For many, the idea of vaping is as the latest smoking-related thing; a somewhat dubious alternative to smoking that, on the surface, may not seem as hazardous to health as sucking away on tobacco-packed ciggies, but, under the surface, probably may expose all and sundry to many hidden dangers. Well, health studies, in the main, suggest something else entirely.
And, when one considers it, the culture and communities that have grown around the ever-increasingly-popular activity that’s vaping are far from dark, alternative and to-be-feared, but healthy, supportive and significant social realities that it’s about time the mainstream embraces and accepts.
A growing culture – and its communities
Unlike conventional smoking, vaping isn’t a habit that’s fundamentally driven by addiction. In contrast, being an e-cig user quickly crosses over into developing a past-time and, as such, there aren’t the chains of restriction there are with smoking; it feels healthier, more enjoyable and more positively indulgent – just like any other hobby does. For these reasons then, a culture around vaping has flourished in the few short years it’s been around; one that’s built on a mutual appreciation of the act of vaping among its advocates (a good example being the events you get around the world for ‘cloud chasing’).
And this culture gives rise to a burgeoning vaping lifestyle – when asked why they might take up vaping, teenagers have suggested explanations like it looks ‘cool’, ‘fun’ and it’s ‘something new’. Smoking cigarettes may seem aspirational at the same age, but few would describe its appeal as fun or something new; it’s not an inclusive and open activity. The cloud-chasing, the delicious flavours, the opportunity to learn about and modify vaping kit and personalise your e-cig devices (including the drip tip, vape tank, coil and wick) are all appealing, playful and inclusive, which means that vapers have inevitably reached out to other vapers and, thus, the culture has created its own communities, through which the vaping lifestyle has been able to flourish.
It’s a communal atmosphere that, yes, is appealing because it feels cool, youthful and on-trend but also simply because it enables people to connect with other like-minded people. That, don’t doubt it, is the biggest appeal of all – as it always has been and always will be for human beings. Walk into any vape shop on any high street anywhere in the country and, within seconds, you’ll realise this is the case – indeed, of all places, vape shops have established themselves not just as retail establishments for e-cig users (where they can buy the latest devices and vape battery), but also their primary meeting place with other vapers.
The provision of behavioural support
There’s no question – a growing number of reliably-reached statistics back it up – that switching from cigarettes to e-cigs can improve people’s health; therefore, wider society needs to recognise this and aid vaping’s singular capacity to help reduce the number of smokers across the world. And yet, with this, it’s an improvement in mental and emotional health that switching to vaping from smoking can deliver, not just improved physical health. When you feel better physically, you’ll doubtless start to feel better *in yourself* too.
Moreover, it’s well established in mental health circles that one of the major drivers of better mental health is behavioural support and, don’t doubt it, this sort of support can come in many shapes and sizes; not merely support from mental healthcare professionals, but also from friends, family and people you meet with and/ or like to meet with regularly with whom you share like-minded outlooks and interests.
And falling into this latter category then are those who belong to a vaping community – along with, of course, someone who’s switched to vaping and wishes to quit smoking or has just managed to quit via switching to vaping but, like a would-be-quitter, requires support of others to keep them on the ‘straight and narrow’. In short, a newbie vaper can gain great behavioural support by belonging to a burgeoning vaping community.
So, the need for society at large to back rather than stigmatise the likes of vape shops and the communities of vapers they foster is crucial to support the truly great work that vaping, as an entity, is doing in reducing the number of smokers – preventing major illnesses and, ultimately, saving lives.