After waking up with not only a headache from too many libations, my throat was sore, my hair and clothes smelled like cigarettes and I just felt gross. One day, I decided I would give vaping a try. Now, back home the big vapes had been out for years and you would see those who were into it blowing huge clouds of smoke and fiddling with the device that you had to add oil to and change filters on, but the vapes that first starting showing signs of popularity here were the disposable one-time-use e-cigs.
My friend and I decided to quit smoking regular cigarettes together, so we were always on the lookout for these vapes, which could be found in most convenience stores. One of the craziest brandings I saw was “Stop Your Heart.” This vape was packing 15 percent nicotine whereas most others range between 2 and 5 percent. Let’s just say I decided against trying that one out.
Soon I realized I had a disposable e-cig graveyard starting in my room and that’s when I saw an ad on my WeChat moments advertising vapes with replaceable pods and a whole range of flavors such as mung bean, mango, grape, cola, ice cream and even tomato (yes, I tried it; yes, it was terrible). I added the seller and soon I had my very own reusable vape in my favorite color, purple.
I was extremely happy about my habit change – no more smelly clothes and sore throats, and best of all I stopped smoking regular cigarettes all together. But in November 2019 things looked bleak when China put a ban on selling and advertising electronic cigarettes online in an effort to keep minors from buying and using the products.
What were we gonna do? Well, seems that someone who had that same question decided to monopolize on this idea and brick and mortar e-cig shops are now quite literally on every corner. RELX, a popular e-cig company, holds 60 percent of the market and has 1,400 stores across the country. When I am out with friends, we all have the same vapes in varying colors and generations, but they are all from RELX. Even our local bar has stock there to sell to the customers. It seemed the worry was gone and now vape lovers had even more flavors and convenience to get their pod refills anytime and anywhere. We were on easy street now.
However, good things don’t always last. On March 11 of this year, China’s legislators released a final version of regulation measures for e-cigs that would ban the sale of flavored vape pods other than tobacco to take effect on May 1, 2022. Pretty much everyone I know went into a buying frenzy. I immediately went to my local shop and bought 10 boxes of pods; each box has three pods and costs 99 yuan (US$15). Some of my friends said their local contacts for pods were upping the price by double.
I even felt like I didn’t want to share my contact with friends in fear that I might miss out of what I needed to stock up on before the flavor purge. In the end, I purchased almost 20 boxes. Some of my friends bought even more. At the local bar that sells the pods, everyone crowded around trying to grab a few boxes of their favorite flavors in last ditch efforts to secure a stock for themselves. I started to wonder what I would do when I ran out – would I quit smoking all together or go back to traditional cigarettes, which I definitely don’t want to do.
Luckily, right before the May 1 cut off, the date was extended to October 1, 2022. Still, while time is being bought, and surely more pods as well, this will change the vaping culture. While I agree that measures should be taken to keep minors from smoking, I don’t think that this is the only way and I fear that it will lead to a surge of people going back to traditional cigarettes. I do believe the best choice is not to smoke at all, but would much rather be taking a few drags from my mango flavored, purple vape than smoking tobacco cigarettes any day. However, it’s not as bad as it could be for us vapers here in China, in countries such as Thailand just owning a vape can get you jail time or fines. Guess us vapers will have to eventually decide if we will continue to puff or pass.