Insiders know that the real party invariably takes place outside. The coolest guests spinning the most compelling conversations are always found in the eye of the swirls of slender white smoke.
Unlike the velvet cordons of the VIP area the smoking area doesn’t discriminate — smokers and non-smokers are welcome. As are increasingly a third group: the vapers. Now the whirls of white smoke are accented with illuminated spots — the tips of e-cigarettes.
An estimated 2.1 million Britons vape and the industry is worth £1.2 billion in the US. Celebrity fans include Leonardo DiCaprio, Cara Delevingne, Lily Allen, Katy Perry, Lindsay Lohan, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and Jack Nicholson. The goodie bags at this year’s GQ Man of the Year awards included an e-cig.
Unlike the simple death stick — light it, inhale it, try not to choke up a lung cos the cool kids who peer-pressured you into sparking up will laugh — the e-cigarette is a more complicated adventure. There are disposable ones — the cheapest and most popular option; refillable ones that contain a liquid, sometimes flavoured; and advanced models for the committed nerd where you can fiddle with voltage and power consumption. Many users start at the disposable end and end up developing a connoisseur’s interest in flavours, something that, admittedly, can’t be said for the humble fag.
The trend has crept up on London — a sad ex-smoker here, replaced by a slender PR girl there. But now the sticks have scored their first major role: Milla Jovovich can be seen dragging on one in the trailer for Cymbeline, a modern retelling of the Shakespearean tragedy, co-starring Ed Harris and Ethan Hawke. The film will be released next year; Canadian manufacturer SmokeStick is rumoured to have paid $1 million towards the cost of the film’s production.
This high-profile product placement has lit a debate about whether pseudo-cigarette advertising could go as viral as the tobacco advertising of old. Old- school tobacco adverts starred dashing doctors dismissing health risks, lissom housewives crediting cigarettes for their slender silhouettes and dapper businessmen seducing girls with their choice of brand. By contrast, e-cig ads are more Hollyoaks than Mad Men: they appear to be set in the wipe-clean surfaces of regional clubs with names like Apollo and Orbit. And thus the Shakespearean spot is a crucial evolution in the e-cig timeline.
Their rise also threatens the fragile equilibrium of London social life (bear with me). Since the passing of the smoking ban there has been no option but to smoke outdoors. Now, while you could continue to stand in the rain with fat drops rendering your Marlboro Light redundant, you could just vape indoors. And what about after a meal in a restaurant, or at someone’s house? It feels remarkable to “smoke” indoors; there will still be some who complain, but they don’t command the moral high ground — the health risks of passive e-cigarette use are dubious and they don’t smell as noxious as the real thing.
Apparently, in some Shoreditch start-ups employees are vaping at their desks, though east Londoners could also try the Vape Lab — London’s first electro-ciggie-slash-coffee shop — which opened in March. Co-founders Pierre Durand and Jonathan Cadeilhan had observed the growth in their native France and thought there would be demand in London. Admittedly it doesn’t have the louche underworld feel of the opium bars of Victorian London; indeed, it’s all (almost dispiritingly) above board. Its Facebook page lists the “official distributors” and describes the Lab as a “concept store” staffed by “vapologists” and baristas.
“Our client base is eclectic,” explains Durand, “from the hipster working in IT or media of Shoreditch to the investment banker. Most people who come in are former smokers and intend to quit using vaping as a substitution tool.”
The Vape Lab offers more than 50 different liquids — popular flavours include Gin Addiction (a mixture of gin, blackcurrant, absinthe, lemon and menthol) and Over the Rainbow (melon, ginger, citrus). Small 10ml bottles start at £7; reusable base units are available from £45. Predictably, it accepts bitcoins and has a two-way bitcoin ATM.
“I call myself an ex-smoker but am still very much a social smoker — I use e-cigs as a substitute but certainly don’t prefer them,” says Sophie Louise Baker, a 27-year-old PR account manager who lives in Hampstead. “They don’t really compare. I use them because you get that smoking action with them. I use them indoors at home but not inside public spaces — if you can smoke inside all the time you’re going to smoke more, and that won’t wean you off nicotine.”
Unlike regular cigarettes the health risks of e-cigs are mired in misinformation. Some optimists proclaim they’ll do you no harm. A report by the World Health Organisation published in August states that e-cigs represent an “evolving frontier filled with promise and threat for tobacco control” but concedes there is concern that “they will serve as a gateway to nicotine addiction and, ultimately, smoking, particularly for young people”.
True as that almost certainly is, for now it seems the party is staying outside. (Standard UK)
Source: TODAY NG
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