“It helps more with the social aspect of life than anything,” said Elijah Williams, manager of House of Vapes, a dimly lit east London cafe full of small flavour phials with names ranging from Grape to OMG.
“You don’t realise until you start using it around friends and they’re not bothered because it smells like strawberry.”
Users of e-cigarettes or vaping devices often talk about the change in habit like a conversion story. Devotees say there is a culture of cool around vaping but that there’s more to the habit than style. They feel a real change to their lives and their health as well as a release from cigarette addiction.
“I used to be quite against it because a lot of my friends were trying to get me on to it and I didn’t really see the point,” said Williams.
“It was only when my friend got an upgrade and he gave me his old device and said: ‘Listen, you’ve not paid for it, it’s got some liquid in it, give it a go.’ Two weeks later, I was outside on my lunch break having a cigarette. I started using the two of them together and I just didn’t like the smell of smoke on my clothes any more.”
Williams went on to see if vaping had affected his health, a concern shared by many when e-cigarettes first hit the shops. His doctor confirmed that his lungs had improved since the switch. Williams added: “I think it’s more beneficial than harmful to be honest.”
“As well as that, using it at home became a lot more pleasurable because I could use it in the front room. I didn’t have to go to the garden any more to have a cigarette so I could just sit there and watch EastEnders with my mum which I’d never really been able to do – so it’s helped me socially and it’s helped me give up cigarettes as well.”
Chadia Aboutaka, a customer, said: “I haven’t done much research on it, but I know that I feel better than I did smoking, so for me that’s evidence enough. And I know I don’t want to vape for the rest of my life anyway. It’s something that I’m doing that’s transitionary.
Jack Paul, a young East Midlands Trains employee from Newcastle who has recently switched from smoking cigarettes to using a vaping device, added: “I’m sure it’s not 100% healthy because there’s always chemicals in them, but I can say I definitely feel better than I did having cigarettes – I think they’re probably healthier.”