NEW YORK – A new technology promises to deliver on the long-elusive goal of cancer-free tobacco use -- and to fundamentally change the way people smoke.
The Air-2 Vapir Kit from Advanced Inhalation Revolutions aims to deliver tobacco's "vital essence" while eliminating its heath hazards.
Instead of burning tobacco, the Vapir Kit heats it and then emits its vapors so smokers can get a nicotine buzz with up to 99 percent fewer carcinogens, according to the company director Shaahin Sean Cheyene.
"There are not a lot of options for people who want to quit smoking," said Cheyene. "We began to realize that if you want to extract the active element of a plant, you don't in fact need to ignite it or combust it."
Cheyene ultimately sees the Vapir Kit as a means for smokers to kick the habit.
Later this year, Advanced Inhalation plans to introduce a smoking-cessation program to be used with the Vapir Kit. With "Nicohale," consumers would purchase pre-packaged doses of tobacco in local pharmacies. Like other smoke-cessation programs, the amount of nicotine is reduced with each Nicohale disc until cravings are eliminated.
And unlike nicotine patches or gum, the Vapir Kit can also satisfy smokers' oral fixation with a tube attachment that can be used like a cigarette.
Ethan Russo, a neurologist at the University of Washington, sees the Vapir Kit as a way to ease smokers off the habit, although he said there is still no definitive proof that it limits carcinogens.
"It needs to be tested," Russo said.
While other vaporizers have been clinically proven to limit carcinogens, it doesn't necessarily mean such results would hold true for the Vapir Kit, although "it is a reasonable likelihood," Russo said.
"Medically speaking, vaporization is better than smoking," he said.
Despite the apparent health benefits, habitual smokers say the device can't rival the simplicity of sparking a cigarette, even if it can match the chemical satisfaction.
Robert Ahn, a 21-year-old New Jersey college student who smokes, liked the concept of the Vapir Kit, but found the device couldn't replace an old-fashioned pack of cigarettes.
"Health-wise, this vaporizer could really improve the quality of life in America," Ahn said after using the device. "But there is nothing like inhaling and exhaling a cigarette."
The device hardly tasted of tobacco yet delivered a nicotine punch. But some of the technical elements of Vapir Kit discouraged Ahn.
"When I want a cigarette, I don't want to wait for [the Vapir Kit] to heat up," Ahn said.
The ultramodern-looking device, which has sold hundreds of units on the company's Web site, can be used with a variety of substances beyond tobacco, including mint and chamomile.
"It's amazing with coffee grinds," Cheyene said, adding that he gets the same perk from inhaling coffee vapors as he does from drinking a cup of Joe.
The expensive machine -- the base model costs $300 -- can be difficult to operate and some parts can get dangerously hot. It's sometimes tough to determine if the machine is actually working with matter like loose-leaf tea because the vapor is hardly visible and has such a mild odor.
The kit can also be used for aromatherapy, according to Cheyene. Essential oils are placed in the vapor disc and permeate the room with a fragrant aroma.
The Vapir Kit, which is portable, creates no smoke, and thus can be used in bars and restaurants where conventional smoking is banned.
Whether or not smokers will be willing to substitute a puff for a bit of vapor remains unseen, but with its aromatherapy capabilities, the Vapir Kit could always be used cover up the smell of cigarette smoke in your home.