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Vaping Culture on an Island Paradise

Tired of California's vape-bashing preachers? Why not paddle your raft into the sunset? You'll find a haven of welcome on the US territorial possession in the Pacific, the island of Guam. Vaping is “not just an alternative to smoking,” reports the Guam edition of the Pacific Daily News – it's a “billowing subculture”. Of course California has an enthusiastic vaping subculture as well, what with United Vapers and other organizations driving a vigorous movement. But in California, vapers must deal with “the nattering nabobs of negativism,” to borrow a phrase from the archive of Yankee political rhetoric – the tobacco studies department of the University of California at San Francisco, and its acolytes in the state's Office of Public Health.

In Guam there are no restrictions on public vaping, although under-18s may not purchase e-cigs (which they ARE still allowed to do in 10 mainland states, to their detriment and to the shame of dilatory regulators). The PDN claims that vapes “can help wean you off cigarettes” -- don't tell the FDA they said so. Roland Villaverde, who lives in Barrigada, one of the islands municipalities, wasn't trying to quit. “It was new so I tried it and liked it,” he says, but he liked it so well that he is now almost completely off smokes. If he's out of juice, he'll smoke one, he admits, and that happens about once in 4 months. This of course makes him one of those nefarious “dual users”, which the UCSF deems to be just as bad as someone who sucks down 2 packs a day.

Beverly Encarnacion, who owns the lounge Vaperize in another of the islands burgs, Upper Tumon, reports that business is booming. She says that many of her customers, some of them family members, have almost completely quit smoking. Older users vape for the nicotine, and for improved health, she reports, while younger ones go for the big plumes of vapor. Those plumes are indeed the cool trend for 20-somethings nowadays. "There are competitions in the states for tricks and big clouds where people can win $10,000,” she chuckles.

The entrepreneur claims that vaporizers deliver a stronger dose of nicotine. Apparently she has not read the studies coming out of the Schroeder Institute about the “alveolar deposition” that is characteristic of smoke inhaled from burning tobacco, and its stronger nicotine punch. Or about Big Tobacco's efforts to manipulate alveolar deposition as a means of increasing addiction to nicotine.

A pack of cigarettes costs $7.25 in Guam these days, and a former pack-a-day smoker like Roland Villaverde can save a lot of money vaping. The initial outlay is higher of course, but once begun, Villaverde claims he saves about $100 a month.

And his life.