe Cig's defense, the simple tobacco-based flavors are delicious. Whatever the hell "Madrid" is trying to be, It's slightly sweet and satisfying—like the after-dessert cigarette that got you hooked in the first place.

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The Safe Cig

• Basic starter pack price: $70
• Refill price: 17.50 (pack)/ $2.50 (each)
• Six month price: $450
• Six months of cigarettes: $800 (West Virginia) / $2000 (New York)
Gizrank: 3

2nd Place: Vapor4Life

The Best E-Cigarette

Vapor4Life is the ecig brand you hear about from retired Hells Angels in seedy pool halls. The Vapor Titan battery we tested is colored brown like a cigar, and its blinged-out, diamond-shaped tip lights up bright red like, "Hey world! I'm a swaggy ecig smoker!"

The Vapor Titan gave us the most intoxicating blasts of nicotine of any ecig we tried. Instead of firing automatically when you take a drag, you push a small button to activate the heating element. Keep it running for a bit, and you can take some intense, nervous system-rattling rips of vapor. You'll end up accidentally activating the battery from time to time. Even so, a single charge and cartridge lasted us two entire days.

The Kamel flavor was our favorite, it's more or less the equivalent of unfiltered Pall Malls; Rich and robust, but not for the faint of heart.

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Vapor4Life

• Basic starter pack price: $50/$70
• Refill price: 10.50 (5 pack)/ $2.10 (each)
• Six month price w/basic kit: $450
• Six months of cigarettes: $800 (West Virginia) / $2000 (New York)
Gizrank: 4

BESTMODOD!!! Njoy Kings

The Best E-Cigarette

Njoy is the most popular ecig brand out there. The company started out making regular ecigs like everyone else, and recently introduced the "One Joy," a disposable version. (Blu also makes a disposable ecig.)

But the company is about to release a new non-rechargeable ecig called the Njoy King. Bad news first: In the long run they're a little more expensive than replacement tips. Each King costs $8 and lasted us about a day to a day and half.

But smoking a King…. Oh holy hell yes this is what all ecigs should be! Kings are different from any other ecig. Where others are hard and heavy—like a fountain pen dangling from your mouth—Kings are light and slightly squishy. When you roll a King between your fingers it feels so much like a real smoke that you almost believe it's real even though you know it's not. At just over three inches long, Kings are small, and each one is packaged in a slim box that snaps closed like a Zippo—Smart reinforcement!—and keeps the King safe and clean in your pocket.

Even the consistancy of the vapor is right. The "Smooth" is mild and light, while the "Bold" scratches the back of your throat like a Marlboro.

If you're worried about the waste, dont: Njoy plans to offer a recycling program that let's you trade in a few used Kings for new Kings. According to the company, they'll be available in stores nationwide by October 2012, and we'll be standing in line to buy them.

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Njoy

• Basic starter pack price: $8
• Refill price: $8
• Six month price: $1240
• Six months of cigarettes: $800 (West Virginia) / $2000 (New York)
Gizrank: 4

The Best E-Cigarette