In the last year there’s been a huge rise in wearables, “smart technology” that monitor what you do, how you do it and where you are. This can be seen as positive - in terms of products like FitBit and Jawbone Up which track your physical activity in order to help you improve your health; or scary, when you consider that potentially all this data about you could be collected, disseminated and used against you (maybe).
But this trend of wearables is moving into a surprising market, that of e-cigarettes. The first “hi-tech” e-cigarette was the Blu E-cig, with their “smart packs” which they debuted in 2011. These are equipped with Bluetooth and vibrate when you are near another Blu smoker. But that was, sooo three years ago. Now e-cigarettes are truly getting techified.
Imagine an e-cigarette that knows how much you smoke, where you smoke, and when you smoke. Yup, seriously. This is just what the brand new company, Smokio, thinks you might want to use. Based in France, they have just launched and their first products are being sent out this week.
So, what is the Smokio exactly?
Well, Smokio is a standard e-cigarette “vape” pen (which has a Bluetooth receiver built in), comes with a bunch of nicotine free liquid (“we have no plans to ever sell nicotine liquid”) and has a charger in their box. The e-cigarette connects to the Smokio app and monitors a large number of things that you’re doing: when you smoke, where you smoke (using GPS) and even how many puffs you take. It takes that information to track your smoking habits.
Could this be seen as a little bit creepy? Do you want to have that much information about yourself recorded, even if you’re doing the recording? Well, we’re a generation accustomed to wearable technology. Smokio’s co-founder Steve Anavi, sees Smokio as adding to this in a good way.
“I’m an ex smoker,” said Anavi, “When I quit I moved to e-cigarettes but I was always wondering what my usage was, and what could be the impact of quitting “real” cigs on my health.” Anavi decided to create Smokio, after looking for its equivalent on the market and not finding it. “I see Smokio as a GPS, if you don't want to use it you can continue to drive, and if you want to know how where to go, you can activate the GPS,” he said.
Smokio might be the first truly 'smart' e-cigarette widely available, but it has competition. For instance, a brand called Vapor Corp, is working on an e-cigarette that will have a fingerprint reader and an associated app. They have no release date as of yet, but this suggests that the connected “smoke” device market will clearly grow.
E-cigarettes are big business at the moment. They’ve moved from having tiny market saturation to being a force to contend with. Euromonitor estimated that e-cigarette companies will be worth more than $2 billion worldwide.
However, health risks associated with e-cigarettes continue to be questioned. While e-cigarettes may be preferable to “real cigarettes” (because no tobacco is in them), the science is not all kosher and it's still unclear whether e-cigarettes are safe or not.
For instance, Smokio can be used with nicotine liquid, but that's not provided by the company. They provide a non-nicotine liquid, which is made of vegetable glycerin, aroma and propylene glycol. “These have been used for a long time in food,” Anavi said. “We don’t add any extra ingredients that could be controversial.” This was a response to the recent questions about coolant being found in some e-cigarettes.
The CDC said that, "significant questions remain about how to assess the potential toxicity and health effects of the more than 250 electronic cigarette brands." No one really has any conclusive answer right now.
Fusion’s Dan Lieberman investigated what goes into the e-cigs which raised some questions. The FDA approves some of the ingredients they use for human consumption, but when mixed with nicotine, vaporized and inhaled, it may be a different story. So, we suggest that you consider all variables before getting into them.
Vice journalist, Meghan Neal, puts it very well when she said, in relation to Smokio, “Health-trackers can be a nice way to illuminate our bad habits for our own benefit, but they also present a nice new opportunity for companies to profit as we struggle against our vices.“