In 2008, just 50,000 people were estimated to be e-cigaratte users, or, in the parlance of the lifestyle, #vapers. Now, close to 3.5 million people #vape regularly. But despite the growing popularity, #vapequestions remain.
Are e-cigarettes really safer than classic cigarettes, or are we just not aware of the dangers yet? How do they work? What exactly does it mean that they aren’t FDA regulated? And, most importantly, is it possible to look cool while #vaping?
We sat down with the fine folks at Bedford Slims, a Brooklyn e-cig company that just moved to Bushwick, to find out what’s up with that #vapelyfe. Jesse Gaddis, CEO, started Bedford Slims in 2010 in an apartment in South Williamsburg, confident that he could create a higher quality product than was currently available to the relatively new e-cig market. Bethany Grady, Media and PR lady for the company, became a convert to the e-cig lifestyle and hasn’t picked up a regular cig since. She started working for Bedford Slims a couple of years ago.
Their enthusiasm is palpable. Bethany, big-eyed and vocal with thin, expressive wrists and sassy hair, speaks engagingly and ambitiously about the health benefits of e-cigs and their commitment to a quality, Brooklyn-based product. “I want [Bedford Slims] in every bodega and deli on Bedford,” she says. And then she’ll move on to Myrtle and Broadway Avenues, admitting that “Deli bros are a big part of my life right now.” She vapes while we talk, and there’s no doubt that she looks like a badass. Jesse is soft-spoken, dressed in plaid, leisurely computing while Bethany talks animatedly, but he interjects when it’s important, and he commands the conversation in a thoughtful, interested way. And all the while, the Bedford Slims mascot, a scruffy, white maltese named Larry Bird, sleeps beneath their desk.
E-cigs are, at the very least, a great way to quit smoking, akin to Nicorette gum or the nicotine patch. And in all likelihood, they are a healthier alternative to smoking. But consumers’ concerns arise from the lack of long-term studies done on e-cigarette use. To be sure, you inhale way fewer toxins when you vape. But no one knows what the medical consequences of inhaling nicotine vapor will be, or if there are any. Also, the totally unregulated nature of the e-cig market makes people nervous and with Blu having recently been purchased by the company that makes Newports aka Big Tobacco, their concern may be valid. Of course, the FDA has been regulating cigarettes for decades, and there’s still formaldehyde in those!
But Bedford Slims is still small, and still Brooklyn. They don’t offer flavors that border on the kid-friendly. They stick to grown-up tastes: Turkish Cut, Hi-Menthol, Southern Tobacco, and Root, which actually contains 7 mg of caffeine. They don’t outsource the making of their “juice” (nicotine-containing liquid) to countries overseas. Their cigs don’t contain diethylene glycol, a toxic compound that has been found in other popular brands. They sponsor art openings, and they’ve launched a Artist Series, in which Brooklyn artists design e-cig batteries. And Bedford Slims isn’t just idly waiting for the e-cig research to come in, they’ve actively been seeking out researchers to conduct studies. They’ve even provided e-cigs to smokers at a housing shelter in Bed-Stuy, with the hopes that impoverished, long-time smokers will finally see a way to quit. Bedford Slims even adorns the tips of their e-cigs with a sly handlebar mustache, officially bypassing ‘cool’ and heading straight for ‘rock star.’
Start looking around, and you’ll realize that e-cigs are everywhere: delis are selling them, pedestrians are smoking them, the city is trying to ban them. As cigarettes become more and more reviled, while man’s desire for fleeting highs fails to abate, as the smoke finally clears and the odorless vapor dissipates instantly, #vapelyfe may begin to bear a startling resemblance to #standardlife.