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Another Vape-Easy Opens, in Big Tobacco Country

Another vaping lounge has sprung up in an unlikely location: the heart of Big Tobacco country.

The vaping lounge craze that's sweeping the US, indeed the world, has added Celtic Vapes to the roster of vape-easies, and it is located in Mocksville, North Carolina, a town of five-thousand nestled among the tobacco fields near tobacco metropolis Winston-Salem.

Ex-smoker and electronic cigarette enthusiast Aaron Hand has opened Celtic Vapes in the modestly-sized community about 25 miles southwest of the Big Tobacco hub. The Celtic motif plays on another of the proprietor's enthusiasms, and has prompted a loyal customer to create a funky ceramic logo for the emporium (see right). Although not the first vape shop in town, it is the first to offer a vaping lounge, "where people can hang out, watch videos, socialize, drink a cup of coffee and relax while puffing" on their vaporizers, according to an article in the Winston-Salem Journal. “It’s like a bar without any alcohol or a hookah bar without the hookahs,” says Hand. Many of the shop's patrons are relying on e-cigs as a smoking cessation device, like Hand himself, and also his co-worker Keith Holder, a smoker for 15 years who stopped the first weekend after trying an e-cig. “I can smell things now," Holder says. "I can breathe easier. Things changed a lot.”

Hand conceived the notion of opening such a lounge at a "VaperCon", a gathering of e-cig enthusiasts in Virginia. The space he found in Mocksville for his shop is in a building originally designed as a massage parlor, so it has a variety of small rooms, a feature that makes for an ideal lounge atmosphere, according to the Journal article, with several intimate nooks instead of one large room. A photograph included with the Journal article displays a variety of gleaming personal vaporizers and mods, rather than the 'cigalikes' more closely associated with Big Tobacco's entries into the e-cig field.

The store opened last weekend, and plans a gala opening celebration on St. Paddy's Day, in keeping with the Irish motif. A Facebook page already has 231 likes, and rising. The headline image of this blog is the site's logo on Facebook, used by permission.

The robust growth of the vaping lounge movement is likely to provide a shot in the arm to the e-cig community. As noted in this blog and elsewhere, vaping lounges have opened in New York City, the Minnesota Twin Cities, Oklahoma City, and elsewhere, and now in North Carolina. This illustrates the fact that, unlike smokers, vapers really are a community, and mutual support not only helps them quit smoking, but helps them face challenges from misguided city officials, who seem intent on banning e-cigs from public venues. Vapers are finding a haven and a cohesive social atmosphere in vaping lounges, so continued growth is certain to follow. This is also contributing to growing political clout, as the threatened bans create activist groups. The would-be health nannies, intent on removing a healthy alternative in the name of protecting health, have created a gentle monster, placidly sitting in a lounge puffing on a harmless and life-saving tube.

“This is a new generation of people coming together and doing something different,” says Aaron Hand.

Hear! Hear!