Understanding the popularity of the vaping culture

Understanding the popularity of the vaping culture

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What is it? Who's doing it? Is it really safer than smoking? Vaping has grown in popularity, with vapers creating their own jargon, games and sub-culture.

Vaper images posted to open access social media (instagram.com)
Vaper images posted to open access social media (instagram.com)

WASHINGTON,  June 21, 2016 – Vaping—inhaling vapor from e-cigarettes, which produce no smoke, only vapor—has developed a negative reputation. This has happened as vaping has gained in popularity; the phenomenon has swept across America.

“Vape” was the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2014.

Why has vaping become popular with the younger generation?

American Lung Association: Keeping your lungs healthy

Vaping is the act of inhaling the vapor produced by heating a propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin-based liquid, mixed with small amounts of nicotine and flavoring, by means of a small battery-powered atomizer or “vape pen.” Vaporizers have long been used for inhaling marijuana, where the use of the device is seen as a safer way to get THC into the bloodstream.

E-cigarettes and vape pens launched the vaping revolution, but the vapes that seem to be most popular are “mods.” These vaping devices are a little more advanced than the original design. They are designed to create more vapor and utilize flavor additive options, and they are getting further from the traditional e-cigarette and closer to an actual cigarette.

Vaper (image from open access social media) and Slim Vape Pen.com (https://www.slimvapepen.com/what-is-a-vape-mod/)

Is vaping safer than smoking? Many users began using the technology to help them quit smoking or as an alternative. But assessing its safety and effectiveness is still difficult. The studies and data available about smoking are much more extensive than the research on vaping, which hasn’t been around as long.

Whether vaping is safer is an unanswered question. There is considerable disagreement between users and scientists. It is the case that whether you are smoking a traditional cigarette or vaping, you are inhaling chemicals and pollutants into your lungs.

Vaping with nicotine has the same short-term health effects that come with traditional smoking, like increased heart rate and higher blood pressure, and it can aggravate heart conditions. Large doses of nicotine are harmful and interfere with fetal development. When the propylene glycol is heated, it can degrade into formaldehyde, which is linked to increased risk of asthma and cancer.

The consensus opinion seems to be that vaping is safer than smoking, and if someone goes from smoking two packs of cigarettes a day to vaping, the health risks will be reduced. However, when non-smokers start vaping, they accept risks that are as worrisome as those coming from smoking cigarettes.

Even without the known dangers of nicotine, the metals, formaldehyde and issues with e-cigarettes exploding make vaping a questionable choice.

In addition to the perceived reduction in health risks, vaping comes with a price advantage. Vaping liquids are far cheaper than cigarettes.

Why the surge in popularity for younger generations who use vapes, not as an alternative to smoking, but as a lifestyle choice? The rise in popularity is probably for the same reasons that smoking itself gained popularity.

When e-cigarettes first became popular, they were legal for young people. They offered just the right amount of danger, something younger people knew they shouldn’t do but that seemed less dangerous than smoking an actual cigarette.

Vaping became cool and fashionable. It developed its own culture, and games, tricks and YouTube videos were created around it.

A vape mod carries a more powerful battery, which allows the production of a larger vapor plume. The tricks that people can do with this plume are often shared on social media.

Smoking made easy with the Char Broil Digital Smoker

Vape shops and vape lounges have appeared across the country. There are even vaping conventions and competitions. There are extensive and involved conversations on online forums about cartridges, wicks, atomizers, cartomizers, coils, mods and flavors.

Vapers can talk forever about vaping, just as gear heads or Harry Potter fans can talk forever about their chosen hobby. Many vapers work hard to fight negative perceptions about vaping and vapers, encouraging fellow vapers to not push vaping on others and not to vape where it isn’t appreciated.

Vape culture is similar to other popular cultures arising from shared interests. Car shows, comic-cons, sports fantasy leagues and art shows are all similar gatherings of of people with shared interests, and each develops its own jargon and traditions.

Younger generations have embraced vaping, and, while its popularity might fade, for now vaping culture is a reality.

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