If The Sky Falls: A Review Of Big Tobacco’s Idea Of The Electronic Cigarette, The Vuse Solo
A few months ago, I posted a piece (read it here) regarding RJReynolds’ attempt to have the FDA ban outright what it calls “open system” vaping hardware — basically, any vaping hardware which is not self-contained, non-refillable, and wholly proprietary in nature.
If you use anything with a 510 or eGo connection, RJReynolds wants the FDA to keep it out of your hands. Why? So that only Big Tobacco has access to the vaping marketplace.
RJReynolds’ argument — hilariously — is that consumers can’t be sure of what’s in the eliquids we consume, and therefore, the freedom — and the responsibility — of consumer choice should be forcibly removed from our hands.
Bear in mind that this is one of the companies that has been concealing what they use in consumer tobacco products for fucking decades. Oh, now it’s a problem, though. Now they’re all fucking concerned for our safety. Right.
The problem is, there is a chance that they just might get their way. I don’t know how strong a chance it is, and I’ll happily entertain a discussion of that in the comments section, but what I want to do here in the body of this article is posit the following scenario:
What if they do win? What if our government takes the idiotic step of imposing yet another prohibition, this time a prohibition of non-Big-Tobacco or Big-Pharma-produced eliquid and the hardware needed to vape it?
Well, we’ll be left with “closed system” e-cigarettes, is what will happen. Products like the Blu, the Philip Morris Markten, and the RJReynolds Vuse line.
And although I will gladly, and in my opinion righteously, break any law against purchasing, possessing, and using the vaping hardware and eliquid of my choice, that may or may not be easy to do. In the event that it’s not easy to do, I’m sure as shit not going back to smoking — which means that I’ll be stuck with those cigarette lookalike products when I can’t “score” a 30ml of good eliquid.
For that reason, I now present — under protest — a review of the RJReynolds Vuse Solo e-cigarette.
As you can see from the image above, the Vuse Solo is packaged in an iPod-like plastic clamshell case bedecked in a black and red color scheme with white text in a stylish typeface.
By peeling a vertical strip of tape down the side of the case, the case is unsealed. It then opens from right to left, like a book, to reveal the assembled e-cigarette inside a blister pack. Beneath that is a USB charger, and to the side is a short but clearly written instruction pamphlet.
Features & Specifications
The fact is that next to no useful information is available, either on the packaging or in the manual, regarding the voltage or mAh rating of the Vuse battery. I can only estimate, based on its size (roughly the same size as a Halo G6 78mm battery or possibly a Johnson Creek Vea battery) that the mAh is somewhere in the 300 neighborhood. Because the Vuse cartomizers are entirely proprietary, however, I have no way to test their resistance on my ohm meter; for that reason, I’m unable to even estimate the battery’s voltage output.
One of the only interesting features of the Vuse is what RJReynolds refers to as its “SmartLight”. It’s not really the presence of an indicator light that makes it interesting — after all, cigalikes have featured them for years now — but rather the multifunctional nature of the light. Blinking white light means it’s time to change the cartomizer, while blinking red light means it’s time to recharge the battery.
Still, if the most compelling “feature” about your electronic cigarette is the LED light, you’re not exactly hitting it out of the park.
Build Quality, Ergonomics, and Aesthetics
The build quality of the battery itself seems to be very good. The battery is light but solid, and features a very nice silvery finish to it. This is never going to be confused with a combustible cigarette in the looks or feels departments; the upside of that is that it won’t pull vapers whose manual and oral habits have left smoking behind back in that direction; neither will it confuse spectators about whether you’re smoking or vaping.
On the down side, the proprietary connection of battery and cartomizer never feels quite solid. Provided you don’t deliberately wiggle the connection, your cartomizer will never simply fall off the battery — but this is certainly not as secure a connection as a 510 or eGo threaded one.
Maybe it’s the encryption technology.
Yes, you read that right. No, I’m not joking, although I am laughing my ass off — because, you see, it’s RJReynolds Vapor Company’s joke. From their FAQ:
“Can I use non-VUSE Cartridges with the VUSE PowerUnit?
No. VUSE Digital Vapor Cigarettes include proprietary encryption technology that does not permit any non-VUSE Cartridges to be used with VUSE PowerUnits. This ensures our adult tobacco consumers enjoy high quality and superior vapor experience – without risk of counterfeit or substandard cartridges. VUSE Cartridges are only compatible with VUSE products.”
Proprietary. Encryption. Technology. I don’t know about you, folks, but I, for one, am greatly reassured that nobody will be able to surreptitiously read the contents of my electronic cigarette. Aren’t you?
Now let’s talk about performance, starting with visual vapor output: It’s low. Present, but low. The performance of the Vuse makes it seem as if RJReynolds went to extraordinary lengths not to so much replace traditional smoking as to replicate it in every way possible.
That is to say, to begin with: the vapor from this device looks like smoke more than it looks like vapor. Vapor produced by, say, my Infinite CLT rebuildable dripper sitting on my Fury-S is thick, billowing, white. The vapor from the Vuse is small bodied, wispy, and gray.
It also smells like cigarette smoke — exactly like cigarette smoke — though thankfully the smell doesn’t linger the way smoke does. Do not ever, under any circumstances, vape from this device in the presence of nonsmokers. They won’t even care that you’re vaping rather than smoking; that’s how much this thing’s vapor stinks like a real cigarette.
The throat hit from the Vuse is intense. This is no doubt owing to the fact that the nicotine level of the eliquid in the cartomizers is a stupefyingly strong 48mg, or as they put it, “4.8% nicotine by weight.”
The flavor. Good Gods. Okay, here’s the thing about the flavor: If one was to switch from traditional smoking to vaping, I guess this device is the one that would make it absolutely the easiest to do it.
For someone, though, who has already switched, the flavor is a problem. Why? Because this is not a tobacco flavor. This is a tobacco smoke flavor. The flavor produced in Vuse’s vapor tastes exactly like cigarette smoke. The barest hint of tobacco, a lot of carbon, and only a ghost of sweetness.
No vaper would ever buy this thing for the flavor, and no smoker would ever buy it for its looks or its size. No wonder RJReynolds is trying to convince the FDA to kill the competition.
Price & Availability
And then there’s the other reason why no vaper would buy this monstrosity if he or she had any other choice: the price. Holy gouging, Batman! The Vuse Solo, complete with one battery, one cartomizer, and a USB charger, is roughly $10.
Now, for a rechargeable starter kit, that’s actually not too terrible. But where they get you is with the cartomizers. Six bucks or more for just two of the fuckin’ things. That’s over $3 per milliliter.
And you can’t use anything else with this device.
RJReynolds, I salute you:
Real World Experience: The Verdict
My real world experience with the Vuse Solo is as follows:
On purchasing the device from my local 7-Eleven, I opened up the pack on the way home and, on the notion that it would be ready right out of the pack, took my first puff. Other than the look and feel of the device in my hand, every part of that experience was so identical to smoking that I put it right the fuck back in my pocket and didn’t touch it again until I started writing this article.
I no longer like to smoke. I no longer like anything about inhaling cigarette smoke. I don’t like the feel of it, the taste of it, the smell of it. At all.
The Vuse replicates smoking perfectly.
I don’t like this product, period. I don’t like it because of what RJReynolds created it to be — a replacement for smoking rather than a better alternative to it — and I don’t like it because of how perfectly RJReynolds hit the mark with what they were trying to do.
So now that I’ve tried Big Tobacco’s ideas about what vaping should be — I initially switched to vaping using the Blu, I have tried the Markten and found it to be so utterly dismal and unremarkable that it didn’t even rate a review, and now I’ve tried the Vuse — I find that my initial position with regard to a ban on “open system” vaping products is doubly reinforced.
If the law tries to rob me of my natural right to consumer choice, I will simply break that law.