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Never Mind the Nannies: Town Two Toddles On!

"A toddlin' town" sings Sinatra and others in a famous musical tribute to America's second city, and it looks like the windy city will toddle right on despite the mayor's much publicized ban on public vaping.

Case in point, an electronic cigarette enterprise that was born in the north burbs just opened a vape shop within Chicago's city limits, in the trendy Lincoln Square area on the northwest side.

Vapor4Life was founded in Northbrook, Illinois four years ago, after e-cigs helped the founder kick a long-time smoking habit. The company's storefront also has a vaping lounge area, much like the ones that are now opening all around the country. It is still uncertain whether an in-store vaping area will be permitted at the new location within Chicago's city limits, but the company hopes to offer that possibility "since the Lincoln Square store is classified as a tobacco shop." A spokesperson says that an answer to that question should be forthcoming by the middle of next month (February 2014).

The choice of a company name makes no bones about the belief that e-cigarettes save lives by serving as a smoking cessation tool. The founder, bearish and congenial Steve Milin, says he tried "medications, hypnosis, acupuncture, psychology, and psychiatry" to quit a habit begun in his early teens. Then: "I discovered vaping. I knew that this was the smoking alternative for me."

Of course the claim is a controversial one, since US courts have banned advertising health benefits for the product, despite the virtually universal belief in such benefits. "I can't call it a cessation tool," says the company's 'Community Manager' Brandon Hammond, who kicked an 8-year habit with e-cigs, "but it is still a better alternative to cigarettes. What we've seen from studies is that e-cigs are 99 percent less harmful." The risk is at least that much lower, one might add, and probably way lower yet. "There are some carcinogens, but it's still minor," Hammond added, probably referring to the trace elements opponents ballyhoo, which could only be harmful in doses thousands of times higher. In any case, perhaps to stay away from making controversial health claims, the new Lincoln Square location will be called "E-Cigs by WOW Vapor".

The very fact that the company has a "Community Manager" illustrates the growth of community feeling among vapers. The proliferation of vaping lounges all over the place underlines this as well, and the rash of public use bans by nanny city councils only adds to the community feeling. In the diverse but harmonious ethnic mix of Chicago's north side, all the managers of E-Cigs by WOW are bilingual in English and Spanish, according to head manager Kevin Rubio.

To celebrate its opening, E-Cigs by WOW will be offering discounts from 40 – 60%, plus a special discount "for anyone who trades in a pack of cigarettes when buying a vaporizer."

"My e-cigs make me smile," says Steve Milin. Steve has a lot to smile about these days.