I don't need help quitting smoking, but I have actors who need to look like cigarette fiends.
August 25, 2011 5:34 PM   Subscribe

I need recommendations for an e-cigarette to use as a prop. Details inside.

So, we're doing Henry IV Part I and a number of the actors feel that their characters are smokers. Fine. Issues as follows:

1) The actors themselves are not smokers.
2) Even if they were, smoking is illegal on the grounds where we perform.
3) Even if it wasn't illegal, I'd prefer to avoid actual smoking of things on fire to avoid damage to costumes, unintentional litter, etc.
4) Some # of them have used the usual prop cigarettes, and hate them, and besides, powder makes people sneeze and gets everywhere.

I've seen this thread about e-cigs, but what I need is kind of specific, and I'm getting overwhelmed and I just don't know enough about it to make a good decision. So, my requirements as follows:

1) I need 3-5 of the things. This makes me think disposables (300-500 puffs?). I'm unsure if this is stupid.
2) Needs to actually look like a cigarette from a reasonable distance.
3) Hence, needs to glow red, not blue or green or purple.
4) Would be prime if I could have non-nicotine containing e-liquid (is that even the right terminology??) but I recognize that's likely a "nice-to-have."

Any advice or guidance would be much appreciated.
posted by Medieval Maven to Shopping (7 answers total)
I'd recommend the Joye 510 with the EcoPure vegetable glycerine juice, which you can get without nicotine. I'd recommend the Joye over disposables because they tend to have better batteries and chargers, and a wider selection of styles. The disposables and liquor-store brands are usually badly made, and you don't really know what kind of juice you may end up getting. The downside is that the Joyes cost more; about $65 for two units.
posted by lekvar at 5:46 PM on August 25, 2011

Would be prime if I could have non-nicotine containing e-liquid (is that even the right terminology??) but I recognize that's likely a "nice-to-have."

You can order a zillion different delicious flavors of liquid. I like the stuff from Vermont Vapor. Cherry and mocha are my flavors of choice.

But, they don't always work in the 7-11 grade disposables, as sometimes they use a sealed body.

There are fairly inexpensive non-disposables, though. I've never owned one, though, so I'll defer to others on best models.
posted by Netzapper at 5:50 PM on August 25, 2011

Those disposables are cheap enough to buy 1-2 and see if they'll suit your needs, but even if you spent $50 on a genuine Joye kit, ecigs have limitations. Here is someone reviewing and demonstrating a disposable. If you watch this and any other such review/demo videos on YouTube, you'll notice that in order to get any decent amount of cloud a person will need to inhale slowly and deliberately on the ecig. They simply won't produce much or any smoke if someone is trying to smoke hurriedly and furiously. They won't leave a smoke trail if a person isn't actively puffing on them. And it will probably take a person an evening or two in front of a mirror (and a YouTube tutorial or two) to get good at the inhalation technique to make big, natural looking clouds.

You might want to look into the actual smoking regulations to see if they cover any kind of cigarette or only tobacco cigarettes. Health food stores often carry herbal cigarettes that look and smoke just like normal tobacco cigarettes but with some herbal mix inside instead (so they don't produce the same lingering stink).
posted by K.P. at 5:40 AM on August 26, 2011

K.P. has a good point about the smoke...

Thing is, even a super-realistic-looking e-cigarette will give itself away by the way it's smoked. For one thing, they're pretty heavy; the tube on the end (where the tobacco would be in a normal cigarette) is a battery. If you try to hold an e-cigarette like a normal one, it will sag oddly in your fingers due to the weight of the battery. It really changes the body movements involved in smoking it, and that's even before you consider no reminder to ash, nothing to ash, the unnatural glow, and the inhalation issue K.P. raised.

E-cigs also have some quirks. At least on the model I use, there is an audible hissing noise while you are inhaling, and frequent, loud popping sounds. It will even occasionally whistle.

The main problem I think you might run into, though, is the extremely variable vapor. Sometimes you'll take a deep drag and get nothing... but sometimes, you'll end up with so much more vapor than you expected (and therefore take so much more "throat hit" than you're prepared for) that you end up doing the stereotypical uncontrollable stoner's cough... not awesome while trying to say lines. If your actors are non-smokers, this will be even tougher for them to handle.

This sounds like a lot of work and money for you -- and a lot of potential disaster to introduce into a live performance -- for smoking that's not necessary for the plot.
posted by Gianna at 7:32 AM on August 26, 2011

DealExtreme sells very very cheap e-cigarettes that actually look like cigarettes. Like, $5-10 cheap. Some of these cheap ones have tips that glow when inhaled upon.

Here's one. There are a bunch of cheaper ones available, too.

Thing with ecigarettes is that there's nicotine in them. I don't know if they'll work without a cartridge.
posted by porpoise at 10:23 AM on August 26, 2011

What is your budget?

I'm assuming you don't want to come out of this with everyone addicted to nicotine?

No. 7 E-cigarettes are a great option, but they may get expensive. They look like real cigarettes, they glow red, they don't sputter or pop, etc. But if you want to have zero nicotine in them, you'd have to buy a kit (micro cartomizer, $65, but comes with 2 e-cigs), then "blank" cartridges ($7.50 for 10), then a NON-nicotine variety of the refill e-liquid ($30). You could skip that last item and try using glycerin instead.

That setup would give you two working e-cigs with zero nicotine, red cherries, and visible "smoke."
posted by MonsieurBon at 11:40 AM on August 26, 2011

Ye gods. This is what I was afraid of - way too many variables, way too expensive, probably unreliable.

I guess if they really want to be able to smoke, we'll have to find out if herbal cigarettes are permissible, and then the actors will have to suck it up (hah) and use the things.

Thanks for the information. It's really clear that I was right to ask, because I had no idea what I was looking for or at.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:04 PM on August 27, 2011

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