Say goodbye to ashtrays, cigarette butts and lighters, and say hello to USB battery chargers and clouds of smoke that smell like fruit because the future of smoking has arrived.
Or rather, it arrived sometime in the mid-2000s and has steadily increased in popularity since then. I’m talking about e-cigarettes and vaporizers (or vapes, as they are more commonly known). These electronic alternatives to smoking use a small battery connected to a heating element called an “atomizer” that heats up and turns flavored liquid into vapor that can be inhaled.
The liquid in vapes can contain varying amounts of nicotine or none at all, depending on the user’s preference, and come in a multitude of flavors, which is why the vapor can have such a distinct and pleasant scent or taste.
Vapes simulate the sensation of smoking, cost far less than buying cartons of cigarettes and can still give the user the nicotine they desire. They have become known for helping people kick their cigarette-smoking habit, but vapes are popular even among people who haven’t smoked before.
I can understand why.
After school last week I drove to Cloud 9 Vapor at 1055 West Red Cliffs Drive in Washington to see what vaping was all about. I was surprised by how unintimidated I was by the store.
Upon entering your average smoke shop, you are usually greeted by shelves of tobacco products, a variety of glass smoking apparatuses and a number of things that would likely count as drug paraphernalia if a police officer found them in your car paired with the wrong substance. It can be an uncomfortable environment for people who haven’t been introduced to that world.
Cloud 9 Vapor had a much different vibe. A few glass cases and shelves with vaping products took up one corner of the store while a few customers casually sat on some couches in the other corner. Braxton Hafen, one of the owners of the store, helped me pick out my first vaporizer and personally walked me through everything I needed to know to start vaping.
A few minutes after I walked in, I walked out blowing Skittles flavored smoke rings. This could be the easiest habit I’ve ever tried to pick up. There’s no coughing, no learning curve and it cost me less than a visit to Texas Roadhouse. I imagine the ease of participating has been a factor in making vaping a big trend.
Ultimately, vaping is a tobacco-free way to blow out smoke, occupy your hands and get a little buzz, which is alluring to many students. Hafen said that near the beginning of the semester when students get their school money he had many come in and buy their first vapes.
There could be downsides, however.
A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a rapidly rising number of calls about nicotine poisoning from children ingesting, inhaling or absorbing the vape liquid through the skin or eyes. The Food and Drug Administration has started some regulation of vaping but has not done many in-depth studies. This means that for now, we just don’t know how harmful certain brands of vaping liquids, or the habit itself, might be.
This can be concerning. There’s always the possibility that somewhere down the road we may pay dearly for the vaping habits we had in our youth, but so far the concerns haven’t slowed its rise in popularity.
I can’t say vaping held my interest for very long, so you probably won’t spot me contributing to the clouds of vapor at the Red Rock Ridge hot tub or walking around with my vaporizer on a lanyard, but I won’t complain about the people who do. Vape on, friends.