The Vape Meet Scene: L.A. Vapers Club


L.A. Vapers Club Founder Proves Grassroots Efforts Grow Branches

By Alyssa Stahr

Photos by Mits Yamahata

Vape shops are popping up on every corner nowadays; however, it wasn’t so long ago that we lived in a time where there were no resources, no one to share ideas with, no advice on what to do as a first-time vaper. So, what’s a determined newbie to do? If you’re Darrin Gold, you blaze a trail.

Gold was getting sicker and sicker by the day after 27 years of smoking two packs a day. Living in a second story condominium even proved to be difficult, as walkingup and down stairs left him out of breath. He always had a chest infection, a sinus infection or an ear problem.

Around December of 2010, he started hearing about a thing called an electronic cigarette. He walked into a 7-11 to buy his trusty pack of American Spirit Ultra Lights, thinking this may be the cigarette that didn’t kill him. The c-store’s counter featured a sandwich board frame with three-piece e-cigs, which sent Gold on a path of change.

Gold bought the Xhale 02 disposable, with little plastic cartridges that opened at the bottom with foil in the middle. Screw on the atomizer at the bottom, poke a hole in the foil and heat would get through inside of the cartridge. Today, we laugh if you get 200 puffs out of a disposable, and each one was like a cigarette to Gold—it was terrible. But, he bought it for $20 anyway, and hasn’t smoked a cigarette since that day.

“It’s because I was ready. Like any other addiction, e-cigs will work if you want them to,” Gold said. “We hear so many stories about dual users. If you aren’t ready, you aren’t ready.”

Gold’s journey with his $20 gadget wasn’t easy. He got more juice than vapor in his mouth, but he was determined to make it work until he found something better. He tried to find cartridges better than those in the 7-11, started researching and found the ECigarette Forum.

“It’s because I was ready. Like any other addiction, e-cigs will work if you want them to,” Gold said. “We hear so many stories about dual users. If you aren’t ready, you aren’t ready.”

He’d heard of it and decided that he was hell bent on not going back to cigarettes, even though the patch, gum, lozenges and hypnosis had failed miserably.

“I got a rash from the patch, headaches from the gum, the lozenges are just disgusting. No one should’ve even made the things,” he said.

After about a month on the cartomizers from Green Smoke, everything started to go away. Gold’s chest and ears cleared, and he could breathe better. Almost every health problem he had went away. His doctor was shocked and asked if he quit smoking. He didn’t know what the e-cig was, so Gold explained what he’d been doing. “He said, ‘I don’t know if it’s any good, but it’s working.’” 

Several months passed in Gold’s area of Southern California. From San Diego to Santa Barbara, there were no local resources. Gold found no one who vaped that lived anywhere near him. However, that didn’t mean that they didn’t exist. He knew there had to be someone; he wanted to meet people and share his excitement.

“I finally found something that worked after 27 years of smoking, and I wanted to share it,” he said. “There were some devices coming out of China, eGos started showing up, people were making their own mods—I wanted to see some of that. I knew people were making their own liquids [from the ECig Forum], and I wanted to know how to do that.”

Finally, Gold, who now switches back and forth between the pink (he’s a married man but said that he loves his pink, and pink is the new black) ELeaf iStick and the Provari P3, took action. He discovered three clubs in the entire country at that time: the NY Vapers Club, the Long Island Vapers Club and the Windy City Vapers Club in Chicago.

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Since nothing was formed in his neck of the woods, he started a social vapers club thread on ECF, asking if anyone wanted to get together at a local restaurant.

“They [the current clubs] met once or twice a year. I couldn’t get anyone to respond to the L.A. Vapers Club, but I said, ‘We’re gonna get together at Casey’s; if you want to get together—come,’” Gold said.

The first official L.A. Vapers Club meet did indeed happen at Casey’s Irish Pub on April 16, 2011. To Gold’s surprise, 35 people came. Some were vendors making liquid and selling it online. Not only did vapers hang out, but Gold began emailing vendors for a sample juice giveaway at every gathering on the second Saturday of each month. As the Southern California vape scene started to grow and more shops began to open, Gold invited those vendors into the fold. Now, 99 percent of what comes into the club is local.

“We get the manufacturers; we get the liquid vendors and store owners, and it’s become even bigger than I ever expected. It’s the perfect environment for social and networking,” he said.

The L.A. Vapers Club isn’t just a party, though. It’s more organized with structure, and not with “half naked women trying to sell bottles of juice.” Since the meets are held in public places, some members even bring their kids, and the club eats, raffles off prizes and talks about advocacy. However, the club isn’t too formal—there are no dues and no secretary. It’s a healthy mix of social networking and advocacy.

“What we do is different, and not in a negative way or positive. Greg Conley [from the American Vapor Association] has come all the way out to us to speak. I try to infuse as much advocacy as I can. But, it is a sports bar, and people are having a nice time. Sometimes it’s hard to get their attention,” Gold said.

As time passed, Gold needed help. He appointed his first board member, Lisa Kellett from Villain Vapors.

“For the first maybe year and a half, we had 60 to 70 people every month. We got to a point to where we get 100, 150 now, and it got to be too much for me just setting up,” Gold said.

Good samaritans who arrived to the meet early started volunteering to help set up, and Kellett was one of the first. Gold asked her if she wanted to be on the board, and she immediately said yes. However, that left all decision-making votes to a tie. The board had to grow.

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Gold added three more people—two store owners and a juice vendor—to add a mix of interests onto the board.

“The board is a good representation of the industry on how we handle things like the press. We discuss things and we kick it around, and we’re a democracy,” Gold said. “I didn’t want to be the one who made the decisions for everybody. I want vapers to have a voice, even if it may be the wrong one.”

Advocacy efforts of the L.A. Vapers Club are endless. California always has something going on in terms of legislation, and even though the club has worked hard to “knock a few things down,” they seem to keep coming back on the docket.

“They just advanced a bill to the state assembly. Our bigger thing is almost every city in our county in California has jumped on this bandwagon. Cities are falling left and right. Some are really strict, but that’s a small number,” Gold said. “Some are doing the easiest thing, adding e-cigs to the smoking ordinances, and they are covered. The towns will say, ‘Now we’re not the only ones, we’re just in the mainstream and doing what everybody else is doing.’” and the L.A. Vapers Club work together, holding fundraisers at about four to five meets a year to raise money for CASAA and SFATA. Gold said that the state of California has spent more than $7 million for television commercials that are blatant lies about the vaping industry. The L.A. Vapers Club also works with its sister clubs in Orange County and San Diego, and the newest club in Antelope Valley.

“We try to coordinate via social media. One thing that’s tricky for us in SoCal is that it’s not easy to get hundreds of people to Northern California, where all the legislation is going on. It’s to their benefit— they’ll [legislation] schedule a meeting, everyone will travel there and then they’ll cancel it,” Gold said.

Even though legislation may feel like a losing battle, Gold truly has made a difference in not only his community’s lives, but in his own. A man who was more than 300 lbs. (due to his love of cookies, cakes and pies) now gets his sweets fix from liquids, resulting in a 70-lb. weight loss. Even though he’s created this huge legacy in SoCal, he said that he’s embarrassed by the vape scene he’s founded.

“I’m thoroughly embarrassed. The reason why is I know I’ve done some incredible things to help the vaping community, but I’ve never done anything for the vaping community for notoriety or attention,” he said. “I do it because I want to help people get better. I do look back and see what it was like to be the only vaper that I knew. And that I brought 35 people together—to know that I facilitate that—it wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t show up too.

All I did was provide a space for people to do what they can do on their own. When we do it together, we have a positive, which breeds positive when we do it together.”

For more information, visit To see more of Mits Yamahata’s photography, visit or email



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