Everybody knows somebody who has succumbed to traditional smoking. My nan smoked like a train and suffered the consequences. My grandfather lost a lung to smoking, but kept on toking and the habit ended up getting the better of him too. And while people are smoking less these days for sure, where does the fangled e-cigarette and vaping scene fit in amongst this dying trend?
Fans of vaping reckon it’s less damaging to your health, mainly because you’re not ingesting the same levels of nicotine as cigarettes and you’re expelling vapour rather than carcinogenic smoke after a satisfying drag. The Government department Public Health England has a cheery graphic on its website that states e-cigarettes are ‘At least 95% less harmful’. At the same time, 55 per cent of nicotine afficianados are dual users, meaning they enjoy regular cigarettes as well as vaping.
That’s probably good news for tobacco companies, which are big and mighty things that can make a lot of things happen and that includes persuading people to part with their cash for old-school fags. But they’re having to try much harder and also diversify into the world of e-liquids and billowing vapours, as well as delivering a suite of tech gadgetry paraphernalia that you can get your next hit from in order to keep the tills ringing.
That’s why British American Tobacco (BAT) pulled out all the stops recently to take the covers off the Vype iSwitch and the iSwitch Maxx. In advance of the unveiling event held at the top of the upright cigar-shaped London Gherkin the PR people claimed this is a state-of-the-art vaping experience. Fans of tech were thin on the ground, but BAT-men and women teased us to the stage with the premise of a world-first in the shape of the Puretech heating system, Bluetooth connectivity and, naturally, a MyVype supporting app.
Oddly enough, the iSwitch Maxx actually reminds us of an old Speedtouch modem from the past, but both products have clearly had a lot of thought put into them. The design is slick and the feel of both gizmos suggests quality. Indeed, BAT says it has invested some $2.5 billion in R&D since 2012, which is a staggering figure that underlines just how important this marketplace is. And, curiously, much of the R&D is carried out in good old Southampton, down on the south coast.
Central to the appeal of the iSwitch is the innovative Puretech heating system. This, says BAT, is a substitute for the more conventional coil and wick that is normally used to heat e-liquids. Puretech features a wafer-thin blade – the thickness of a human hair, apparently – and is precision machined so that it produces a more measured delivery. BAT reckons it’s a game changer and, judging by the grinning man in the front row who was billowing out clouds of vapour, the end result does just that.
During her presentation, Marina Trani, New Categories Group R&D Director commented: “We have been always at the forefront of innovation in the vaping category, introducing innovative devices like ePen 3 and pioneering new technologies in e-liquids like nicotine salts, which we introduced in our portfolio back in 2015, with the vPro range.”
“Like many other world-first innovations, the Puretech blade is a radical new technology that will change the game for ever, creating a step change for the vapour category and for the Vype family.”
While the Vype iSwitch is seen as being innovative, it’s the larger Maxx edition that packs in more tech being Bluetooth enabled and offers connectivity with the MyVype app. However it's only available on Android for some reason.
The app lets you control functionality of the power settings as well as allowing you to lock it remotely so nobody else can enjoy a puff on your pride and joy. Speaking of which, it’ll also monitor puff count, keep an eye on the battery level and offer up tips and news from the wider world of vaping.
Of course, the iSwitch is just one of many such products. Philip Morris, the other major player in the world of smoking and vaping, has the rival iQOS system too, so there is choice, but BAT thinks the Vype iSwitch and iSwitch Maxx gives you more for your money.
Talking of money, Gemma Webb, General Manager at BAT UK announced that the company had struck a new global partnership with McLaren Formula One, in a collaboration that will focus on technology and innovation. BAT hasn’t been involved in the word of Formula One since it pulled out back in 2006, so the move is significant. And, judging by the upbeat presentations delivered on the 34th floor of the Gherkin, BAT plans a lot more marketing stunts in order to push their cutting-edge vaping kit. No expense spared.
Back down at street level it’s interesting to see how Vype shops have popped up in just about every home town high street across the country – taking over from all those fish pedicure places that popped up en masse a while back. Where once you’d pop in and get dead skin nibbled of the soles of your feet by a bored goldfish, now you can dive into the multiple e-liquids that will help feed your nicotine cravings instead. The high street is changing and so too, it seems, are our bad habits.