I gave up smoking a while ago and I have been thinking about this for a while now. I think it’s fair to say that Vaping has a perception problem. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. Too many people don’t understand it, or simply see it as an alternative form of smoking as opposed to the safe/safer alternative to smoking that it is.
I have only been Vaping since September and I have already lost count of the times I have had to explain what it is and why it is different to smoking, so I can only imagine it is the same for other Vapers.
I even adjusted my behaviour to accommodate other peoples perceptions. Let me give a small example: My friend owns a bar here in Frankfurt and it is a non-smoking bar (smoking bars are still legal in Germany). However, as Vaping is not bundled in with smoking here, he allows people to Vape in the pub. I was still going outside with the smokers though as, unfortunately, from a distance vapour looks like smoke and we had a few people see me in the corner with “smoke” being produced and assumed it was a smoking bar. My going outside with the smokers had the effect of reinforcing the idea that Vaping and Smoking are somehow connected. I no longer Vape outside.
Because of this perception and the (conspiracy theory alert) “news” articles with old/not researched/misinformed (and in some cases downright lies) information that, and I have zero evidence mind you, could conceivably come from Tobacco companies, Vaping is seen as flavoured smoking or a portable Shisha (also tobacco btw).
I think that we need to separate Vaping from Smoking. I mean, other than the way vapour and smoke look from a distance, they are entirely different. What we run through our tanks could be bought from a supermarket (nicotine additives aside, assuming you add nicotine, which a lot of people don’t). One of the biggest ways I think we could help this separation is to stop referring to Vape devices as E-Cigarettes and the Vape Industry as the E-Cigarette Industry.
There has been a lot of fuss recently, and rightly so mind you, about the IQOS (Heat not Burn) Device as it basically contains filterless cigarettes as refills. As it doesn’t burn, it can be argued it’s not smoke that is being produced and the manufacturer can make the argument that it is a part of the E-Cigarette scene. It uses electricity to heat up the “cartridge” after all.
And this, is where I think the issue is with everyone using E-Cig as a term. It minimises the differences and perpetuates the idea that Vaping is linked to Smoking. It allows manufacturers to play with the term and find ways to get into the “E-Cig” market with devices that are then seen as legitimate alternatives to Smoking.
Vapers talk about harm reduction and being less dangerous..the problem is, so are these other devices, it’s just the degree of reduction and how much less that is the real issue. Most studies that have been carried out so far, show Vaping as being up to 95% less harmful than a cigarette. Presumably, studies will also show that the IQOS is “less harmful than a cigarette” too, just not 95% less. It could be 1%, it would still be true.
Vapers are generally well informed about Vaping. For most of us, it is a hobby (regardless of our original motives for switching to Vaping) and people with hobbies tend to get into their hobby in a big way. It’s unreasonable for us to expect people that don’t Vape to bother doing the research and being informed in the same way, so we need to help them and distance Vaping from Smoking entirely.
I’ll end up rambling and repeating myself, but I think it’s something to think about.
TLDR: E-Cig Name Bad – Vape Name Good
The other Vaping related topic I have been thinking about is this idea that Vaping is somehow a gateway to smoking. I think that this is party down to the connections and perceptions I mentioned above, but I think it stems from so many Smokers trying Vaping and then, for one reason or other, going back. This somehow means that Vaping is a gateway. My take on this is very simple…what the fuck are you talking about?
Do you see drinking milkshake as a gateway to beer? Maybe apple juice as an introduction to cider? The idea that someone, even a young someone, will choose to stop vaping their favourite Jam on Toast (nicotine free btw, because Nicotine additives are only for ex-smokers who are already addicted to nicotine) and move over to buying packs of Benson and Hedges is patently ridiculous. Vaping is a one-way street.
I realise that it is a fashion thing right now for kids, they are impressed by cloud chaser tricks and the massive variety of cool flavours out there. There definitely needs to be careful consideration of packaging and legislation controlling quality from a safety perspective. Vaping is no different to any food product that is ingested in that regard. But please, stop the misinformation and learn to provide people with the correct information. I would much rather that my kids felt comfortable coming to me and getting good information on what they should be buying/avoiding, how to take care of their batteries properly, coil safety etc than risk them following a fashion thing on their own, in secret, with zero understanding (or worse, crowdsourced understanding from friends).
I think that ended up being more of a commentary on parenting techniques than I intended, but the point is still valid. I think my overriding thoughts to this entire post is one of perception and information. We need to ensure that the correct information is out there and we need to avoid lumping Vaping in with Smoking.