Vaping — that is, using devices like electronic cigarettes and rechargeable vapor pens — has been gaining popularity in the United States for the past eight years. But now this alternative to cigarette smoking is branching out into another industry: extreme sports.
Competitions in “cloud chasing” pit vaping enthusiasts against one other to blow the biggest plumes of smoke, and these contests are catching on among young people.
Vape shops regularly hold contests, like the ones that recently took place in Plano, TX, and were profiled by the Wall Street Journal.
Not only do they spell profits for vape shops, but even competitors themselves can win big bucks when they compete — even through something like a sponsorship. Prizes can include gift certificates or even cold, hard cash — several hundred dollars up to thousands in some of the larger competitions.
Peter Denholz, owner of the Henley Vaporium, in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, said the “cloud chasers” are something like celebrities in the vaping community.
“There are people emerging in the industry, they are getting famous due to the fact that they’re the largest cloud blowers,” Denholz said.
Denholz explained to WPIX 11 in New York that cloud chasing is a new form of rebellion among young people. But instead of sneaking off to smoke a cigarette, “Today what they do is they go do something healthier but just as rebellious, which is going out and getting a vape,” he said.
Using a vaporizer, he explained, is a “healthier lifestyle” that gets people away from smoking cigarettes.
Those claims are currently debated by government officials and health organizations around the country, especially as more teenagers pick up the habit.
According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, vaping among teens is on the rise and has jumped eightfold in the past year.
Some critics blame the many candy and fruit flavors, like watermelon, vanilla cupcake, and Skittles, that are available for the devices. Today there are more than 7,700 different e liquid flavors for sale across 466 brands, with around 250 more per month being introduced into the market, according to the New York Times.
But for adults, vaping isn’t about smoking — cloud chasing competitions are more like an anti-smoking rally, according to one competitor.
Matt Maynard, a judge at one of the vaping competitions in Plano, told the WSJ that he was smoking nearly two packs of cigarettes per day before he began vaping and competing in cloud chasing competitions. He spent so much time customizing his vaporizer than he eventually forget about smoking altogether.