After watching an old episode of Miami Vice, I decided to launch an investigation of retail e-cigarette brands. Just what kind of e-cigs are being sold at gas stations and convenience stores?
Inspired by Sonny Crocket and Ricardo Tubbs, I decided that the best way to collect the evidence that I was looking for was to go undercover!
One grey, pink and blue t-shirt, one pair of cotton pants and a pair of deck shoes later, I was on my way to check out the gas station e-cigs available in my area. All I was missing was a walkman with a Phil Collins cassette blasting 80s pop into my ears.
Before going too far forward, for those of you too young to recall the 80s, a walkman was like a bulky iPod that played cassettes. When I was a kid, it was also a sign of cool and still should be as far as I’m concerned. Now, back to my undercover mission.
Just 6 months ago, you could find a variety of e cigarette brands in gas stations but they were not nearly as prevalent as they are now. Perhaps 15% of the gas stations in my particular area carried e cigarettes. Now, just half a year later, almost every gas station carries e-cigs.
Using Google maps, I located 10 gas stations in my area and set out, on foot, to all of them to see what they were selling, how they sold it and what kind of guidance was available from employees.
As you can see on the map below, all the gas stations seemed to be in walking distance. I must say that if you plan on walking a route based on Google maps, pay attention to the scale in bottom left corner. All of the red dots look so close together but, as I found out the hard way, when they say 1 inch equals 1000 feet they ain’t kidding!
Such is the life of the undercover operative! Thankfully, I survived the walk and made it back to my laptop. I just mention this to you now because today I went the extra mile for you …. literally!
So, what about these gas station e-cigs. ECCR has previously covered the dangers of buying gas station e-cigs but I wanted to revisit the issue. With a new e-cig company starting up every three days, maybe there is a hidden gem out there somewhere. I am always looking for the best e-cig.
Any candidate for the best e-cig must meet a set of obvious criteria. It begins with the quality of materials used. Do they use premium lithium ion batteries or inferior batteries full of impurities? Is the e-cig liquid made with top grade materials or are we talking about cheap after market ingredients mass produced in some anonymous factor somewhere in China? If these low quality brands are still prevalent at gas stations everywhere, I think there is cause for concern.
Specifically, my concern was that people were vaping an inferior e-cigarette and writing off the experience as a lost cause. The fact is that unless an e-cigarette provides a satisfying experience smokers are unlikely to make the switch. After seeing what is available at a retail level, I believe that these concerns are more than justified.
The e-cigarette brands that are available at gas stations are typically inferior. They are not brands that you will ever see featured in one of our electronic cigarette reviews, nor will they ever appear in our top ten. Yet they are relatively cheap and so easy to access.
The brands that we feature in our electronic cigarette reviews represent the best in the industry. Our reviews are carried out to exacting specifics so that we can provide you with empirical data that has been established and confirmed by long-term use. You cannot review an e-cig in a day, as most sites do.
A review involves different perspectives from more than one participant. While ECCR review specialists have the final say and deliver a final summary, they do so after consulting several others about their experience with the product.
To use an awesome Miami Vice analogy, sure Lieutenant Castillo delivered the final report to the Chief, but only after Crocket and Tubbs came back from their undercover operation and checked in. It’s a team, effort. That team effort is important because the end goal is to help you find an e-cig that will help you bust tobacco out of your life.
Unfortunately, for the average smoker that may be considering trying e-cigarettes as an alternative, chances are high that they will first try a gas station e-cig without the slightest background on what they are buying. Believe me, I experienced it first-hand during my super top-secret undercover sting. Ssshh!
I spoke to ten gas station employees and asked them about the e cigarette brands that they carried. The result was that none of them were unable to tell me anything about the brands that their store carried. They could not even tell me the nicotine level of the brands they were selling. Now nicotine level is a critical piece of information!
Case in point, at a convenience store I asked the very nice woman behind the counter about the best e-cig they had. Consider that a pack per day smoker can generally be satisfied by 18 to 24 mg of nicotine. She handed me a cheaply made disposable with 40 mg of nicotine. That is a very strong e-cig. That might be okay for some vapers but 40 mg would take most nicotine addictions to a whole new level.
Keep in mind that this clerk was sincerely trying to help me out but the lack of knowledge that is encountered at gas stations and convenience stores is actually potentially dangerous. Nicotine addiction is not something to be taken lightly. Smoking is one of the most difficult habits that a human being can contend with and the possibility of making it more difficult is not to be taken lightly. It is critically important to educate consumers about this new innovation that has so much positive potential.
I spoke to ten gas station and convenience store employees and asked them about the e-cigarette brands that they carried. Not one person was able to help.
While employees were not able to help with the products that were being sold in their stores, they were all sincere in trying to help. Well, except one guy. At one gas station, the guy just shook his head and didn’t even say a word to me. I take it he was not a Miami Vice fan. Either that or I somehow blew my cover. Anyway, all in all only one employee knew anything about vaping at all.
I have to say that the one knowledgeable employee that I did speak to was excellent. He knew all about e liquids, tanks, how well it kept him from tobacco and more. The only problem was that he did not know anything about cig-a-likes, which is what they sold.
Before inquiring about the best e-cig available at each of these stores, I claimed that I smoked half a pack per day and asked which e-cig would work for me. Not one person was able to help me. The best I got was general suggestions based on what was popular. To all of their credit, no one tried to mislead me. They were honest but they really just didn’t know anything about what they were selling. By the way, neither did I.
Gas Station E-Cigs
The brands that I encountered at gas stations ran the gamut. I saw names like Eon, Green (please do not mistake this brand with Green Smoke), Tececigs, New York and more. Basically, most of these brands are generic, mass-produced, cheaply made products that anyone could buy and slap a company name on. Folks, you have to be careful.
In the time that I have been involved in this industry, I have made a few connections on the manufacturing side. My email has been circulated and, like my colleagues at ECCR, I am virtually inundated with emails from manufacturers that produce cheap e-cigs offering bargain basement prices. All I have to do is tell them what name I want to appear on the package. It is literally that easy to start a brand. No wonder the market is so polluted.
These cheaply made brands do not compare with the quality brands that we review on ECCR. Think about it. The companies that sell these products have no control over design, function or e-cig liquid ingredients. These brands simply do not provide a quality vaping experience. We also cannot vouch for the quality of their ingredients. There are just so many unknowns.
These brands will not survive once regulation comes to the industry but the reality is that they are currently easily accessible and very tempting for first time vapers. People may want to try an e cigarette before investing in a kit. It is extremely unfortunate that the barometer by which they gauge whether or not e cigarettes will work for them might be based on a bad experience with a gas station e-cig.
At the end of the day, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) is a reality. Businesses exist to sell, and many of them are indeed very good at selling. What can possibly lead smokers toward more informed choices?
People rely on word of mouth from friends, colleagues and personal acquaintances. Hearing from a trusted voice sharing positive experiences with products helps to navigate the minefields of sales pitches and product promotions. This is where we all have a role to play.
Tobacco and smoking are costing lives. E-cigarettes can save lives but only if they are effective in helping smokers avoid tobacco. Everyday people are experiencing radical lifestyle changes thanks to e-cigs! In order to experience those positives it is important that people find their way to the quality brands that will help them.
It is critical that we expose people to the truth about which e cigarette brands are good quality and give them a real chance to make the switch. Read the e-cigarette reviews of fellow consumers and find out which brands are making a difference. We also need to raise the alarm about which brands should be avoided.
Help us out with this! Share what you know. Share our site and our information with your family and friends. Tell people about the effective and recommended brands. By buying from a quality brand online you save so much more in the long run and get a far, far superior product. Help us make smoking a memory. Let’s get the word out.
Also, don’t wear 1980’s Miami Vice style deck shoes when you are walking for extended distances.