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The Vaping Community: “Don’t Tread on Me!”

One of the signs that social regulators are clueless about population dynamics, whether they be small-time nanny administrations like the outgoing Bloombergies in today's New York, or full-scale tyrants of the recent past in places like South Africa, Myanmar (Burma), or even Russia, is that they fail to notice that their prohibitions create social movements among the people whose freedoms they curtail.

Again and again, these movements turn around and bite the tyrant or overweening regulator in the backside. The world just buried a beloved leader of such a movement in South Africa, and it recently awarded a Nobel Prize to another such in Myanmar. The grass roots movements created by excessive control typically boot out the bullies, or the nannies, in the long run. You'd think the evolution of democracy itself would have made this obvious, and it is obvious to many people. But the bullies and nannies just don't get it. They seem to be wrapped up in their fantasies of control. Case in point, yesterday's city council meeting in New York, where overweening regulators sentenced a bunch of people to death by restricting the use of a product that is saving their lives. And the community they were threatening was out in force.

Forbes reports that about 200 angry e-cigarette users were present at the session, vaping away. Quite visible among them, although not any kind of formal leader, was Talia Eisenberg, the proprietor of the Henley Vaporium in Lower Manhattan. Eisenberg, an ex-smoker who, like thousands worldwide, dramatically increased her chances of living a long and healthy life by using e-cigarettes to quit smoking, founded first a vaping products company, and eventually a new kind of recreational establishment, the vaping lounge she calls "The Henley Vaporium" . Customers can purchase a variety of e-cigarettes, or liquids for their personal vaporizers, and use the products in a funky, relaxed social environment. Nicotine is available, but cigarettes are not, nor is alcohol.

Such establishments are proliferating: a new one has popped up in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and some vape shops on the west coast are opening up lounge areas for their customers. Big Tobacco, as might be expected, is trying to muscle in on the action. "Vype"an e-cig marketed by a producer of toxic cigarettes, trying to elbow its way into the market that is harming its market share, has opened up a vaping lounge in London's Shoreditch area. The jury is out on that one; many ex-smokers are so angry at Big Tobacco, for the years of murderous lying, that they bristle at the thought of using one of their cigalike products, and prefer their own personal vaporizers, which look very unlike cigarettes.

But another vaping lounge has now been opened up at London's Heathrow Airport, by an e-cig company that does not also make or sell cigarettes".

The vaping lounge as a type of recreational watering spot is an idea whose time has come, if regulators don't succeed in strangling it in the crib.

The presence of Eisenberg and 200 other e-cig users at the city council meeting, like the thriving existence of the vaporium, illustrates the fact that e-cigarette users are developing a consciousness of themselves as a social movement, a community. That community has arisen because of a chain of fortuitous developments: the appearance of the product just at the moment when smokers were looking more seriously for alternatives, the success of the public smoking ban movement just before its appearance, the delay of regulators in stepping in with guidelines, the attempt of Big Tobacco (the bully on the block) to take over the industry, and now the regulators' misguided efforts to ban public e-cig use. All of these factors have shaped the vaping community, and whatever the Bloombergies and their ilk succeed in prohibiting, the community of vapers will still be there. And they will still be angry. What will they do? March? Have vape-ins? Get arrested? Create an informal network of underground "vape-easies" comparable to the illicit drinking establishments of Prohibition days? Bootleg vaping liquids? Who knows, but one thing they won't do is go away. The bossy nannies have created a movement, and they'll just have to deal with it in the future.