Pix and Words by PASHMINA BINWANI
Smack right in the middle of Asia and Europe, the Caucasus region is a relatively new home to a steadily growing vape culture.
Unknown to many, and overlooked by others, Tblisi, Georgia, the largest capital in the Caucasus region has seen much change since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the new generation has played a role in the changing vape scene.
If you think about it, though, it’s no surprise to see a thriving vape scene in this part of the world.
The influences run large across the border lines. Bounded on the north by Russia, on the south by Turkey and Armenia and on the east by Azerbajian, it is interesting to note the various influences and rituals that Georgia has grown to adopt.
The demand for flavours, quality and affordability, on top of its strategic location, makes the vape culture in Georgia truly memorable. There’s definitely a sharp increase in the vaping market as evidenced by the growing number of vape shops and lounges across the country, which are filled with fruity flavours and various imports from Germany and Russia.
According to a study conducted in 2012, about 30 per cent of the country smoked but one would assume that number might have decreased. In the last few years, online stores, shopping mall boutiques and shops dedicated to selling and distributing e-cigarettes, e-liquids and other related accessories have mushroomed across the country.
Discovering a new world
Paata Tsivadze, who owns Corsair World Georgia says that he has seen the vape culture grow in two years.
“A friend in Russia introduced me to the vape lifestyle and I saw the potential and definitely a way out from the cigarette lifestyle, so I thought why not,” said Tsivadze.
“Not only that, the subculture and growing trend amongst the community of Georgians and other European counterparts clearly shows that vaping is here to stay.”
The place operates both as a lounge and a shop with various vape experts as staff to help each individual make their vape journey a pleasant one. Whether it is vaping for the first time or sharing vape tips, each new customer is welcomed and educated on the benefits and advantages of vaping.
“The vape lounges and comfortable vibes are what leads us to be a community of sorts. For a newbie vape user who has zero understanding in vaping, we give vape how-to’s and educate them and emphasise to them that it is not just a hobby but a health choice,” said Tsivadze.
“In just two years, we will have 10 or 12 shops and see growth every six months. I am certainly confident of the e-cigarette and vape industry. But looking back, it is great to note that when I first opened in 2014, we sold 50,000 e-liquids. That’s something!” said Tsivadze.
A lifestyle to learn about
Tsivadze’s staff are young smokers in their early 20’s who have grown to know the ins and outs of vaping and are accustomed to the usual vape practices like cloud chasing, among others. They are even able to perform vape tricks like the Tornado.
(The Tornado involves the vape user creating a pool of smoke and using his finger to create spirals that form mini tornadoes.)
“At 7pm on Friday, we have a vape gathering where many of us come together to hang out at the lounge area. Tricks, cool stuff, updates and the desire to learn more about the vape lifestyle are discussed here. It’s a friendly atmosphere,” said Iza, who works at Corsair World Georgia.
“We talk endlessly about our favourite vape flavours. From women to men, there is no gender bias. We love our flavours and with the help of communities like the Georgian Vapers Federation group on Facebook, it is easy,” added Iza.
A frequent vape user, Iza said she used to spend US$4 in a day when she was smoking cigarettes, but now it is US$4 a week and it feels more calming and easy on the nose.
Like your local coffee shop
At about noon, customers walk into the vape shop during their work break and take a seat at the lounge area. Some customers go straight to selecting their favourite e-liquids, while others ask for recommendations with the aim of keeping themselves updated on the latest vape flavours.
It’s almost like a café where you order your customised or favourite drink and get the latest scoop on what’s happening.
To promote a cigarette-free lifestyle, the shop has a poster indicating the thousands of chemicals one can find in a cigarette. Quirky show pieces displaying a big no-no to the cigarette lifestyle are also part of the unique design pieces in the vape shop at Georgia.
“Wherever I go, I try to spread the knowledge of vaping. I even give out free vape devices for new users to try it out. I really want to ensure they know that there are alternatives out there to cigarette smoking. Especially for families or fathers who have children, like myself, it makes a marked difference,” said Tsivadze.
While the industry needs to be regulated, a set of standards and universal guidelines are in the works and Georgia, at the balcony of Europe, is optimistic about the future of the e-cigarette industry. Countless studies have shown that vaping is 95 per cent safer than smoking.
As the owner of Corsair World Georgia, Tsivadze is confident that as long as it is right and has served as an innovative way to live a balanced life, there is no reason to say no to vaping. After all, it’s good to have a choice and an alternative in the market for people to make the right call of action.
To a new year and new beginnings, we have heard about the up and coming vape lifestyle in the Caucasus, tell us what is it like in your part of the world.