Words by Alexander Dommett.
In 2013, I purchased my first PVD or Personal Vaping Device. At least, that was the name given to the pen-shaped contraption by the enthusiastic salesmen who assured me he was saving my life. I knew then that if their intention was to replace ‘fags’, ‘ciggys’, ‘rollies’ and ‘straights’, these devices were going to need a new name. A name that reminded one less of Mycroft Holmes’ breathing prop, or PVA glue. Today, we call them vapes. And vaping, is ‘gay,’ apparently.
In the four years I’ve been perfuming rooms with the aroma of my favoured Menthol Mist E-liquid, I’ve owned countless vapes. But curiously, given the endless assertions of my contemporaries, I’ve yet to own a vape with any distinguishable sexual preference. Sure, I’ve owned devices that match my jacket, and yes, some devices were more fabulous than others. I’ll even admit to having tested Pink Lemonade and Skittles flavour, guilty as charged; through vaping I have indeed tasted the rainbow. Still, to this day, I look upon my Aspire Zelous as little more than fused metal, plastic and glass. As A-Sexual and Gender Neutral as they come.
All facetiousness aside, what my nicotine-stained fellow millennials are trying to say, with their antiquated choice of vocabulary, is that vaping isn’t cool. This is something that luckily – with my preference for Green Tea over Vodka, and my NEXT own-brand underpants – has never bothered me. However, I’m fascinated by the mentality of my hip, cool friends (whose genitals are warmly wrapped in material licensed by Calvin Klein and DIESEL) whereby the tumour-inducing, costlier alternative of nicotine delivery seems unquestionably to be the sexier option. I find it baffling in a similar way to the British preference for manual cars, automation is an accepted part of countless daily activities, but when it comes to driving (or apparently smoking) the Brits are having none of it.
It’s particularly interesting that the chosen epithet of my vape-hating critics is the word ‘gay’. LGBT campaigning organisations such as Stonewall have made it difficult to ignore the widespread misuse of the word: putting out ten-foot posters, T-shirts and videos online, all sporting some variation of the slogan “GAY. LET’S GET THE MEANING STRAIGHT”. Equality is on the up, and the more tolerant cultural-shift taking place promises a brighter future for the LGBT crowd, like vaping does for smokers. Not that I’m implying these two issues are of equal importance. But it’s intriguing that the same mentality not yet ready to expunge the negative connotations of ‘gay’ also happens to be resistant to vaping. Ours is a society of almost constant social change (or, progression, if you’re an optimist,) but while company staff diversifies, and we all have iPhones in our pockets, it seems certain attitudes are impervious to the influence of new perspectives and technologies.
The obvious answer seems to be that youth loves danger; it loves to rebel. Rebellion is edgy and unpredictable, like the motorcycle riding, leather-wearing antagonist in an 80’s film. Except of course for the fact motorcyclists only make up 1% of road users and 20% of road fatalities, and nearly half a million people die of smoking every year – so, not totally unpredictable. But danger, of course, has been given a great image by Hollywood over the years. Good guys, bad guys, tough guys, soft guys, cool guys, they pretty much all smoke on screen. At least, most did until very recently. Who doesn’t want to be John McClane? Or a budding Femme Fatale? Talk about sex appeal.
Of course, vaping has started to make its way onto the big screen as well. Off the top of my head, American Gods, Baby Driver, Black Mirror, Bad Neighbours, and a host of music videos like Lilly Allen’s Hard Out Here all feature vaping. In some of these, vaping has been inserted as naturally as a cigarette would have been previously. In others, vaping is used as a potent symbol of the contemporary and what I can only assume (NEXT pants remember) will be a ‘new age of cool’. But despite valiant efforts on behalf of the marketing teams behind such videos, clearly the message ‘vaping is cool’ has yet to penetrate the youth’s collective consciousness. Perhaps if we can wedge one into the hand of Fred Flintstone that’ll do the trick?
Vaping is the future, that much is certain. The recent TPD regulations put on vaping have only and will only take small business out of the game, they’re merely a minor annoyance to everyone else. This offers Big Tobacco a chance to catch up with the likes of vaping giants Aspire, Innokin and Kanger. Perhaps when E-Cigs have Marlboro scrawled across the front of them, the habit itself will gain a better image. But for now, BT owns the hearts and minds of everyone still wearing their hats on backwards. My generation isn’t quite ready yet to swap an ‘impressive’ aesthetic for a longer life.