Dharm Patel tries out some of his vaping products at his Haven Rd store. Photo: Charles Anderson.

‘Vape’ culture on the rise

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Dave Smith started smoking when he was 17-years-old. He spent the next 40 years trying to quit but never could. Now, on the brink of 60 and after a lifetime on the ocean as a fisherman, he has only just found relief.

After taking up vaping this time last year, he has not had a cigarette for 12 months.

“I was at sea working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All we would do is smoke and drink to stay awake.”

He would also spend a small fortune. Now he is a convert.

“It definitely works.”

‘Vape’ culture is on the rise in Nelson with various stores popping up in the city. The term refers to e-cigarettes, which uses a battery-operated machine that heats up nicotine-infused fluid that is then converted into vapour.

Haven Rd Store owner Dharm Patel says that he has long advocated e-cigarette use and first sold them in 2008. However, more recently he has seen the rise in their popularity.

“It’s just cheaper and safer than smoking. For people who want to stop then it is really helpful.”

In October, The Ministry of Health said e-cigarettes could help people to quit smoking, and could be a valuable tool to achieving the ministry’s goal of New Zealand becoming smoke free by 2025.

“When used as intended, e-cigarettes pose no risk of nicotine poisoning to users … [and] release negligible levels of nicotine and other toxicants into ambient air with no identified health risks to bystanders,” it said in a statement.

However, many café and restaurants still treat e-cigarettes as normal smoking and ban it.

Dharm says Nelson is still new to vaping but says it is no surprise to see more shops popping up to sell them. To get a full set up can cost anything between $30 to $200.

Some people use vaping to give up smoking, others just like the taste.

“We call them ‘cloud chasers’.”

All Dave Smith knows is that he feels much better than when he smoked all day.

“You’re not waking up in the morning thinking ‘Christ I need a smoke’.”

His partner Diana Weinlich says it also means she is not kicking Dave out of bed to sleep on the couch due to his sleep apnoea.

However, she warns that going cold turkey can be difficult.

Other smokers spoken to by the Nelson Weekly, however, say that e-cigarettes are a poor substitute and one even expressed scepticism that smoking cigarettes was bad for your health.

The Ministry of Health says half of all long-term smokers will die from a smoking-related disease and around 5000 people die each year in New Zealand because of smoking or second-hand smoke exposure.