The Problem With Vaping

Why is it fucking impossible to find a reliable vapor store?

Back in August, I quit smoking. It was just after Monte was diagnosed with cancer–an aggressive cancer that took him from totally healthy to dead in just a few months. I had tried quitting before and had tried out a vapor device, but the liquid that I had was harsh, brutal, and unpleasant. I assumed that was true of all e-cigarettes and found my Newports to be much better.

You’ll notice I don’t speak of “vaping.” No, and I never will, because, of all the dumbassery I’ve encountered in my life, the word “vaping” is up there with Donald Trump’s statement that Mexicans are rapists. I do not “vape.” I use a vapor device. It may take more time to say, but I feel a lot less stupid. To be specific, I use a vapor device to inhale flavored nicotine liquid.

Juice.

I have also never called it “juice.” Why would I? Who would? Is there a word that is more gross than the word “juice”? You can’t even say it without saying the word “ew.”

That’s someone’s bit. I don’t know whose. I know I’ve heard it before, but I only just now remembered it. It’s something I feel independently, though–the word sounds gross and disgusting. I think of pimple juice when I hear the word–it’s just a gross, disgusting word. It’s probably married to “ooze,” in fact.

So among the things you will never hear me say, “I vape juice” is in the top ten. Unless I’m tagging a blog post, in which case I’ll use it because “Should I use a vapor device” won’t show up in search results as often as “should I start vaping” will…

Anyway, the store that I bought it from evidently didn’t care about long-term customer retention, because the crap they sold me was awful, and I never gave it much consideration because of that. When I was in Vegas, I got some that was actually smooth, but it was hard to get past the notion I already had in my head that using a vapor was an unpleasant, harsh experience. Still, once Monte was diagnosed I was inspired to give it another go, and the bottle of liquid that I got happened to be fucking incredible.

I told them I wanted “menthol.”

“We can put some Mountain Dew flavor in there and top it off with some menthol!” they suggested.

“No,” I replied. “Just menthol.”

“Are you sure? Like we can put a tobacco flavor in there, mix in some raspberry, and then add just a touch of menth–”

“No,” I interrupted. “Just menthol.

“Why don’t you sit down at our Flavor Bar? We can go through and you can try our champagne flavored one with just a hint of orange and–”

“Just menthol, goddamnit, why is that so hard for you to understand?”

I have yet to go to a new vapor store and not have to deal with that. It’s universal. The idea that someone would want “Just menthol” is something they evidently cannot comprehend. “You mean you don’t want this thing that you’re going to be sucking down somewhere around 300 times a day to taste like fruit and candy???”

No. I want it to taste like something I won’t get sick of. I wouldn’t want to eat a strawberry-flavored piece of candy 300 times a day. Who the hell would? How the hell am I a minority?

Today I watched a guy in one of these stores order a flavor that, no shit, was more than ten other flavors mixed together. Jesus Christ, what an asshole. I don’t know why that made him an asshole, but it did. And I was speechless as I watched the guy behind the counter add one flavor after the other. It reminded me of the idiots at fast food places who mix Dr. Pepper with Orange Fanta and things like that. How much do you hate yourself?

I can’t stand the vibe that they create in these places. Actually, the one I’m frequenting now isn’t like that–it’s a regular place of business. But vapor stores seem to think that they fall somewhere between Tattoo Shop and Coffee Shop, and they’re similarly full of hipsters and posers. Now, to give you some context for that statement, I went to the vapor store this morning wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt and a pair of black Tripp pants with chains and shit all over them. I have no patience for hipsters or posers, and tattoo shops are flooded with posers while coffee shops are filled with hipsters. When you mix those to together, you just have a popster, or a hoser. Go to one of these places some time–you’ll see exactly what I mean.

When I walk into one of these places of business to do business, it irritates me to see a bunch of 20 year olds hanging around like it’s “the place to be.” It doesn’t irritate me, actually, but it can–generally, I just laugh later about how big a loser one has to be to freaking hang out at a vapor store. I mean, really? You guys don’t have anything better to do?

Sometimes, though, it’s irritating, because… eyes tend to turn on me. Whether I’m there as Aria or my male persona (I’ve never gone to a vapor store as Aria), I generate stares. The gigantic pants, eyeliner, and black fingernail polish might have something to do with it. But these are the posers who confused the vapor store for a tattoo shop, remember? Why are they staring at me like they’ve never seen a dude in eyeliner with tattoos before? Because they’re not just posers–they’re hipsters, too, which doesn’t leave them room to understand someone like me.

I swear one day I walked into one of these stores and no less than five people stopped what they were doing and just fucking stared at me. Five people hanging out there, friends with the dude who worked there, just stared at me. It was horrendously uncomfortable, and I handled it the way I usually handle such things: I told them they were number one and left. I haven’t been back to that store since. If they’re going to chase away customers by letting obnoxious people hang out there and stare at paying customers, then I’m not going to return.

The store that I initially used went more than a month without having any menthol. They blatantly lied to me on one occasion, and tried tricking me into thinking they’d given me something called “Triple Menthol” the time was there previously. Whether they’d confused me for someone else (highly unlikely, see above) or were just trying to convince me that I wouldn’t like Triple Menthol (which, despite its name, tastes nothing like menthol) (on that note, it’s worth pointing out that Newport Beach, which they also like to try to sale, has absolutely no relation to Newport the cigarette, and the concept that these two unrelated things share a name but don’t taste even remotely similar is something the average fuckwad can’t grasp)–

You may have noticed that I have a very low opinion of humanity.

Anyway, once they did finally get menthol back in stock, they were out of 24mg. Fucking god. For a month, they didn’t have my flavor, and then they didn’t have my nicotine level? How do they think they can run a business when they can’t keep basic things stocked? So I got 12mg instead. And lo and behold, I got home and realized… this shit was Triple Menthol. I know that, because Triple Menthol is brown, and all the menthol I’d gotten previously was clear. And the Triple Menthol they told me they’d given me before (when they hadn’t) was also brown. So they lied–they still didn’t have menthol in, and to add to their pitiful shenanigans they were out of what is probably the most requested mg.

I left them a scathing review on Google Stores or whatever it’s called, and continued shopping around. Strangely, I seem to be incapable of buying two bottles of the smooth liquid back-to-back. If I go once, get menthol 24mg, and it’s smooth, then returning to that same store and getting that same thing will invariably result in a different product coming home with me, and it will be harsh. After a few days with it, I’ll have realized that I’m up to smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes a day (because I continue to smoke 2-3 cigarettes a day anyway), and I’ll realize that it’s because the liquid is like charcoal and sandpaper in vapor form. So I’ll set it aside and go to a vapor store, buy another bottle, and usually it will be correct and smooth.

No matter what I say to the people working there, it doesn’t seem to matter. I had a long conversation with the guy there today, because I had to set aside another vial of the shit this morning, when I woke up and had no cigarettes. That didn’t make any sense–how did I already smoke an entire pack of cigarettes? I took one hit of my vapor and realized–because the last liquid I bought was like fucking sandpaper in liquid form. So I went, explained things to the guy, and he said he’d try to mix it in a way that wasn’t harsh–it has something to do with the two bases they use–PG and VG–and blah blah, I don’t care because I don’t work in a vapor store and have better shit to do with my time than learn about it.

He tried, but shortly after I got home, I realized that this bottle, too, is too harsh. I was hoping that, due to the way vapor devices are designed, that the filter inside simply still had some of the old, harsh juice in it–which it would, immediately following a refill. I hoped that continuing to use it would get rid of the old crap and get this new, hopefully-smooth stuff in. Alas, I’ve now emptied that tank and the harshness remains.

This is exactly why vapor stores are constantly going under. Lack of supply is one thing, and you guys seriously have to work that issue out. But an equally big problem–and, perhaps, an even bigger problem–is the absolute lack of consistency in the quality of your products. It seemed for a while that every Small bottle I bought was fine, but every Large bottle I got ended up being wasted because it was too harsh. I honestly have six Large bottles of this liquid in a drawer, and it’s garbage–it’s trash, unusable. It’s just too damned harsh. No other word describes it. It’s just fucking harsh.

That’s well over $80 just pissed away. While that’s less money burned than would have been lost if I’d quit smoking, I’ve also had to deal with the harshness, the frustration of trying in vain to find a store that could reliably mix the shit. I don’t have to worry about that with cigarettes. When I buy a pack of Newports, I know exactly how it’s going to hit, I know exactly how it’s going to taste, and I know exactly how it’s going to feel going down. It’s not a fucking guessing game, where this pack of cigarettes might be smooth, but that one might be like trying to stand in a burning building and take a deep breath.

It’s so bad and so frustrating that I’m almost willing to just give up and go back to smoking completely. At least then I wouldn’t have to deal with unreliable suppliers, questionable stores, inconsistent quality, people gawking at me like they’re Amish kids who just stepped into a city for the first time, and never knowing if what I’m buying is going to be worth a damn.

Why is it so difficult? Evidently, the flavors come pre-mixed 50/50 PG/VG, and the 24mg has a slightly higher PG content. I’m told that a higher VG content will burn out coils faster but I don’t care about that. A $2 coil every few weeks versus continually sucking down sandpaper. You tell me which you’d choose. The guy told me that if he went light on the flavor, then it wouldn’t upset the balance much, but I’ve also had issues with that. In fact, the last time I visited the store to which I gave that review on Google, the primary complaint I leveled against them was that the bottle of stuff tasted like vegetable oil.

It took me a while to identify the flavor, but this was before I knew anything about the PG/VG thing. At first, I thought it was lightly strawberry flavored, but it certainly wasn’t menthol. It was smooth, sure, but the flavor was horrendous. They couldn’t seriously expect that I was going to use that crap for two weeks, could they? As I continued to try–because I’d just thrown down $10 on the junk, and they have a large “No Refunds” sign to excuse the bullshit they’re selling people–I also continued to try and identify the flavor, and I settled on vegetable oil. When I complained on Facebook and a friend mentioned how it’s made, it made perfect sense. They had barely put any flavor in.

What. fucking. assholes.

I’ve got a pack of Newports sitting on the desk in front of me, and I’m holding my vapor device. Because I genuinely don’t want to smoke any longer. It’s a waste of freaking money. Using the vapor device is a hell of a lot cheaper–not as cheap as they imply, but it’s definitely cheap enough. And I’ve already burned through like six packs of cigarettes this week because of this harsh liquid. I went to the vapor store today in an attempt to solve that freaking problem, and the result…

…is another bottle of harsh, unusable liquid.

This is ridiculous. It has long passed the point of absurdity. Across no less than six vapor stores, I have yet to find a single one that can consistently sell me a quality product. It is a problem that is clearly endemic to “vaping” as a whole, and not to any of these particular stores (the one I criticized drew my ire by lying to me, point blank), and it is one that needs to be resolved. It’s time for a Philip Morris of Vaping to rise, industrialize the process, and provide the consistency of quality that is allowed through industrialization. It’s great to think that real, small-time individuals can mix the liquids in a way that is better than any conglomerate ever could, but that’s clearly false. Even after a lengthy conversation, individuals are simply incapable of delivering the quality I expect.

And I know it’s possible, despite what the guy today implied, because that very store has sold me perfect bottles of liquid before. I don’t know why it’s so fucking hard for them to do. Maybe if they stopped eyeballing it and brought out some measured droppers, syringes, measuring cups, and other instruments they could deliver the quality I expect.

This is something I just realized. It almost certainly is the problem–they are eyeballing it. I have never gone into a vapor store and watched them carefully measure out an x mL portion of this, a y mL portion of that. And that’s what leads to the inconsistency. It’s always getting estimated–they just stop when it “looks about right.”

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