THEY look like cigarettes, they taste like cigarettes but they’re battery-operated and they don’t have any tobacco in. Star reporter Rachael Clegg gives the lowdown on electronic cigarettes.
THE GLAMOROUS woman on the sign of Mirage Cigarettes’ HQ in Woodseats is not the only one to have been taken in by the electronic cigarette phenomenon.
Beyond the company’s solid wooden door, in its sofa-decked reception, a cluster of people sit and test them. They are desperate to find an alternative to real cigarettes.
And they are not the only ones to be sampling this nicotine-laced and battery powered gadget –Mirage Cigarettes is growing year on year, due to demand for an alternative to cigarettes.
Craig Newbold, who runs the company, says: “Over the past five years, this has really taken off. It’s been hard work but it’s great. I’ve been on so many radio shows this week talking about electric cigarettes because they are becoming really popular.”
His list of radio appearances includes stations in Oldham, Peterborough and - of course - Sheffield.
The secret to Mirage Cigarettes is that they still contain nicotine but that the nicotine is inhaled with water vapour, vaporised with power from a small lithium battery.
He said: “You inhale it and smoke it because there is a vapour but there is no tobacco. The chemicals that appear in normal cigarettes don’t appear in electric cigarettes.
“This isn’t a stop-smoking device, it’s an alternative to normal cigarettes.”
Craig was inspired to start an electric cigarette company after reading about them on the internet. From that point on, there was no looking back. He travelled to China, where the cigarettes are manufactured, established a manufacturing contact and set up his business on Archer Road, importing the cigarettes from the Far East.
He also decided to give electronic cigarettes a shot himself.
“I was at that point in life where I realised I wasn’t going to live forever and that I should stop smoking. When you’re young you don’t think about health but I didn’t want any of the problems associated with smoking, like high blood pressure.”
In the past week alone, Craig has taken on three extra members of staff. He has opened a second store on the Manor, the first being in Hillsborough.
“I also sell wholesale and supply to chemists across the country,” he says, puffing on a ‘long life’ battery-powered cigarette.
The atmosphere of the premises reflects that business is on the up - a man and woman are busy packing up items to post, two young men are helping customers in reception and a lady at a desk taps away at a computer against a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling stock.
Nationally, the electronic cigarette industry is worth around £5 million a year and it’s believed that this year as many as one million people will be using the device.
This would make up one-tenth of the UK’s smokers - a fraction which, looking at Mirage Cigarettes’ success, is likely to increase.
And, just as there are many brands of tobacco cigarettes, there are numerous flavours of electronic cigarettes as well, designed to mimic real brands. Copyright laws have forced Mirage Cigarettes to be creative with its own lines of brand-similar products, with names like ‘Red Cowboy,’ ‘Lamb and Butter,’ ‘Belson and Hedders’ and ‘Hembassy’.
Yet, amusing names aside, Jamie Emery, aged 23, from Woodseats, believes that the electronic cigarettes helped him stop smoking altogether.
“I bought a big pack of them for £50. I thought ‘For £50 it’s worth a try.’ I smoked them as normal cigarettes for months, taking regular breaks at work for a few puffs and then one day I was so busy at work that I got home at 8.30pm and realised I hadn’t smoked all day so I stopped there and then.
“I just didn’t crave it anymore.”
Professor John Britton, the Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, said: “What kills a smoker is the constituents of the smoke that comes with the nicotine, so what these electronic cigarettes are doing is giving the smoker the nicotine but without most of those toxins.”
* Electronic cigarettes came on to the market in the US in 2007 and since then the industry has exploded.
* Since its US emergence, the electronic cigarette industry has risen from a $5 million to a $250 million industry.
* Mirage Cigarettes are based on Archer Road and have shops in Hillsborough and at Manor Top.
* Electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco or tar.