The sweet taste of a cigarette in a can

As an asthmatic, I have never felt the urge to coat my lungs with tar. Yet the nagging sense that I want to know what a cigarette feels like has stayed with me. Now, a Dutch company has come to my rescue. The United Drinks and Beauty Corporation is about to launch its Liquid Smoking drink, aimed at people struggling with the ban on smoking in public places, and I am about to test it.

It looks like an energy drink, but its inventor, Martin Hartman, stresses it’s nothing of the kind. The promo leaflet puts it like this: “Liquid Smoking has a slight energising effect, followed by a euphoric sense of calming and relaxation.”

I fiddle with the red-and-white can, and nervously eye the stark “no warning needed” sign. Hartman promises I won’t get addicted. “There is no nicotine in it, just a South African herb used by the bushmen since the 14th century. There is no caffeine or taurine either, and hardly any calories.” So what is this mysterious herb? “We would like to keep that a secret. But it is totally safe and healthy.”

Going by the smell, the “secret herb” is actually chewing gum. But it tastes more like cinnamon and sugar with a hint of lemon; heavy and cloying. If Christmas were a drink, it would taste like this.

Waiting for the “slight energising effect”, I feel a little dizziness and nausea. Then the calm kicks in. No deadline can stress me out, which is a first for me. The trouble is, I am not entirely sure I am happy about that. I feel a little drugged, and more absent-minded than I feel comfortable with. If smokers need this every few hours, I don’t envy them. But at least I know how they feel, and I’ll consider myself warned.