The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

CNHI News Service Originals

March 25, 2014

Vapefest: Where e-cigarette camaraderie is in the air — along with haze

HERNDON, Va. — The scent on the breeze is — what? Guava, with a hint of lion's mane? Or maybe a cocktail of vanilla and cherry menthol and jungle juice. Past the hotel lobby, the haze thickens. Smells sharpen, then muddle, then sharpen again. It's smoky, except it's not, because it is vapor that's being expelled in great white plumes in the ballroom, which is clogged with vapers, because this is Vapefest. An announcement is being made.

"Meet Beefcake the Mighty," says a young vaper in a teal polo shirt into a microphone, referencing the large man dressed as some kind of mythic warlord from hell. "He will autograph your juice for you."

Where to begin.

With the haze, yes, and the smell. But then?

Start simple. Vapefest is a convention and fundraiser for users and vendors of electronic cigarettes. Users of electronic cigarettes are called vapers. Vapers vape vapor. Beefcake the Mighty is a member of the thrash metal band Gwar, whose albums include "This Toilet Earth." You may remember the song called "The Obliteration of Flab Quarv 7."

OK.

So Beefcake the Mighty is a vaper, and he is what passes for a celebrity at Vapefest, which is pretty darn fun, as far as hotel conventions around Dulles International Airport in Virginia go. (You'd probably rather meet Beefcake the Mighty than other e-cigarette pitchmen, such as Jenny McCarthy and Stephen Dorff, right?) Even after working the room for five hours and inhaling clouds of secondhand atomized propylene glycol, there are still interesting people to talk to — and not a hint of dry eye or scratchy throat, or that icky feeling you might get from sucking tarry poison into your infuriated bronchi.

"They found this, and they were able to get off cigarettes, and they've become very passionate about it," says Cheryl Richter, the financial secretary of the National Vapers Club and owner of an e-cigarette shop in Port Chester, N.Y. "Now vapers like to hang out with other vapers, and we don't like to hang out with smokers at all, because we hate that smell now."

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