Prashant Ranjan Mahto, Avijeet Kumar Singh and Gaurav Barwalia at BIT-Mesra in Ranchi. Telegraph picture
Can’t kick the butt despite all those grim statutory warnings on the dangers of smoking?
Three students of BIT-Mesra may have an answer — the “world’s cheapest and India’s first indigenously developed e-cigarette”. And no, it is no online gizmo. It is a smokeless cigarette lookalike that gives the user a nicotine high without fumes, making it far kinder on your lungs, say the young inventors, who are tweaking the popular Chinese variant to make it more affordable for Indians.
Avijeet Kumar Singh, Prashant Ranjan Mahto and Gaurav Barwalia, three first-year electronics and communication engineering students of BIT-Mesra aren’t smokers, but have friends on campus who do. And they thought of working on the e-cigarette just “for fun”, but became serious about it when friends who smoke appreciated the “test runs” of initial models. Srikant Pal, an associate professor of their department, also thought the youngsters had a good thing going and guided the trio.
Imported Chinese e-sticks cost Rs 800 per piece. Each stick has a cartridge or a mouthpiece, which usually doubles as a chamber to hold the nicotine solution, an atomiser that heats the liquid and a battery. When the smoker starts puffing, the device automatically gets activated. The liquid heats up and generates vapour. When puffing stops, the device stops.
“What makes our product unique is that we will produce it in India. A Chinese e-cigarette costs Rs 800 per piece. Ours will be around Rs 200,” said Avijeet. “But for now, we’d like to keep technical details under wraps,” he added.
The boys in unison claimed their e-cigarette would have no tar, carbon monoxide or harmful toxins found in normal cigarettes.
“Normal tobacco sticks have over 4,000 harmful poisons. These are not found in e-cigarettes. It is a safer option for habitual smokers and may save them from cancer,” Avijit said.
Globally, health experts have made contradictory claims about the gizmo, but users of e-cigarette the world over say that they get the apparently “healthier” option of nicotine vapours instead of smoke.
There are other compensations on the side — the solution may come in different flavours and the user can also customise nicotine content.
American inventor Herbert A. Gilbert developed the world’s first e-cigarette way back in 1963. However, the Chinese are credited with the world’s mass-produced e-cigarettes of today. Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik developed it in 2003 and the product received an international patent as late as in 2007.
“The best part about an e-cigarette is that you just stop puffing when you want to. There’s no funda of having to finish the entire stick once lit. You don’t need to stub out the butt. Just stop puffing. And, along with the ashtray, it tosses the concept of passive smoking out of the window. With no smoke, there’s no danger of those near you turning passive smokers,” said the boys who will apply for a process patent after “a little bit of editing”.