Apr 21 - The UK's first electronic cigarette coffee shop allows ''vapers'' to drink a coffee, buy an e-cigarette and smoke it. It's the latest business in an industry which has grown to $2 billion globally in the last decade, and big tobacco firms are also getting involved. But as Joanna Partridge, regulation may be on the way.
Smokers may have thought these days were long gone. Vape Lab's the UK's first coffee shop which sells electronic cigarettes and allows customers to smoke them. City workers Pierre Durand and Jonathan Cadeilhan set it up. SOUNDBITE: Pierre Durand, Co-founder of Vape Lab, saying (English): "Jonathan goes regularly to Paris and completely saw it was booming, there's loads of shops over there." Many e-cigarette users buy online. Vape Lab lets customers try out different battery-powered devices, and sample different flavours of nicotine-infused vapors. SOUNDBITE: Jonathan Cadeilhan, Co-founder of Vape Lab, saying (English): "We're not rebranding anything, but what they prefer is the customer experience, to try, so for that they're ready to pay maybe the fifty cent extra after the shipment." The World Health Organisation, and national authorities, are deciding how to regulate e-cigarettes. They're worried they may make smoking socially acceptable again. SOUNDBITE: Mark Bowles, E-cigarette buyer, saying (English): "Just to try and stop the smoke going in to me, I still probably, the nicotine hopefully it will wear off and then I can quit altogther." SOUNDBITE: Annie Oelmann, E-cigarette smoker, saying (English): "I just wanted to have an alternative that was a lot healthier, but still provided the needs." PTC It's still legal to smoke e-cigarettes in public places in the UK, for now at least. There are already an estimated one and a half million vapers in Britain, and it's a number that's growing all the time. Tobacco companies are hoping they'll compensate for falling sales of traditional cigarettes in western markets. Britain's Imperial Tobacco the latest to announce it's shutting factories in the UK and France. GFX Europe's biggest cigarette maker, British American Tobacco, makes the Vype e-cigarette. Imperial Tobacco has Puritane. And Philip Morris plans to launch a new range of products later this year. Smaller companies were ahead of the game. The industry's already worth $2 billion, says Shane MacGuill, a tobacco analyst at Euromonitor. SOUNDBITE: Shane MacGuill, Tobacco analyst, Euromonitor, saying (English): "They're using their own resources, using their own technology to develop products which are effective for consumers. So that's why there's a number of smaller companies. The other one is more prosaic reason, and that's because the vast majority of these products are manufactured in bulk in China, and it's very, very easy for someone to set up their own electronic cigarette company." Regulation will be a key challenge for all e-cigarette makers. Pierre and Jonathan aren't worried. Their customer numbers are growing - and if there is a ban, they'll keep their cafe and send the smokers outside.