Jan 20 (Guampdn.com) — It’s only been a few years since the idea of using electronic cigarettes hit the masses and it’s since grown into a subculture — a hobby beyond the addiction for many in Guam.
Instead of burning tobacco, e-cigarettes and personal vaporizers heat up a liquid to deliver the dose, says Beverly Encarnacion, owner of the vaping lounge Vaperize in Upper Tumon.
Smoking cigarettes puts you at risk from hundreds of chemicals, as well as the those around you with toxic second-hand smoke.
“It doesn’t work that way with vaping,” Encarnacion says. “Whoever is vaping gets the nicotine. And it’s not smoke — it’s vapor. You’ll notice it smells a lot better and it’s cooler to the touch.”
While you’re not technically burning anything, vaping uses a heated coil to vaporize what’s known as e-juice, or e-liquid. The liquids can carry different levels of nicotine or none at all and are basically made of three ingredients, Encarnacion explains:
• propylene glycol, or PG, used for flavoring; and
• VG, the chemical that makes the vapor.
“The nicotine content is a lot less, but a lot stronger because it’s more pure than cigarettes,” she says. “If your Marlboro Reds was 3.6 percent nicotine, people who vape can’t even do a 36mg. On Guam, the most I’ve seen would be a 12 milligrams, which would be a 1.2 percent, and that’s really harsh. It’s more potent.”
There are dozens of different brands of juices from different countries, which also will have different qualities and strengths, Encarnacion.
Can help you quit
Vaping is an alternative to smoking and the nicotine means you’re not necessarily cutting your addiction out completely. But the different strengths and even juices without nicotine can help wean you off cigarettes, she says.
Barrigada resident Roland Villaverde wasn’t looking to kick his pack-a-day habit, but vaping has taken him nearly completely away from cigarettes.
“It was new so I tried it and I liked it,” he says. “I won’t go out and buy cigarettes, but if I run out of juice I’ll smoke one. I smoke a cigarette once every four months but only on those rare occasions. And for me, sometimes one cigarette is not enough, so you end up lighting another one halfway through.”
Vaping gives him a more satisfying dose of nicotine, plus the addition of different sweet flavors he enjoys, including a Green Tea Kit-Kat variety.
And while vaping can be expensive at first — purchasing the units and parts, it actually saved him money in the long run.
“A pack is like $7.25 a day and a bottle of juice that cost $12 can last me a week to a week-and-a-half,” he says. “I save at least a hundred bucks a month.”
Encarnacion has owned Vaperize for nearly two years, now located at the old Sears building in Upper Tumon.
Many of her customers, including her family members, have switched completely from smoking cigarettes to vaping. But the appeal also is in the size of the plume they can blow with the vapor.
Can get expensive
Starter kits, which begin at about $45, will give you the most basic vape usage, but advanced personal vaporizers — or APVs — get far more complicated and expensive — up to the thousands of dollars. Parts can be changed out to allow for bigger cloud or vape production, stronger hits, etc.
“There are competitions in the states for tricks and big clouds where people can win $10,000,” Encarnacion says. “It’s crazy.”
Her younger clientele is drawn to the bigger cloud devices, while her older clients tend to vape for the nicotine fix and its healthier lifestyle.
“Every device is different and when they come in, we can help them find what they are looking for,” she says.
Most high-end APV units are hand-assembled and Encarnacion warns against buying mass produced clones from China.
“It’s a lot cheaper when it comes to the metals and they break easily and they can explode,” she says. “The products I carry are from the U.S. and Europe, so the (quality assurance) is a lot higher. In the states, they’re trying to create products to kill out the clones because people are getting hurt.”
In Guam, you must be 18 years old to purchase and use vaporizers, but there aren’t regulations as to where you can and cannot use the product.