The room is hazy, smoke swirls in the air, and clouds of vape puff from all directions of the room. Some people are practicing and others just blowing smoke, but there is an energy in the room. Everyone is waiting for the competition to start. The announcer booms over the speaker and asks the stragglers to move away from the center of the room, and a circle ensues. A young man in a black baseball cap steps forward, and music begins to play. He starts blowing smoke rings to the beat of the music and pushes them away with his hands. This is the weekly qualifier competition and it happens every Friday at Vice Vapor lounge.

While competitions and vaping as a hobby have recently become more popular, one of the main reasons behind its success is its use as a vaporizers substitute for cigarettes. Vaping has been found by many to be not only cheaper than cigarettes but also healthier.

Rafe Patton is the manager at Vice Vapor, a vape store and lounge, in Bentonville. For Patton, vaping was not always a hobby, but a chance at a better lifestyle. He decided to quit smoking and look for a healthier alternative.

Vaping has helped with me being more active and wanting to smoke less, Patton said. It has helped me quit smoking and it is better for you.

After hurting his back, Patton was unable to continue working as a firefighter. He began working at Vice Vapor when he saw a sign for its opening, and has enjoyed being able to help people, he said. Since then, he has found vaping as not only a lifestyle, but a hobby as well. Patton has not touched a cigarette in four years, he said.

Other individuals have joined the vaping scene because of experiences similar to Patton such as wanting to quit smoking, this is the driving the force behind the hobby. Cullen Arrick, a sales associate for Vapor World in Fayetteville, also vapes as a hobby but decided to switch to vaping after he decided to quit smoking.

I never smoked cigarettes a lot, but I was into smoking pipes and cigars, Arrick said. I got tired of smoking all the time and smelling all the time.

Arrick has found from working with customers that reasons behind peoples drive to vape vary including those who want to look cool versus those who want to change, but the majority are those who want to breathe better, taste something better and feel better, he said.

Even though the mass majority of vapers vape to stop smoking, the population of hobby vapers is still increasing. One of the major reasons behind its popularity is cloud chasing, Fayetteville vaper Josh Miller said.

Quitting smoking is what got me into it, Miller said. Seeing those giant clouds people can produce is what really caught my eye.

The scene for vaping is growing and more people are starting to become interested in switching, Arrick said. Cloud competitions are one of the biggest vape competitions nationwide, and Northwest Arkansas has hosted its fair share. Vice Vapor is not only a retail store, but a place for vapers to relax, hang out and compete.

Cloud competitions and trick competitions are hosted every Friday night at the lounge. These are known as weekly qualifier competitions. The object of the competitions is to see who is able to blow out the most vapor, and contestants are judged on the density, distance and volume of the vape cloud. The distance takes most of the weight on the judging, Patton said. Arrick from Vapor World has worked several competitions but does not compete in them.

I work a lot of competitions, Arrick said. I make the builds for a lot of them, you have to build and wick the coils for the devices in the cloud competition.

The competitions are a hangout spot and are usually a place for people to show off their latest techniques, skills and catch up with friends. Some competitions have groups that participate in teams. People share knowledge and teach each other, Patton said.

There is a full technique to keep a cloud out and keep it dense, Patton said. Its one of those competitions that are friendly, we have music blaring, lasers going we turn it into a whole cloud party.

Weekly qualifier participants compete on a point system to win points, and are also able to challenge someone to take away points. The result is a monthly event that allows the top three people who have accumulated the most points to posted on the most wanted list and are able to get into the monthly competition for free, Patton said.

Before people began vaping as a hobby, we didnt hold very many competitions, Patton said.

Cloud and trick competitions are like any other competition there are judges and there are also rules. Atomizers must be 0.1 ohms resistance higher, according to the Vice Vapor website. This is to reduce any hazard to people or the competitors to make it safe for everyone, Patton said. A whole list of rules and regulations are listed on various websites, making sure that anyone who competes is well aware of the standards that apply.

The tricks and techniques in these competitions take time and practice, and are not for everyone, even those who enjoy it as a hobby.

Ive never participated in a vaping competition, Miller said. Mostly because its way out of my league. It takes a lot of practice and dedication to do what some of those guys do.