Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Cigarettes are cheap here so there are more smokers here. Unfortunately I am one of them. Nicaragua is not the place to come to stop smoking with cigarettes running about 30 córdobas a pack ($1.20). Off brands are even cheaper. Due to the poverty here, the local pulperias sell single cigarettes for 2 córdobas each and many of the beggars ask for smokes.

Even here we are starting to see rules for smoking in restaurants with designated smoking sections though bars are still wide open. It was not that long ago we saw all this starting in the states. I love the hypocrisy of the states. Ban smoking everywhere but still allow the tobacco companies to export overseas. Cigarettes are bad but cigars are more popular than ever. Even crazier are places like California. In my old job I had to fly to Los Angeles often. One day I was walking down one of the major boulevards and some young people started harassing me for smoking and this is while they were smoking joints. Only in the states can tobacco be banned and yet smoking marijuana is just beginning to be legalized. Just the other night I ran into a woman telling me how harmful tobacco is but how beneficial marijuana is.

I know that smoking anything is harmful but it is the last vice I have and I am quite good at it. Never quite believed the stories about secondary smoke since if a little secondary smoke was that harmful, the smoker should be killed immediately by what he is ingesting. You can see I am in a state of denial. Still, when even Nica children begin telling me I should stop, perhaps it is time to consider it but I am not known for outstanding willpower. I tried everything from hypnosis to patches to cold turkey but I really did not want to stop even with a ex-smoker wife bugging me to stop. Then along came e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes started to appear after Amy and I had left the states. They never appeared on my radar and never saw one in Nicaragua except for one friend. Then a friend that smoked even more than me developed some heart problems, had some stints put in and he knew he needed to stop smoking. Due to the severity of the problem he was able to go cold turkey for a short period but soon resumed his bad habits. Then a mutual friend brought him some e-cigarettes and he found he could stop smoking the real ones. I watched all this from the sidelines then began researching this e-cigarette phenomenon. I found it was being used by millions all over the world.

What is an e-cigarette? Well, Wikipedia says it is an electronic cigarette (also known as an e-cigarette), personal vaporizer (PV), or electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) that is an electronic inhaler whose use simulates and substitutes for some aspects of tobacco smoking. Some release nicotine in approximately the same quantities as conventional cigarettes, while some devices merely release flavored or scented vapor. Some PVs are designed to resemble and be used in a manner similar to traditional smoking implements, such as cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. The benefits and risks of electronic cigarette use are uncertain as they have been poorly studied. Laws vary widely concerning the use and sale of electronic cigarettes and accompanying liquid solutions, with pending legislation and ongoing debate.

Well, picture something somewhat larger than a cigarette though they come in all sizes, shapes and colors. There are usually two parts – the battery which can be charged from a standard outlet or the USB port on a computer and the cartomizer which has the heating element and a liquid-soaked poly foam wrapped around it. Supposedly, the cartomizer lasts about as long as a package of 20 cigarettes. The experience is very much like smoking a cigarette except it is just water vapor though you still get the nicotine and you can get many flavors from regular tobacco to fruits to interesting combinations. The taste is just like a cigarette and the water vapor smoke still allows you to blow smoke rings – an important benefit. The tip glows red for the full sensation of smoking though newer models are blue. Other people smell nothing even though it still tastes like tobacco to the smoker. The first night I had these e-cigarettes I ran out and showed them to our Nica neighbors who had never seen anything like it.

The biggest problem for me is that I feel like a drug user when smoking an e-cigarette. Smoking a regular cigarette I simply felt like a smoker, hardly a rare thing here, but the e-cigarette is really a drug delivery system so you are exposed for what you are – someone who needs regular fixes of nicotine, not to mention the psychological crutches of needing to smoke. It has been quite helpful in helping me to reduce the smoking and eventually cut down on the amount of nicotine. I no longer ever smoke indoors (which is really outdoors in a colonial home) or while driving with other people. Amy really appreciates that. So does our cat since I used to blow smoke in her face when she annoyed me.

The replacement cartridges are much more than the cost of cigarettes here but cheaper than cigarettes in the states. I just upgraded to the type of e-cigarettes that allow you to refill with the liquid of your choice which made it very cheap to use. Actually, it tastes much better. Filling up the liquid in the reservoir makes me feel even more like a drug user like filling a hypodermic.

The FDA has not approved it yet though the benefits of eliminating the tars and carcinogenics are obvious. Frankly the FDA does not know what to do since the tobacco countries are fighting the e-cigarettes though several have purchased e-cigarette companies just in case. Some states and countries treat e-cigarettes as medicine so they are available only in pharmacies or outright banned altogether.

On the dark side, people have figured out how to put their favorite drugs like hash oil, liquid THC or cannabis in the e-cigarettes. This means someone could be taking almost any drug and you would not smell or detect it. You think they are simply smoking an alternative cigarette.

Anyway, it is helping me and those around me but it may soon be heavily regulated. But what do I know? I’m just a smoker trying to live a better life. Actually, using the new terminology, I am just vaping instead of smoking (from the vapor instead of smoke).


  1. Captain Ed Small

    March 6, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    E-cigarettes are illegal in Nicaragua. After the U.S. FDA claimed they were combination drug/delivery devices, Nicaragua banned the importation, sales and use. While going through airport x-ray security in Managua airport in 2010, my e-cig accessories (chargers and batteries) were spotted in my carry-on. A subsequent frisking found my nicotine liquid and I was hauled off to Managua Police station #6, where I was incarcerated and charged with possession of intoxicants. A $500 bribe to the judge the next day got me out of trouble. I still use them when I am here because no one else really seems to know what they are. I live in El Bluff, RAAS, and the local cops just don’t care.

  2. herman

    August 9, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    my cousin took about 12 electronic cigs and about 30 liquids and he went through customs with no problems so your saying if get a import n export license to do business in Nicaragua I cant import this product to start a legal business selling electronic cigs