DATELINE SACRAMENTO CA – By D. R. Lopez – Special Investigative Reporter, January 15th, 2014 8:34 AM
– Investigative Reporter D.R. Lopez is the current recipient of the widely respected F.J.A.Y., (Faux Journalist of America, of the Year) Award from the prestigious Yos Emite Press Club. In his more than 30 years of faux reporting, D.R. has been nominated for more than 15 famous awards and has won a half-dozen or so not-so-famous awards..
So I quit again. I had stopped smoking cigarettes for a year in 2011, then started up again, quit again towards the end of summer 2013, then started again in September 2013, then quit again on Christmas Day 2013. In summary, I’ve smoked tobacco most of my life. I’ve never been what I call a ‘full-time’ smoker. Rarely have I consumed more than 3-4 cigarettes a day.
I never smoke at work. While my Mom was ill, I began smoking on the drive to and from work but still did not smoke during work. I rarely smoke during the day. At the height of my use, I could put away almost a pack (20), but that was on rare occasions. Most times, my use hovered at 2-3 American Spirit yellow pack cigarettes a night. Convincing myself to quit is a difficult sell to Me as I always think “Gee, you hardly smoke at all, Self: Why are you quitting again?” But Self never answers as Self is Me. I guess that makes me… Self-ish! Ohhhh I slay myself!
A few months back, I decided to look into e-cigarettes as a way of stopping the injection of carcinogenic tar molecules into my lungs (But come on! They’re organic! Doesn’t that mean they’re good for me!?). I went into my local Liquor Locker liquor store, where incidentally I’d found the best deal on my brand of cigs – $5.39!, which was a bargain as they were as much as $7 a pack at other stores. I asked where their inventory of e-cigarettes were and was directed to a glass case of choices.
There were none on display, so I had to look at the boxes that housed them to try and tell what they looked like. The choices were disposable and rechargeable, traditional looking, cigarette shaped devices. Some looked like real cigarettes, some were colorful or all black. I bought two disposables and a rechargeable starter kit. The disposables ranged from $6 to $9 each. The Blu brand rechargeable kit was $35. The black cig with the S is a Saphire disposable.
I took everything home and explored my new nicotine delivery options. What was immediately apparent was that the disposable e-cigs were both physically longer than the rechargeable and the nicotine hit that was delivered, was stronger. I guess the larger battery made for a better delivery of nicotine vapor than the rechargeable. The disposables brands were Blu, Sapphire and one which was strawberry scented made by some other brand that I fail to recall the name of.
The disposables lasted longer than I expected. They say they last 800 puffs but I had no idea what that translated to in terms of how long in comparison to a real pack of cigarettes. Now that I’ve gone through them, they seem to last about as long a real pack of cigarettes. I was now fully invested into the effort of getting my Self-ish self to quit. My strategery: Smoke these silly e-cigs until I decide that they are a waste of time and money, then stop those. This is an important note to you, The Reader. Why is it important D.R.? Well it’s critical that The Reader understand my understanding of what e-cigs were. To me, they were another method of ultimately arriving at Smoking
Cessation Wonderland – a place where no one ever gets cancer, everyone wears nice leather shoes, the sky is brightly illuminated by a beautiful marine blue hue, and Michael Hedges plays fanciful guitar tricks on a busy fretboard while I sleep on a bed of soft green moss. IKR! I was on my way. All I had to do was refrain from buying real cigarettes while simultaneously telling my body “Dude, it’s gonna’ be okay. You’ll still get that same wonderful nicotine kick you so enjoy, it’ll just be coming from a different nicotine delivery device. Okay? We can do this!”.
It took some strong convincing skills but I eventually was able to con Self into embarking intrepidly into this new nic’ paradigm. Since I’d paused before a few times in my life, I wasn’t all that terrified of the process. Not being a heavy smoker, I knew my body wouldn’t go through what a real smoker (One who uses a pack or more a day.) might go through. I wouldn’t be waking up in a puddle of cold sweat. I wouldn’t be yelling at my son for no apparent reason because my body was in a state of nicotine jones.
Nonetheless, it was a challenge set before me that I was eager to take on. I got home and started charging my Blu E-cigs. The two power module delivery devices that came with the kit were already partially charged from the factory but I wanted to see what a fully charged unit’s delivery would be like. To my disappointment, the rechargeable Blu delivery devices… sucked. No matter what I did, I never felt like I was getting the nicotine delivery I needed.
The disposables were by far better at delivery. Even when the Blu e-cigs were fully charged, they never put out the strength of a nic inhale, that my body felt was necessary. ‘But whatev’ I said to myself. ‘I guess this is what it’s going to be like – never really getting much nic or having to use the disposables.’ When the disposables finally ran out, I decided to try and make a go of it with just the Blu brand rechargeables as they were inexpensive and it seemed better environmentally to not have to throw e-cigs away.
I was with a friend at a local bar and was embarrassingly inhaling from my black, LED-tipped, vaporized nicotine delivery device in front, where all the real cigarette smokers sat on cold wooden benches to conduct their nicotine deliveries. I looked across to a young woman sitting with her very drunk friend and noticed she was putting her mouth to what looked like a chrome pot pipe. But it wasn’t making the signature Mary Jane cloud of smoke and she didn’t appear to be terribly concerned as she didn’t look around suspiciously before she inhaled each time (as would most law abiding citizens who might be smoking pot outside a bar – which isn’t’t law abiding at all).
I said, “Excuse me, can I ask what that is you’re smoking?”
She said “It’s vapor.”
“Vapor? Like an e-cigarette vapor you mean?”
“Yeah.” She groggily replied before inhaling from it again. She must have noticed the intensity of my gaze at the apparatus she held in her 28 year old, female hands.
“You wanna’ try it?” She said as she held it out for me.
“That would be great, thanks. I’ve never seen those before. All I’ve seen are these things.” I held up my puny black e-cig to show her. She seemed uninterested in my small-time nic delivery device… and I was about to understand why. I took the marijuana-smoking-paraphernalia-looking device into my hand and gently inhaled. I instantly gasped and coughed. This was not the same as any nic delivery device I’d ever tried. This thing delivered a wallop to the lungs, at least 2-3 times the wallop that a brand new disposable delivered.
“Holy smoke!” I said in amazement. “What the hell is this thing? That was way stronger than these crappy Blu e-cigs.” She said they were made by a company called Vapor For Life. My friend immediately looked up the going rate for them online – about $140.
“Wow, those things aren’t cheap are they?”
“Nope” she said, drunkenly sucking on her pricey nic delivery device. “Try this one.” She said as she fumbled through her large black purse and handed me another device. When she pulled it out, my initial thought was that it looked much like a lady’s vibrator (Yes, I said Lady & I meant it!). It was about the same size and shape and was anodized a light purple color – very similar to so the female pleasuring devices I’ve seen.
I was a little intimidated at first and looked around to see who might witness me putting my lips on what looked like a lady pleasing 8-inch purple vibrator. Again, I was shocked to receive what was the most potent inhalation of nicotine I’d ever experienced.
“How long have you used these things?” Meanwhile, her very drunk and obnoxious fake blonde friend started coming on to me. I wasn’t in the mood for such things that night and honestly found her a distraction to the nic delivery device education I was getting from her friend. But it was cold after all and the fact that she was sitting against me, kept me warmer than if she had not been there.
All I had to do was put up with a little drunk girl talk in order to learn what her friend knew. This proved impossible as her drunk friend wouldn’t stop drunk talking to me. At one point, she hit me on my forehead as a joke. It didn’t hurt but shocked me a bit as I couldn’t recall ever being hit by a female at a bar. But she meant it as a joke and after all, if I couldn’t take a joke, no one could.
“Two years.” Was her friend’s reply. Sorry – I kinda’ went astray on you for a moment. We’re back now.
“You’ve been doing that for two years?” I asked in extreme surprise.
She nodded nonchalantly towards me. I was dumbfounded, shocked, amazed and blown away. Here is why I mentioned earlier ‘This is an important note to you The Reader’. Previous to this night, I’d been of the notion that e-cigs were a gateway or bridge to NOT smoking. I thought that their only function was to help people eventually kick the putrid, disgusting, horrid death-causing habit. Boy was I wrong. Here was a person who clearly had no intention of stopping as she’d been using the high powered nic delivery devices for two years now.
This wasn’t the same as chewing nic gum and it sure as heck wasn’t the same as my newly purchased Blu e-cigs. No, this was altogether different. This was a conscious decision to migrate a habit from tobacco cigs to hi-powered, costly nic delivery hardware. I pondered on this thought for days. What a surprise this was. Why was it that I’d not been informed of this trend? I consider myself ‘hep’ with what The Kids are doing. I’ve even seen the new One Direction movie, so I totally thought I was into what they were putting down y’all. Wassup?
I was horribly blindsided by this discovery and felt that the “now” generation had purposefully held back valuable information and was keeping me in the dark. Having said that though, I’m kinda’ old and should probably be kept in the dark as often and possible. Good for the ol’ ticker to be unaware, ignorant and innocent!
The following weekend I went to a new bar to see my new local favorite band, The Golden Cadillacs. I tend to do things like this by myself as it forces me to meet people and for some strange reason, I almost always do. Whenever I’m with another person, I rarely ever strike up a conversation with strangers. After arriving, I nabbed a seat at the bar and waited for the band to setup. It wasn’t the Cadillacs setting up though and I became disappointed. But your website said you’d be here! Oh well, I’ll stay and watch these guys for a while then go home.
Again, that’s a bit off topic but it’s a just addition to this reporter’s story. While the unfamiliar band played, I got up to go to the bathroom. As I went in, I noticed a draped off back area of the bar. When I came back out, I decided to investigate what was behind the black curtain. What I found was, just like the previous week’s discovery of that girl’s vapor pipes, mind boggling. As I ventured into the small hidden bar area, I came upon a tall clear glass case with clear glass shelving.
On these shelves were various nic vapor delivery devices – all with prices well beyond $100. I then began to notice that some of the patrons of this incognito area were puffing on these devices. There weren’t many people there, so it didn’t really stand out as looking different than a regular bar area. The walls above the bar had hundreds of flavor names that were so small, I couldn’t begin to read them. I retrieved my puny, cheapo Blu e-cig from my pocket, puffed a few times, then went back to the regular bar area to continue watching the foreign band.
Later on that night, I went to the clandestine vapor bar area again and opened the black curtains. What I saw was unreal. There was now a lot more people back there and the fog was so thick, one could barely see to the other side of the hidden bar. It reminded me of when I used to own a retail store that was next to a very old bar, The Ben Parino Club. In the mornings before I opened my store, I would go to the bar and get a cup of coffee. Almost always, between 5:30 am and 8:00 am, the bar would be so filled with smoke that you could not see to the other end of the bar.
The difference between that bar and this vapor bar was that the vapor bar had almost no detectable smell. It was reminiscent of when a DJ powered up their fog machine – which was also little more than water vapor. Again I puffed from my tiny black e-sigs and watched in awe. This was a “thing” now wasn’t it? This wasn’t just people trying to get off tobacco, this was people creating a new lifestyle built around vaporized nicotine – complete with myriad brands, flavors and mixes. What I’d assumed was a way to not ingest tar but still get a nic fix, had actually become this blazed futuristic trail into a thick fog of non-tobacco vapors.
Instantly that night, I made a prediction. Tobacco was soon to be dead. Tobacco wouldn’t be cool anymore with the kids. Tobacco was evil. Vapor was ‘where it’s at man!’ Soon, tobacco use would drop to dangerously low levels. Soon, a person smoking a real cig would be equivalent to a stinky 49’r miner shoving snuff into his unwashed, dirty nostrils. Tobacco was old school. Tobacco was going to be for the uneducated. Tobacco would become a thing of the past, just like Wheel-O’s, Spirographs and cassette recorders. Tobacco… was dead man.
Thank Gawd for developing countries or my Philip Morris stock would be worth pennies soon! This non- tobacco way of life was on its way and nothing we do can stop it. How will the laws treat this new habit? Right now, a bar can openly serve, sell and allow vapor use. But just the other day, it became illegal to use an e-cig anywhere on a school campus. I find this amusing because a college student, who’s vapor use produces no second hand smoke, cannot even vaporize in their own car in the parking lot. Seriously?
That seems kind of senseless to me. Soon, the state ledge will have to outlaw vaporing in bars. Why? Well, it just looks seedy and wrong when you walk in and there is a cloud of what looks like smoke in a bar. It has almost no chance of giving you a nic buzz, it doesn’t have a smell and it dissipates in seconds compared to smoke but none of that will matter because it looks like it’s bad, so it must be stopped. I’d give it two or three years before it’s illegal to vapor in bars and restaurants. Crazy? You just wait.
There will be legal skirmishes and lots of pundits talking on the news but eventually you vapor heads will be back out in the cold, shivering next to a drunk girl to get your nic fix. And this is why I love our America. Because here in the best country like, ever, we don’t do things because they make sense, we do them because we can and that’s sometimes all that matters. We see something that appears to be the same as tobacco smoking, and we outlaw it the same exact way.
My son is almost 5. I imagine that by the time he arrives to be ‘of age’ to smoke cigarettes, kids will no longer know what smoking real tobacco was like. He won’t have knowledge of what it’s like to nearly pass out or to throw up from inhaling too hard on his first cigarettes. He won’t know what it’s like to be asked “Hey buddy, can I get a light?”
And soon, Dad will be saying “Son, back when I was a kid, we would gather up old tobacco cigarette butts we found and make one cigarette out of the tobacco that was left in them.” Or “Son, you’re too young to know this but back in the 80’s, there were these sweetened tobacco cigarettes that tasted like candy. They were called Cloves. You can’t get those anymore because the government made them illegal.” And when I catch him stealing a puff from aunt Megan’s vapor delivery device, then trying to act like it never happened, I’ll think to myself “The Times’ve changed ol’ D.R.. Yes, The times have a changed. But some things never change.”
This has been a SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORT:
E-Cigarettes, Vaporizers & Related Nicotine Delivery Devices – No One Sent Me the Memo! WTF?