The Low-Down On E-Cigarettes And Why It Affects Asian Americans

A few years ago, I began hearing about vapes, or electronic cigarettes, and I saw my peers start to use them with the claim that they wanted to quit smoking. Naturally, I was extremely skeptical because I was against smoking, even if vapes were supposedly harmless. However, I noticed that many vape shops were opening around me and vaping was rapidly becoming some sort of trend.

You would not have expected me to work a part time summer job at a vape shop, now would you? Well, that’s exactly what I did the summer of 2013. Hearing about how passionate the new store-owners were about promoting a healthier lifestyle by “making the switch” and their own experiences with wanting to quit cigarette smoking opened my eyes and made me want to support their cause.


In June 2013, BZ Vapin’ had their grand opening in La Habra, California. I was stunned at how huge the event turned out to be as crowds of people filtered in and out of the store’s glass door. The store produced a chill, Hawaiian vibe since the owners had family members from the islands. This theme is actually quite fitting for a vape shop because, unfortunately, tobacco use is a major concern for the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community. In an effort to find a healthier alternative, they became one of the main consumers of vaping products.

According to the Asian Pacific Partners of Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL) in Oakland, California, tobacco is associated with heart disease, cancer and strokes. These are the top three killers of Asian Americans nationwide. In 2013, APPEAL conducted studies in Asian languages to accurately track smoking rates. Shockingly, the following groups revealed high smoking rates among men: Cambodian (13-58%), Korean (22-37%), Lao (32) and Vietnamese (24-41%).

Standard vaping pens called C-Twists are customizable from color to tank size.
Standard vaping pens are customizable from color to tank size.

So what exactly are vapes? Electronic cigarettes appeared in the marketplace in the early 2000s and were promoted as a cessation tool for those that wanted to quit tobacco smoking. Its use increased substantially over the last several years. Still, over a decade after the electronic cigarette’s first appearance, some doubt remains whether vaping is actually a healthier alternative to cigarettes and whether there are serious health risks.

In a recent issue of the journal Addiction, they reported that vapes have fewer toxins and at a significantly lower level, and found that switching over can help smokers quit or reduce cigarette consumption.

Vapes carry nicotine liquids or “juices” that typically contain propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, flavoring and nicotine. There are a variety of flavors, from natural and synthetic to organic fruit extracts. There are also different levels of nicotine that range from zero to 36 mg. This allows the consumer, if they desire, to gradually decrease their nicotine intake and perhaps eventually stop smoking or vaping altogether.


Aer juices (pronounced like "air") can be mixed to create your own flavor.
Aer juices (pronounced like “air”) can be mixed to create your own flavor.

“E-cig users are inhaling water-like vapor that is free of the tar and high levels of carcinogens that make cigarette smoking so dangerous,” says George Conley, President of the American Vaping Association. He also claims that the public has been misled into thinking that e-cigs are a threat to public health because of the fear that those who have never smoked will vape as first time users. Conley also argues that with the increase of vapor products, there is also a quicker decrease in cigarette sales. Why would anyone be against this?

A customer at BZ Vapin' in La Habra poses with one of the owners while sporting a shirt that says, "Vaping saved my life."
A customer at BZ Vapin’ in La Habra poses with one of the owners while sporting a shirt that says, “vaping saved my life.”

As someone who is anti-tabacco, I support vaping as a healthier alternative. Though I have never smoked tobacco, I have used a vape with juice that contained nicotine many times. Did I become a smoker? No. Am I addicted to vaping? Not at all. I don’t even own one and don’t crave using it. However, I don’t mind the pleasant fruity or dessert scents that comes from the vapor.

So the next time a pleasant smelling cloud comes your way, you’ll know you have nothing to worry about.

All photos courtesy of BZ Vapin’ on Facebook.