The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

March 10, 2014

E-cigarettes: fresh air or smoke and mirrors?

NEW YORK — On the edge of the SoHo neighborhood downtown, The Henley Vaporium is an intimate hipster hangout with overstuffed chairs, exposed brick, friendly counter help — but no booze.

Instead, the proprietors are peddling e-cigarettes, along with bottles of liquid nicotine ready to be plucked from behind a wooden bar and turned into flavorful vapor for a lung hit with a kick that is intended to simulate traditional smoking. A hint of banana nut bread e-juice lingered in the air one recent afternoon as patrons gathered around a low table to chat and vape, or sidled up to the inviting bar for help from a knowledgeable "vapologist."

Places like The Henley are a rarity, even in New York. But "vaping," itself, has had astonishing growth — in just eight years or so, the number of enthusiasts around the world has grown from a few thousand to millions. Believed by some to be the invention of a Chinese pharmacist, vaping now has its own YouTube gurus, trade associations, lobbyists, online forums and vapefests for meet-ups centered on what enthusiasts consider a safer alternative to the "analog," their name for tobacco cigarettes.

Vaping may be safer — there are differing opinions — but it isn't necessarily cheap.

Will Hopkins, a 21-year-old dog walker in black leather jacket and skull ring, visits Henley four or five times a week. He smoked a pack of full-strength Marlboros a day for eight years, until he took up vaping. The same goes for his buddy, 20-year-old photographer Will Gallagher, who has been vaping for two years and is fond of his brass mod, a cylindrical device that's larger than a cigarette and decorated with a tiger and Chinese lettering.

"I think both of us have poured in probably a little over a thousand" dollars, Gallagher said of their equipment. "I like the exclusivity of vaping. I like to keep changing up my stuff."

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