A thin fog hangs in the air at the lounge inside Lucky’s on West Douglas Street in Wichita, Kansas but the apparent smoke is not from cigarettes. The air carries the aroma of apple, watermelon and other different flavored vapors absent in most traditional types of tobacco. This is because what the visitors are puffing on are e-cigarettes, which are used to inhale vapors that sometimes contain nicotine but do not contain ingredients that cause cancer. Supporters of the electronic devices claim that they are helping them to quit smoking. However, health advocates say that since the industry is relatively new and largely unregulated, the health effects of the devices are as of yet unknown.
Kevin Nguyen is one of these supporters and co-owner of Lucky’s. He was determined to quit smoking after a relative of his died of lung cancer after thirty years of smoking. Two years ago, Nguyen visited Los Angeles, where he first heard of and tried “vaping.” He had been trying other methods such as “the patch,” which did not work for him but with vaping, he seems to have found a safer alternative. Lucky’s caters to customers of every age but on Thursday nights, the crowd is generally of the younger generation.
Nguyen says it was an easy choice to turn his desire to “kick the habit” into a thriving business a year ago. It is just a place where people can hang out and chill, he stresses. In the Wichita area, over twenty e-cigarette stores have now opened for business, most in the last six months. We started hosting a “Vape Meetup” on the once a month on the second Saturday and it has turned into quite a social event, says Nguyen. Today, it is not so much about quitting smoking; it is starting to turn into a social culture.
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