Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Planet of the Vapes

Of course you see them around, twenty-somethings who are probably right that vaping’s not quite as bad for your health as cancer sticks cigarettes. So they’re vaping, puffing away with their e-cigs. Take a puff, it’s springtime!

But I had no idea whatsoever that there is such a thing as competitive vaping.

And then, just last week, I read about a vaping contest held in Quincy, just outside of Boston, where the “athletes” (???) did a filler-up with their lungs, and then let out:

…swirling clouds of sweet-smelling vapor shaped like horizontal tornadoes.

The panel of three judges in the “Cloud Competition,” where 100 people had gathered, watched closely for three things: distance, density, and dissipation. (Source: Boston Globe)

There were 28 contestants in the Quincy Cloud Competition. The winner walked away with $1K. Not bad for just blowing smoke.

While “Cloud Chasers” come to compete, and others just watch, still others use the gatherings as a place to practice tricks. Using their hands and the clouds their devices produce, tricksters pucker their lips to create “jelly fish” — rings of vapor with squiggly frills extending from the base — and other shapes.

Carson Perkins, who goes to Lasell College in Newton, blew “O-rings” into the air before pushing them skyward with his hand.

“There’s a lot of creativity to it,” he said. “People go all out.”

I was never much of a smoker, but in my younger days I smoked a bit. This was mostly when I was a waitress, in a time and place where pretty much all waitresses smoked. This was mostly because smoking a cigarette gave you a 3 minute break. If someone was looking for you, you could always say “lemme just finish my cigarette” and people would pretty much leave you alone. When I was a waitress at Durgin Park, my roommate and I, along with our waitress pals Marilyn and Pam, bought and pooled packs of Newports, which we’d leave in a cubby hole tucked away between two of the dining rooms. 

I was not much for smoking tricks, however.

I did master the sophisticated plume of smoke out the nostrils exhalation. And occasionally, almost by accident, I could produce an O-ring. (In much the same way as I could occasionally produce on bona fide, two-finger cab whistle. I must add mastering this technique to my bucket list.)

But as far as I know, there was nothing that came close to making a jelly-fish. And as far as I know, there weren’t any smoking competitions.

Boston is not, of course, the only place where Cloud Competitions take place.

Last spring, the Wall Street Journal reported on a competition in Plano, Texas, writing:

Welcome to the newest entrant in the extreme sports category: “cloud chasing.” Competitors play it not with balls and bats, but with electronic cigarettes. They are called cloud chasers, and their devoted fans are cloud gazers.

Competitions like Vaping WSJthis have been heating up world-wide, spreading from Raleigh, N.C., to Los Angeles and Canada to Indonesia. This showdown is one of the smaller contests, but on the same day, there are three others taking place around Dallas at various vape shops, which specialize in sales of refillable e-cigarettes called vaporizers. (Source: WSJ)

I’m know vaping judge, but I’d say the dude in the green wins it on distance, and the dude in the black gets the density nod. As for dissipation, there’s a certain sense of that around all vapers, no?

Vaping competitions haven’t gone pro quite yet, but it’s surely a matter of time. Teams are being formed, sponsors sought.

Not everyone’s a fan. Some vapers fear competitions stigmatize e-cigarettes by making them look more like gaming devices than smoking-cessation tools. They worry contests could escalate pressure on an industry already facing questions from regulators about e-cigarettes because they come in kid-friendly flavors and are sold online.

Smoking cessation tools? Oh, I’m sure that plenty of the vapers are two-pack a day folks. But I’m also sure that plenty of folks are taking up vaping who’ve never smoked cigarettes. And they’re doing it to be trendy, to be hip, and – apparently – so they can take part in vaping contests.

If e-cigarettes turn out to be a healthy alternative to the real thing, have at it. But something tells me that puffing on a device and gathering up clouds of smoke in your lungs can’t exactly be a good thing for you. The thought of smoking an e-cigarette just gives me, well, the vapors.

As for the contests, well, I’m thinking folly of youth. And, of course, the fact that one of the great pleasures of getting older is rolling your eyes and snorting at what those crazy kids are up to.

No comments: