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Philly Gets Vape Lounge

Philadelphia has now joined the ranks of cities that now have a vaping lounge, according to Elizabeth Fiedler of Newsworks in Philly.

Raymond Ross and his associates have opened Love Vapes, a vape shop that also offers a lounge area where patrons can relax and use their e-cigarette, try out various products, and get to know other vapers. "You don't have to be alone with vaping" says Ross. "This is kind of like a haven for vapers," he said. "Getting a chance to meet with other vapers who are experimenting as well, I think it's a good thing for people to come together."

Establishments like Love Vapor are opening up all over the US. Those in New York City have gotten the most press, of course, but dozens of them are appearing all over the landscape. The wave of public use bans in a growing number of cities and states does not seem to be having a dampening effect. Quite the contrary. Perhaps such establishments represent a movement of vapers to create a safe space, a haven from the attacks of a public that misunderstands e-cigarettes and tries to regulate them out of existence. A social space for an embattled commmunity. As such, they are increasingly reminiscent of the "speak-easy" parlors of the Prohibition Era in America. Like a speak easy, a vaping lounge becomes a community center for a social and political movement, creating a comfortable environment for vapers and fostering social ties.

Their legal status varies by locality. Chicago's WOW Vapors is still waiting for permission to allow vaping onsite, although its parent institution, e-cig company Vapor4Life, in a northern suburb, has had a comfortable vaping lounge for years. New York's Henley Vaporium is permitted to offer the chance to vape onsite because of it's status as a tobacco-oriented business, while the nearby New Gallery had to send vapers out onto the street at its recent e-cigarette event. The atmosphere inside the vaping lounge also varies from one locality to the next. Celtic Vapes near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, cultivates an ethos of laid back ethnic music, and is gearing up for a big St. Paddy's Day bash, while the Community Bar and Vape Lounge in Oklahoma City is a throbbing discotheque with cutting edge DJs and occasional karaoke. Infinite Vapor in Minneapolis combines vaping space with avant garde art, while the Steampunk Vapory Lounge in Tacoma, Washington offers fine dining and quality wines. Henley's favors a funky and relaxed milieu, with experts to guide patrons as they shape their vaping experience.

The movement in Europe has not produced so many such establishments. An online listing of vaping lounges in Britain includes several that are actually vape shops rather than indoor vaping spaces. London's Vype Social lounge opened with great fanfare last November, but turned out to be merely a month-long promo for a Big Tobacco-sponsored product. France's clopinettes allow onsite vaping, but not as an opportunity to socialize with other vapers, but as a way of learning about products, concentrations, and flavors, in an atmosphere more reminiscent of a computer store than a lounge. As Europeans hunker down for a battle with the EU authorities over new and ill-considered restrictions threatening their very existence, the social parameters of the vaping movement are certain to change.

The creation of public space for vapers will be crucial; whether it is to be legal or underground remains to be seen.