The Vaping Community

Posted 16th September 2014 by
Clive Bates, the public health advocate, has released an interesting essay on his blog. It is aimed squarely at the likes of Professor John Ashton, but is also of interest as it drills right into the core of what constitutes the vaping community and culture. It’s worth pulling out the bits that emphasise what makes us so similar and, more importantly, so different.

“Vaping is a recreational activity.”

We share our hobby, taking a legal recreational drug that consigns none of us to poverty, lives of crime or prostitution. In fact this drug of choice is safer and less harmful than alcohol. Alcohol claimed 8,367 lives in 2012 but to date no one has died in the UK from a vaping nicotine overdose and, bar a couple of poisoning scares, doesn’t get off the starting blocks when compared with the alcohol-related £21bn per year in healthcare, crime and lost productivity costs.

We personalise our vaping with the driptips, tanks and mods of our choosing, filling them with the juices that appeal the most to us. We claim ownership over our hobby with our individual stamps and seek inspiration from others, sharing as we go. With a much reduced harm to ourselves and negligible harm to others we feel indignation when told by those who cherry-pick data that we need controlling, legislating against and potentially criminalising.

“Vapers think you don’t understand this model – and you don’t care what the evidence says.”

Nothing binds individuals more than a sense of being victimised. We are written off when we complain at those who would do us down as being cranks, tobacco company shills or online bullies. We bore witness to the shenanigans in the European Parliament to get the 2014 Tobacco Products Directive passed; we saw it and we felt betrayed by the political process. We see a the global body responsible for public health distorting good science, supporting bad science and taking more interest in protecting their corporate identity than our future wellbeing.

“Many vapers are passionate about their experience: they have escaped the death trap of smoking – or are heading that way – and having feelings of pride, empowerment, agency and control”

We may be individuals but together we are Legion – and we feel that sentiment. When Clive goes on to say that we “want others to benefit from the experience and they really don’t want you (Ashton) to take it all away through clumsy or excessive regulation” he sums up a powerful motivating force that compels so many of us to stand up and voice our objection, we who would normally be much rather gardening or gaming. We are not natural campaigners, we are not coordinated or funded; we are legitimately refusing to be oppressed. Together.

“What you are witnessing has a technical name: ‘emergent behaviour’.”

Anyone who has spent time writing code or designing a product knows that you need a testing phase in order to iron out the unexpected, unplanned consequences. The World Health Organisation never considered that within minutes of them impelled Clive to remove an altered logo from his website that vapers across social would instinctively adopt it as an avatar. No one told them to, like atoms in a snowflake they simply aligned in response to the stimulus.

“Vapers are not one thing.”

A quick glance on the forum will demonstrate that we use originals and clones, we vote across the political spectrum and have our lives, incomes, houses and other hobbies that define us. We are abstract and a unique collection, a true cross-section of society - from the fit to the ill, the well adjusted to the Goth. Clive continues: “The public is highly diverse – including elements that are raucous, bawdy, profane, satirical, sarcastic, insulting and so on.”

In fact it is easier to define what we are not rather than what we are: we are not the “bland smiley types you see in NRT adverts or the dumb animations of Change-4-Life” – we are vapers.