All images: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

The ploy of the rechargeable, Blu PLUS+ vape is obvious: It looks like a cigarette and the charging case resembles a pack. “It’s just like real smoking!” it seems to beg of your disbelief. It isn’t. But that should be obvious. And it’s far from the biggest problem with the Blu PLUS+.

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Despite sharing roughly the same dimensions as a cigarette, the PLUS+ can’t really be smoked as such. Holding it between two fingers or letting it rest between the lips is inconvenient because of its weight, which is orders of magnitude greater than a cigarette. Blu is not the only manufacturer to design vapes this way, but goddammit is it annoying. The draw is poor (and gets thinner as the battery dies), the all-important cloud is minimal, and it doesn’t hold a charge for very long. Storage and charging are both done inside the “pack” which seems like a bad idea for battery life in the long-term. Unlike most vape rigs, the ability to customize draw and harshness is totally absent.

Vape shops and online stores offer thousands of e-liquid flavors that can be smoked, from standard tobaccos and menthols to grits and Doritos. The PLUS+, which features a proprietary, screw-on cartridge system, boasts just nine. Only some of those come in all three nicotine strengths: 2.4%, 1.2%, and 0%. Blu’s cartridges aren’t refillable and, by the looks of them, hold markedly less e-liquid than what’s sold in smoke shop bottles for a comparable price. It’s DRM for nicotine. Blu’s website even expressly forbids tampering with their products lest you void the warranty. The four flavors I was provided were Classic Tobacco, Vivid Vanilla, Pina Colada, and Peach Schnapps, which tasted, respectively, nothing like tobacco, accurate but flat, and entirely too sweet (x2). The schnapps did have a faint aftertaste of alcohol for whatever that’s worth.

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Yes, vaping can be confusing at first. It’s an activity rife with jargon, and it gets as deep into electrical engineering as you let it. For someone seeking to avoid that headache and quit smoking right away, the Blu PLUS+ might provide a reasonable avenue for nicotine cessation. I’ve found gum, lozenges, or cold turkey to be more more reliable methods, but everyone has their own preference.

For the majority of vape smokers I know, vaping isn’t a tool to quit smoking traditional cigarettes, it’s a replacement altogether. And for teenagers—many of whom aren’t legally able to purchase a pack of Marlboros at a convenience store, but can easily get their hands on vapes—it’s the only way they’ve ever known how to consume nicotine. For better or worse, vaping is its own activity. For all their perceived dorkiness, vapes mirror all other current technology’s attempts to provide a customizable user experience. Rather than provide a happy medium, cig-a-like vapes harness the dumbest parts of both habits, and in the case of the Blu PLUS+, at an impressive markup.

Better vapes can be had for the same (or lower) cost. Unlike its main competitor, the onerously strong VUSE cig-a-like, the PLUS+ is a viable option for tapering off nicotine and eventually quitting, but not much else.

README

  • $43 for the pen, charger, and a 3-pack of cartridges
  • Limited flavors in non-refillable cartridges
  • Form factor is annoying
  • Bad for habitual vaping, potentially good to quit smoking