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Shoreditch says goodbye to Vype Social

Back in November, it looked like British American Tobacco was getting on board the vape lounge craze that has been sweeping the vaping community. The Big Tobacco giant that brought out a line of e-cigs called "Vype" earlier last year, opened a night club called "Vype Social" in London's Shoreditch area, claiming that they were going to "reinvent sociality". Now it appears that it was just a month-long promo for the Vype brand.

The original pages for Vype Social are still available online, but now they seem to be serving only as a portal to a Facebook site devoted to marketing the brand, to a brand website called Govype, and to a Facebook page sporting several dozen photographs of events in November (most of the pages have no "Likes", one of them has 2, and one of them 1). An events-and-venues listing site for London includes the joint in its listings, but says that it will be open until the end of November, and a January search for current events there brings up no results. Using the magic of online maps with street level photographs, one may visit the address listed, and pictured, on the Vype Social site, 66 Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch. The address now hosts an upscale, low-key Italian restaurant in the building that was Vype Social back in November.

The matter provides an intriguing commentary on a growing split in the e-cigarette market between the products offered by Big Tobacco companies, most of which just entered the market last year by swallowing up small e-cig companies or by developing their own lines, following the example of Altria, which had swallowed up Blu E-Cigs the previous year to emerge as the market leader. These companies also sell toxic cigarettes, and their e-cigs tend to be "cigalikes", the vaporizers that look just like combustible cigarettes. Cigalikes have a lot of appeal for smokers who want the vaping experience to mimic the smoking experience as closely as possible. Smokers just starting a smoking cessation attempt, who are new to vaping, will often prefer cigalikes, which may indeed provide needed psychological aspects that may contribute to success. On the other hand, these are the products that confuse the beezwax out of smoking ban advocates, who are troubled by something that looks so much like smoking.

What troubles many ex-smokers about Big Tobacco's e-cigarettes is that they often feel strongly that Big Tobacco has dirty hands, that the industry's dishonesty in the past has led to millions of deaths, and that they are simply not to be trusted. For them, if they still prefer a vaping experience that feels just like smoking, fortunately there are cigalikes being marketed by companies that do not make or sell cancer sticks, and ex-smokers sensitive to this issue often prefer to buy from companies without a record of murderous dishonesty.

But very often, seasoned vapers prefer personal vaporizers, mods, that look nothing like cigarettes, gleaming tubes in bright colors or a sleek metallic finish. These tend to be produced by smaller companies that started up recently, since the invention of the electronic cigarette a decade or so ago. These users may fear that the new bullies on the block, from Big Tobacco, may crush these smaller companies, especially if regulators impose expensive certification requirements. This leads to a sense of hostility toward Big Tobacco, and also a sense of embattled, heroic resistance, exactly the qualities that may well forge the vaping community into a potent political force.

And these are the users who are flocking to the vape lounges, places like the Henley Vaporium in lower Manhattan, MoVapes in Brooklyn, the Smokeless Smoking Vapor Lounge in the Minnesota Twin Cities as well as the new vape lounge cum art gallery, Infinite Vapor, in the same metro area, the Community Bar and Vape Lounge in Oklahoma City, Vapor4Life in Northbrook Illinois, and now Celtic Vapes in Mocksville North Carolina, in the very backyard of Big Tobacco. (There are others, and they will be covered in this blog soon. Watch this space.) These are laid back establishments that generally do not allow smoking and usually do not serve alcohol, places where people can vape in a congenial and relaxed atmosphere, in the company of like-minded e-cig users. It is really a new kind of social space, reminiscent in some ways of the speak-easies of the Prohibition Era in the US, which were also a response to overweening regulation of recreational products by governmental control freaks. In other ways, of course, vape lounges are not like speak-easies at all, but something completely new.

In the words of Aaron Hand of Celtic Vapes, “This is a new generation of people coming together and doing something different."

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