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In Desert Companion's March issue, due out any moment — stake out your favorite Jamba Juice or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf now! — staff writer Heidi Kyser examines vaping, also known as e-cigarettes, the buzzy alternative to smoking. (Vape lounges are puffing up everywhere.) As part of her research she tried it herself. Her account:

I examine the guy across the counter from me at Las Vegas Vape Lounge — bad teeth, double-aught ear gauges, trucker cap reading, “I (heart) Haters” — and chicken out.

“No, thanks,” I say, declining his offer to let me try vaping, no charge.

Massive intrepid-reporter fail. I blame the guy, Matt, for springing this on me unexpectedly. It’s my first day reporting a story on e-cigarettes and my first time in a vape lounge, period. I was only planning to check out the scene … not get crazy with the nicotine.

The real reason, though, is my reputation as a health-conscious vegetarian, recreational cyclist and part-time yoga teacher. What would my students and biking buddies (not to mention my nieces and nephews on Facebook) say if they saw a pillar of clean living such as me sucking up a bunch of nasty chemicals?

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They’d be less shocked than my friends from L.A., that’s for sure. Unlike most people, I gave up vices when I moved to Las Vegas, rather than making a second career of them. Going out late, overeating and -drinking, smoking, sleeping late — some people associate such excesses with Sin City. For me, they conjure up visions of West Hollywood.

Still, I’m a professional. After a couple weeks of stewing in the fog of e-cigarettes, I face facts: My story won’t be complete until I see what all the fuss is about for myself. So, I carefully plan my foray into vaping. I track down a spot favored by Yelpers, Yosi Vapor Lounge, which is credited with being newbie-friendly. And I recruit Desert Companion photographer Brent Holmes to come along, which is both comforting and mortifying. My smoking will be memorialized in pictures, but at least I won’t be going in the place alone.

Following a crash-course in vape devices and accessories, Yosi’s head of social media, Alan Phu, asks if I’m ready to give it a try. Sure, I say. Hook me up.

As I muster my resolve and straighten my hair for the camera, he explains that he’ll be loading a variable voltage unit, the favored model for beginners (mechanical mods are for aficianados). Based on my preference for fruit flavors, he’ll go with an apricot-flavored juice.

“What’s the nicotine content?” I ask.

“Zero,” he says.

What? I feel a whiff of indignation — not because I won’t experience the effects of the drug, but because I can tell Phu thinks I’m not up to it.

“We always give nonsmokers zero-percent samples,” he explains. Okay, that makes sense; if I’m not a nicotine user anyway, then I won’t know the difference. The insulted part of me gives way to the health nut, and I breathe a sigh of relief.

Then comes the actual puff. Phu shows me how to moisten the coil, sets the device on 4.2 out of 5 and tells me to take a big drag – but not too big. I obey, and velvety steam rolls down my throat, warming my upper chest. I get a split-second taste of apricot streudel, and exhale. Brent fires off click after click as I take a second drag, then a third.

That’s when the hint of chemical burn hits my throat. Something smells funny — like apricots soaked in lighter fluid. Phu says I might not have gotten enough juice in the coil. He examines the vape, asking if I want to try again. No, I’m all set. We thank him, gather our equipment and head out.

The burn in my throat worsens over the afternoon and doesn’t finally dissipate for a couple of days. And that’s not the only reason I won’t vape again. Having given it a try, I sort of get the appeal, but it doesn’t seem justified by the cost.

Maybe I’m too old or too healthy. Maybe I’m just cheap. Either way, vaping won’t be the vice that ruins my virtuous Vegas reputation.

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