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LA public vaping ban may benefit vaping lounges

Some Angelinos think public vaping bans will grow business for vaping lounges. Los Angeles vapers are not to be daunted by restrictions that went into effect this weekend.

They will simply find other places to vape, and the new category of recreational venue, the vaping lounge, is the perfect spot. This may ultimately be a boon for vapor-linked businesses. It is also likely to boost the sense of commmunity solidarity among those who use personal vaporizers.

The proprietor of Venice Vapor Lab in Venice, California, Niklas Thellin, actually expects an increase in business when the ban takes effect. "I know my customers will not stop using electronic cigarettes because it is their only crutch to keep them from going back to cigarettes," said Thellin.

Responding to an onslaught of restrictions on a habit they are convinced is not only harmless, but is saving their lives, vapers feel that regulators are trying to kill them, or at least callously allowing them to face deadly probabilities, deprived of the device they were relying on as a lifeline. Feeling embattled, threatened, encroached upon, they naturally develop strong ties of community and solidarity, and these factors are actually turning them into a social and political movement with real potential clout. If the regulators are hoping to wipe out vaping, they are displaying their insensitivity and ineptitude at shaping cultural movements. They are just making the vaping community stronger.

The L.A. Vapers Club was founded 3 years ago by Darrin Gold, and meets at a sports club in Glendora. Gold believes vapers will adjust to the ban and find places outside the city to vape. (Unfortunately, some southern California cities, such as Long Beach, have banned vaping even in vaping-related businesses like vape shops and lounges.) Gold hopes people will not simply "skip electronic cigarettes and just keep smoking."

When alcohol was prohibited in the US, drinkers retreated into speak-easies, semi-clandestine establishments where alcohol could be consumed. It was in these venues that the most ground-breaking music and other cultural innovations occurred. Vaping lounges may prove to have a similar trajectory, not necessarily with music, but with cultural innovation.

It also looks as though second and third generation vapor devices will soon eclipse imitation cigarettes ("cigalikes") at the vaping lounges and outside them. Sales data for personal vaporizers (PVs) and mods, tank systems, are outpacing cigalike sales, and by all indications will soon overtake them. The Big Tobacco companies that have moved into cigalike production in the past few years may find in the long run that they arrived too late to catch the wave of new development.

Of course, as tanks become more prevalent, more people are handling nicotine-laced e-liquid, which can cause alarming episodes of vomiting when it gets into the wrong hands and gets ingested by mouth by children. Education of vapers will be all important, and regulation by the FDA is of course long overdue. But the need for regulation and education will not impede the long term growth of this product option.