The Facebook invite was simple enough: Join us for the soft opening of the Vapour House, your place to Eat. Drink. Vape!
They had me at the eating and drinking, but I’ll admit that I was more than lost on the vaping.
Turns out, vaping is basically inhaling flavored water vapor out of an electronic device (known as an e-cigarette or e-cig).
It has a chill, speakeasy vibe with an older crowd, which means you have more than a decent shot of hearing whoever you’re trying to converse with. Vaping took off around ten years ago in SoCal, but this is the first establishment in Midtown. They have a full bar and menu (thanks Pour House!), and it’s super easy for newbies to try … $5 gets you all the flavors you can inhale in 30 minutes. They also sell a variety of devices, accessories and vapor juice.
Some contained nicotine, but most were (happily) nicotine-free. A few of our favorite flavors included honeydew, Stripes gum, Betti White, pomegranate and the Scooby Snack (peanut butter and jelly). It reminded me of a mini-hookah because there are hundreds of fruity/savory flavors; but unlike hookah, there’s zero body buzz (at least not with the non-nicotine options we tried).
Of course vaping isn’t without controversy.
On the one hand, people argue that just because e-cigs contain less nicotine doesn’t make them any healthier than regular cigarettes. There’s also a concern that kids will pick up the habit (thinking it’s cool and safe) but then ultimately get hooked on regular cigarettes as their addiction grows.
Others say that the non-nicotine options (which were the only ones we tried) still may not be completely safe because … well, the vapor juice is still synthetically made with chemicals. Almost everyone agrees that more research is needed because no one really knows if they’re 100% safe, somewhat safe, mostly safe, at what levels, etc, etc.
It’s also important to note that the Tobacco Industry is paying attention. Those who don’t want competition (see also marijuana legalization) are fighting the $1-2 billion e-cig industry, while others are jumping into the marketplace:
Altria, the world’s biggest tobacco company and owner of Marlboro, on Thursday announced plans to roll out its own e-cig in the second half of 2013. The second-largest tobacco company, Reynolds American, which already produces an e-cig called Vuse, said this week that they plan to expand distribution. The third giant, Lorillard, was the first on the trend: The company paid $135 million for the popular brand Blu Ecigs last year.
The owner (Sam) mentioned that he originally got into vaping to try and quit/drastically cut back smoking cigarettes … and it worked. You can read a similar view at BusinessInsider.com. And some researchers back up those claims:
Dr. Michael Siegel from Boston University’s School of Public Health is a firm believer in the power of e-cigarettes to help smokers quit – or at the very least to provide a less harmful alternative to cigarettes for a nicotine hit. “They’re safer because there’s no tobacco in the product, there’s also no burning, it’s just heated up. When you take away the tobacco and combustion then you’re taking away the bulk of the problem,” said Siegel.
Bottom line, do your homework and make your own choice.
I don’t smoke cigarettes, but I do enjoy the occasional hookah/cigar. I could envision swinging by Vapour House after a weeknight dinner, similar to how I enjoy the Kasbah Lounge. With it’s super-chill vibe, I don’t see it becoming a regular stop on my weekend-bar-rotation, but it was fun trying all the flavors and chatting with Sam - he was open to our suggestions and really wants feedback from the community to make the lounge even better.
And they fully admit that it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea (I love their tagline: “A modern smoking lounge open to anyone but not for everyone.”), but for those who enjoy hookah and/or are trying to quit smoking, give it a shot – and more importantly, let us know what you think!