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Smokers can have their own social network

Blu

Cigarette-smoking in public is tough and lonely going these days, laced with looks of scorn and snide coughs as passers-by share their sentiments. Now an electronic cigarette maker plans to add sensors to the cigarette packs so that users can know when other e-cigarette smokers are nearby — and band together for support, if nothing else.

Even though e-cigarettes don't emit smoke, just seeing someone "smoking" one can result in instant hostility from those witnessing the "smoking." (E-cigarettes have nicotine, but emit water vapor, not smoke, which supposedly gives the smoker the same satisfaction as puffing away and seeing ... puffs).

Blu, makers of a leading e-cigarette, has created packs of the smokes that have sensors on them to let other Blu users know they're nearby. That way, they can meet up for a smoke, if they want, and to chat, especially about the public glares they're getting.

"Think of it as social smoking for the social networking era," said The New York Times in a story about the new sensor:

“You’ll meet more people than ever, just because of the wow factor,” said Jason Healy, the founder of Blu, who did not appear to be making friends as he exhaled the odorless vapor of an e-cigarette at a coffee shop in Midtown Manhattan recently. “It’s like with any new technology.”

The new "smart packs," to be available next month, will cost $80 for five e-cigarettes, and come with "devices that emit and search for the radio signals of other packs. When they get within 50 feet of one another, the packs vibrate and flash a blue light."

Blu smokers can even exchange contact information on social networking sites "that can be downloaded onto personal computers," and the packs will also vibrate when a smoker is near a store that sells Blu cigs, the Times said.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration said it plans to regulate the cigarettes as tobacco products instead of as devices that deliver drugs (the latter face much tougher rules).

With an estimated 46 million Americans still smoking, Blu could be onto something. But if just the sight of a cigarette riles so many so quickly, most smokers will choose to keep it to themselves, out of public view and not look to network this way.

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