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Vaping Lounges Proliferate

Sales of e-cigarettes have spiked in Minnesota during the past half-year, since a state tax increase on combustible cigarettes raised prices. Minnesota Public Radio reports that stores selling the alternative product have proliferated since the price of a pack of regular smokes rose to $7.50 last July.

Angie Griffiths, the proprietor of several "Smokeless Smoking" stores and kiosks called the sales surge "insane," adding that the newly popular alternative habit has significant social dimensions. Not only do e-cigarette users save money, but they support each other in their efforts to quit smoking, forming friendships that create informal, impromptu support groups to reinforce their health-motivated resolutions.

One outlet that has been open less than three weeks has already become much more than a store, providing a social gathering place for vapers, featuring televisions, games, and books in the atmosphere of a dimly lit lounge. This is reminiscent of a phenomenon that has been taking place around the country and around the world. The Henley Vaporium in New York City has become just such a haven for enthusiastic e-cigarette users, and has been reported in national news media. In London, a Big Tobacco company has been trying to capitalize on this social aspect of the electronic cigarette phenomenon.

Indeed, a combination of fortuitous elements has made "vaping" much more than a habit. The product's prospects as a smoking-cessation method, combined with the hostility of smoking-ban zealots in a pre-regulated environment, have willy-nilly turned vapers into an ad hoc club. And not just any club, but one with a strong sense of life-saving mission, and an equally strong sense of being embattled and threatened by those who would cut that life-saving thread.

This rather complicates things for regulators who would like to impose draconian regulations on the product, as was vividly demonstrated in last week's city council meeting in New York City, where the subject of discussion was an attempt by the city's outgoing "nanny" government to impose a public use ban. Vapers are united, threatened, and angry, which can be a potent combination in politics. If nanny-like governmental bodies like the European Union Commission succeed in imposing strictures that are far from supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, they will face not only the grasping board rooms of duplicitous Big Tobacco companies trying to muscle their way in on a boondoggle, but also a phalanx of outraged citizens who see not only their rights but their very lives threatened by such regulations. A potent political equation; no spoonful of sugar will make this medicine go down.

If e-cigs are effectively banned in New York, or in Chicago, or in the entire European Union, the story will certainly not be over. The reformed death-merchants of Big Tobacco, with their eyes flashing dollar signs like in an old Loony Tunes cartoon, are well-heeled enough to respond to the challenge, and will no doubt come up with something that gets around the law. But vaping enthusiasts don't want to buy from them. The cigarettes produced by Big Tobacco have left a bad taste in their mouths, not only literally but figuratively as well, from the years of murderous dishonesty. And true vaping enthusiasts prefer their personal vaporizers anyway, with their bright shiny colors and "mod" (modified) variations. These are the vapers who will fill the e-cig lounges of the future, and who will continue to make things complicated for would-be governmental nannies.