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Vape life: welcome to the weird world of e-cig evangelists

Vape life: welcome to the weird world of e-cig evangelists

Posted by on Mar 25, 2014 in Articles | 0 comments


By Molly Osberg 02.25.2014

On Saturday night at a pink-lit bar in New York’s Lower East Side, the musician Aaron David Ross took a moment away from DJing his own party to evangelize a bit.

“Look,” he said between vaporous pulls of a dual-coil atomizer, “I’m like the vegetarian that won’t leave you alone. Cigarettes are terrible for you.”

Ross, who makes records under the name ADR and is one-half of the industrial duo Gatekeeper, held up his personal vaporizer. Cylindrical and silver, it looked much more like an expensive piece of jewelry than a replacement for “analog” cigarettes, a stark contrast to the tobacco-aping NJOYs whose recent advertising campaign has focused on their ability to “look, taste, and feel just like a real cigarette.”

Ross and his friends, some wearing chains and black fitted caps, exhaled more odorless smoke than seemed reasonable for a human lung to hold. They looked pretty cool, which is a feat — a friend of Ross’, Mat Dryhurst, had earlier relayed that when he started vaping, “My wife said she wouldn’t have sex with me if I did this in public.”


Ross turned back to his laptop, where he was playing an FKA Twigs track to celebrate his new mixtape, Cloud Chasing Vol. 1. It’s ostensibly the “first collection of music for vapers, by vapers,” and it was compiled by Ross and some of his e-cig enthusiast friends in honor of a symposium held at the art and technology center Rhizome this past weekend. By inviting a group of artists, academics, and enthusiasts to speak on the subject of the e-cigarette, Rhizome hoped to learn “what it means to ‘vape.'”

They couldn’t have scheduled the panels for a better time: as recently as a few years ago, e-cigarette smoking was a relatively obscure habit. But with the industry still largely unregulated and projected to rake in a reported $1.5 billion in sales this year, the e-cig market has grown into a multi-tentacled beast. Just as the largely forum-based DIY “modding” scene gains serious traction, legislation is on the horizon for 2014. Meanwhile Big Tobacco, thanks to new lines of electronic products, has the opportunity to hawk its wares on television for the first time in 40 years. This is the Wild West of the Electronic Nicotine Delivery Device (ENDD), and it may not last very much longer in its current form.

And so the panel, on which Ross and Dryhurst both spoke, was cheekily called “This is the ENDD.” The event largely cast the e-cig debate’s usual suspects — economic, health, and legislative issues — as the background to a number of cultural shifts. Which, because of the world we live in, largely came down to the way e-cigarettes have been marketed.


The e-cigarette industry has spent vast amounts of money and time making a once-dorky and counterintuitive idea — sucking on a metal device filled with nicotine juice and some of the same chemicals used in smoke machines — look desirable, fun, and edgy. This year at CES, Vapor Corp. hosted a party on the pool deck of the Marquee with plexiglass jacuzzis; as one of Rhizome’s panelists pointed out, NJOY invited “influencers” to party with e-cigs in hand at the posh Jane Hotel last year, before New York City’s former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, banned public indoor vaping.

Now, Courtney Love stars in an e-cig commercial(“It’s a f**cking NJOY”) and Stephen Dorff strikes rugged poses as a modern-day Marlboro Man for Blu, a brand that was acquired in 2012 for $135 million by Lorilard, one of the Big Three “analog” tobacco companies.


Health researcher and panelist CAB Fredericks notes Blu has even taken the recent indoor e-cig bans in select states as ammunition for those marketing campaigns, encouraging Blu customers to “fight back” against the man.

If some large e-cig companies like NJOY and Blu have rested their cred largely on the dont-tread-on-me, rebel-without-the-consequences feeling of retro Marlboro and Lucky Strike ads, others like the Reynolds-owned Vuse have churned out marketing materials that make their e-cigs sound less like smokes and more like iPads, with TV spots obliquely announcing “dreams, opportunities, the promise of new things to come.

According to Orit Gat, an art critic and Rhizome contributor, the schism between e-cigs marketed like gadgets and those marketed like cigarettes may be because “we’re in a particular moment” in the development of the e-cigarette; “We’re still not sure what they are,” she said during her presentation, “or what we’re supposed to do with them.”

Gat, having recently spent time in Provence, France, flipped through slides of two small e-clopinettes, small storefronts in which locals were encouraged to try the latest in e-cig technology. A sign above the display read, in French, “technology meets elegance.” White-walled and minimalist, with battery packs and slim e-cigs displayed on a wall behind glass, the shops looked more like Apple Stores than smoke shops.


Her next set of slides, however, showed The Henley Vaporium in Nolita, where available e-cig flavors were written on a chalkboard pinned to an exposed brick wall. There, “vaporists” help you “hack” your e-cigs — “Whatever that means,” Gat quipped — in a shop that shares more DNA with an artisinal coffee house than a hyper-clean technology store. “The closer we get to e-cigs,” she said, “the closer it is to a Whole Foods than an Apple Store.”

For Dryhurst, the idea of the e-cig as a lifestyle brand originates a bit closer to home. When he switched from regular cigarettes to e-cigs, he says he realized he’d have to go all the way to fully commit — he had to make his new device part of his “look.” Dryhurst, a San Francisco-based artist, says something like the corporate Blu just wouldn’t cut it — “Blu cigarettes are the Coca-Cola of this culture,” he says. “They went out of fashion.”

He, like Ross, is embedded in a rapidly expanding community of “modders”; e-cigarette users who buy parts online and assemble their own vaping devices, spending hours on forums, endlessly tweaking their constructions to get the perfect vapor density or amount of nicotine per hit. In this corner of the e-cigarette market, makers craft hours of YouTube reviews detailing the technical specs of their devices, which tend to be seen as tinkerers’ toys: “It speaks to the same compulsion as synthsizer builders,” Dryhurst said.”


In the final section of the panel, during a question-and-answer period, Ross and Alex Gvojict, the artist responsible for Cloud Chasing Vol. 1’s cover art joined a handful of the other speakers onstage. In order to make the cover, Gvojict photoshopped a stock photo image of young professionals out at a purple club, vaping happily away over neon-colored drinks.

Gvojict expressed to the audience a desire to remove what e-cigarette stigma remained: “It’s just about normalization,” he said. Ross vaped enthusiastically alongside him at the presentation table, only to be chided softly by the event’s organizers — even at an e-cig conference you can’t vape indoors in New York.

Even the most theoretical of conversations about vaping culture eventually come back down to the ground — as was reported widely just days before This is the ENDD, lobbyists are storming Washingtonas the Office of Management and Budget reviews a proposal to bring e-cigarette rule-making under the wing of the FDA, which would likely regulate ENDDs much the way they do analog tobacco products.


In the final question-and-answer period of Rhizome’s talk, Phil Daman, the president of the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association, raised his hand and unceremoniously addressed both the panelists and the crowd.

“Vaping culture is absolutely fascinating,” said Daman. “And the script is very much unwritten. So I’m here to ask you … Do you know how much influence you have?”

“I personally do think I have a lot of influence,” answered Gvojict, “being someone who is about this culture .. and the actual building and customizing, bringing it to this avatar level. It’s an extension of who you are.”

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Posted by on Mar 6, 2014 in Articles | 0 comments



The Los Angeles City Council votes unanimously to ban cigarettes in most work places, many public places, and 21-and-over establishments.

March 6, 2014

​LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles City Council earlier this week approved new regulations that would treat e-cigarettes like tobacco cigarettes, the Los Angeles Times reports.


The 14-0 vote bans vaping in most work places and many public places, including parks and some beaches.


Lawmakers voted to continue allowing e-cigarette use in dedicated vaping lounges, but they banned them from 21-and-over establishments.


The votes came after the presentation of strong views from both sides of the e-cigarette debate. Proponents argued that the electronic devices help wean people from smoking tobacco cigarettes and that research has not proven them to be harmful to others via second-hand emissions. Opponents said they threaten to make smoking socially acceptable after years of trying to get people to kick the habit.


“We don’t want to risk e-cigarettes undermining a half-century of successful tobacco control,” said Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

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Is ‘vaping’ really the best word for smoking e-cigarettes?

Is ‘vaping’ really the best word for smoking e-cigarettes?

Posted by on Feb 4, 2014 in Articles | 0 comments blog

Stuart Heritage ● Smokers must be furious: electronic cigarettes were their big chance to be socially acceptable again. Now look what’s happpend…

  On Monday, e-cigarette makers Gamucci will open the world’s first airport “vaping zone”in the Terminal 4 international departure lounge at Heathrow.
   If the zone is a success, it’ll be seen as a huge victory for the burgeoning e-cigarette industry. But with a name like that it doesn’t stand a chance. Vaping zone. Say it out loud. You can’t, can you? Someone might be listening, and they’d probably punch you right in your stupid face if they heard you.
   Is this what we’re supposed to call the act of smoking an electronic cigarette? Vaping? Are e-smokers vapists? Because vaping sounds worryingly like a form of sexual assault, or a bewilderingly ill-advised 1980s dance craze. Smokers must be furious. E-cigarettes were their big chance to become socially acceptable again, but whoever came up with “vaping” has ruined it. What’s worse: going outside to smoke, or sitting indoors to vap off?
   And, just like actual smoking – hot smoking, as the vapists call it – all sorts of neologisms are bound to spring up around e-cigarettes. What’s the vaping equivalent of smirting (smoking and flirting), for example? Is it varting? And what are we to call cigaretiquette (the generalised behaviour surrounding smoking) in the age of e-cigarettes? Vaprotocol? That sounds like a cheap brand of bronchitis medication.


   And vaping is just the tip of the awkward e-cigarette terminology iceberg. The website Ecigology (itself a terrible word that deserves to be bludgeoned to death) has a glossary teeming with ridiculous new words and phrases. It’s a world of “carts” and “cartos” that you fill with “smoke juice” and accessorise with “a drip tip”, being careful not to “flood your atty” and diminish your “throat hit”. Imagine being the sort of person who actually talks like this. It’d be like living your entire life inside an Australian remake of A Clockwork Orange directed by Chris Morris.
   At least it will work as an inadvertent shot in the arm for anti-smoking campaigners. Forget bold-print health warnings and close-up pictures of diseased lungs, nothing’s going to repel you from a packet of cigarettes – electronic or otherwise – like knowing that you’ll have to stand in something as ridiculous as a vaping zone to smoke them.

Content by: Stuart Heritage
Image 1 by: Alamy
Image 2 by: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

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Pimp My Vape: The Rise of E-Cigarette Hackers

Pimp My Vape: The Rise of E-Cigarette Hackers

Posted by on Feb 3, 2014 in Articles | 0 comments

Pimp My Vape: The Rise of E-Cigarette Hackers


  It’s foggy outside the Henley Vaporium in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. Gray clouds, swirling like ghosts, cling tightly to the sidewalk and century-old brick buildings.The haziness from the street matches the air inside the shop. It’s a different type of cloudy, though — lighter, with a sweet aroma. Water vapor from e-cigarettes. “You can barely see two feet in front of you when these guys are in here,” laughs Peter Denholtz, the shop’s co-owner. He points to a handful of twenty-somethings near the back. The men and women, most of whom don button-up shirts and flat-brim hats, chat anxiously around a glass counter covered with screwdrivers, wires and small metal tubes.The scene looks like a snapshot from a high school shop class.


    They discuss “heat compression” and “propylene glycol.”Kyle Yan, 20, left, fiddles with a rebuildable atomizer at Henley Vaporium in New York City.The group is part of Denholtz’s customer base, which has created hobbies out of rebuilding and customizing “mods,” metal tubes, similar to e-cigarettes, designed for “vaping” flavors and nicotine. By hacking these devices, they’re able to produce stronger flavors and — more importantly — create more impressive vapor clouds.Some enthusiasts mix their own flavors to share with friends; most hang out at the shop every night to exchange ideas and show off their newest upgrades.Since the store opened in September 2013, Denholtz says, the majority of his customers have been smokers hoping to quit. Some come in looking for a cheaper alternative to hookah.This new rebuilding trend, which he refers to as a science-rooted subculture, is only beginning to grow in popularity. Denholtz is just trying to keep up.Nick Yuan, a ‘vapologist’ at Henley, puffs on a vaping pen behind the counter”I’d say a good 20% of the people who come in here want to rebuild like this,” says Tristan Ambat, 25, a “vapologist” at Henley. The title’s even stitched into his white lab coat. For the most part, he specializes in customizing atomizers, a central component in both e-cigarettes and mods. Today, surrounded in a cloud of white vapor, he’s rewiring the insides of one device.To start, he takes a mechanical mod and a rebuildable atomizer; the former sends voltage from the device’s battery to the atomizer. You can buy both at a vape shop or online. Prices vary. Depending on the models, you’ll pay around $30 for the cheapest.Ambat says most people like to lower the standard resistance, measured in Ohms, to send more heat to the device’s coil. Doing so creates more heat for the inhale and a larger vape cloud for the exhale.”You just open your atomizer. On the base are the coils,” he says. “Unscrew them and slip your own wire through the small holes.”Mods come with different numbers of coils. The one he’s using contains one coil, but some go as high as eight. More coils means more potential power.He adds the wire — heating resistance wire is best, he says — and tightens the coils. He uses an app called Ohm’s Law to check the Ohm level; it also calculates watts and amps. This device’s Ohm level measures .08, below the standard 1.2 on most models.”This is good. This means I’ll get a little more heat than normal,” he says, “and as you can see, it says I’m pulling about 4.6 amps of my battery.”Battery powers vary by device, too. To avoid overheating, it’s best to use batteries with amps 14 or greater. Ambat uses a 30-amp battery. If he’d used a smaller one — say, an eight-amp battery — it’d be too close for comfort if the Ohm’s levels pulled close to five amps, as they are now.Next up, cotton creates a makeshift wick. “Organic cotton is essential. Most 100% cotton has bleach in it, so you don’t want to be inhaling that,” he says.Organic cotton also helps bring out the most flavor. He tears off a small piece, rolls it into a wick and drops in a few dots of liquid flavor.And that’s it. Ambat takes a drag and exhales. A sweet-smelling gray cloud, grander than most others in the shop, swirls playfully and vanishes above us.”This is my friend’s blend. It’s vanilla custard,” he says of the flavor. “It’s really good.”Ambat says it’s easy to make your own flavors. The basic ingredients are propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin; from there, you can mix it with either candy flavoring or natural food extracts. You can add nicotine if you want, he says, but it’s certainly not required.Looking like Rick Ross and smelling like ice cream at the same time? Not a bad deal.Denholtz, 53, cofounded the shop with Talia Eisenberg, 27, to cater to a crowd of customers hoping to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. Denholtz was a smoker for 36 years until he switched to e-cigarettes a few years back. Since switching, he hasn’t smoked a traditional cigarette in four years.”The original purpose for this whole shop was health reasons. Talia and I both had great experiences with these, and we wanted to help people looking to quit,” he says.They do, for the most part. A hefty number of the shop’s customers come in looking for supplies for vaping pens or basic e-cigarettes. Those looking to quit smoking do so gradually. There are different milligram levels of nicotine the store uses to measure its cigarettes. Someone used to smoking a pack per day, for example, can start by smoking an e-cigarette with 24 milligrams of nicotine. They reduce the levels after a few days, to 18, to 12, to 6, and eventually to zero.The “scene” aspect — rebuilding and customizing — is new to Denholtz. Most of the mods and atomizers he sells are based on the recommendations of his hippest customers. But he’s embracing the trend, even learning a thing or two in the process.Other vape shops have opened up in the city over the past six months. At the moment, there are three in Manhattan, two in Brooklyn and one in Queens. The community expects more to pop up in 2014. And although the city recently passed a bill to limit public e-cigarette use, which will go into effect April 29, Denholtz says he’s not concerned. Vaping lounges are exempt from the ban, under the premise that cigar bars are exempt from most smoking bans. Since 2010, an annual nationwide festival calledVape Fest comes to different venues across the country. It’s scheduled this year for March 21-22 in Washington, D.C.Online, there’s also a prominent vaping community. Groups on Facebook and Redditserve as discussion boards or, in some cases, meetup vehicles. Hashtags like #VapeLife and #VapeTricks are popular for posting videos on apps like Vine and Instagram. Most feature footage of people blowing big clouds or performing tricks, like “smoke” rings.The lights begin to dim at the shop. There’s a jazz show tonight and the performer’s running late. Nobody seems to mind. The vapor in the air creates a calming mood — warm, comfortable. Visitors lounge in chairs and couches circled around a center table; some puff on vaping pens at the newly opened cafe bar near the stage area. At places like these, with the low lights and warm humidity, stress seems to evaporate.”This whole community is really growing. There are meetups at least once a month,” says Kyle Yan, a 20-year-old student at Baruch College. “Everyone’s really nice, and it’s just a good way to meet people and learn new things. This is still new to me, but I love it so far.”The vanilla custard aroma from Ambat’s mod still lingers in the air. The flavor might be sold at the store soon, he says, along with a few others his friends have concocted. Until then, it’s free for anyone in the shop to sample.”The best part about vaping? Things like this,” he says, nodding his head toward a crowd of people near the bar.The musician enters from the back and strikes a few chords on his piano. From the front of the store, you can hardly see him.

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Content by: BY ERIC LARSON
Images by:
JAN 25, 2014

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