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Vaping Culture and Social Perceptions

Posted on November 03 2016

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, only 15% of the public believe that vaping is less dangerous than smoking. Although most medical experts agree that more research is needed, the fact remains that there is no other pressing social issue where public perception is more out of step with the scientific evidence. With 100,000 deaths from smoking a year, this is clearly a worrying trend for an industry that has the potential to save many lives.

In this blog post we’re going to take a look at the cultural impact of vaping in the UK. The debates, questions and social issues raised in this section are too complex and involved to go into any significant detail but we’ll do our best to cover three big areas: advertising, vaping in public and vaping subculture.

E-Cigarette Advertising

One of the most damning claims made against the vaping industry is that it actively advertises its products to children. The main tenet of this accusation is that many e-liquids flavours such as ice creams and candy are designed to appeal to children. Of course, when you actually stop to think about this for a minute, it’s pretty apparent that ice cream and candy appeals as much to adults as it does to children. The variety of flavours is part of the appeal vaping has for many ex smokers and as a cessation technique this surely isn’t a bad thing. The levels of advertising are only reflective of an in-demand industry that offers a genuinely enjoyable and comparatively safe alternative to smoking; not one that is actively preying on children.

The uproar over supposedly inappropriate advertising has arisen in part because of the overwhelmingly negative public perception of vaping. The ban on tobacco advertising (which is undoubtedly a good thing) has also left a sort of social aversion to the advertising of anything resembling or mimicking a cigarette (it’s interesting to note here that nicotine patches contain nicotine but were never privy to this level of public criticism). Of course, as we’ve seen in a previous chapter, it’s through it’s very similarity to smoking that vaping allows smokers to break the psychological attachment to cigarettes, as well as the physical addiction.

Where is it ok to Vape?

Numerous studies have shown that second hand vapour is not the same as secondhand cigarette smoke. As we’ve seen already vapour is far less dangerous than tobacco smoke, but it also dissipates far quicker without any lingering odour. Vaping is banned in many public spaces however and this list is likely to only get bigger.

Public Transport

Vaping is banned on trains and stations by all of the major train operators except Southeastern Trains. In terms of the major UK airports, only Heathrow has a dedicated vaping area (terminal 4). On planes vaping is generally banned but Ryanair does allows you to use smokeless cigarettes that they sell on board. Some airlines won’t let you carry them in your hand luggage due to rules regarding lithium batteries so check before you fly. Vaping is banned by most bus and coach companies but check the company website before you travel as there may be exceptions.

Pubs and Restaurants

The rules vary here and there is no blanket guidance. Many of the big pub and cafe chains have banned vaping, including All Bar One, Wetherspoons, Caffe Nero, Starbucks and KFC. The best advice if you’re not sure is to check with a member of staff.

Other public buildings

There is no blanket ban on vaping in any public buildings but it’s generally frowned upon in places like hospitals, that will usually insist you use the dedicated outdoors smoking areas. Museums and art galleries generally won’t allow you to vape and almost all major football stadiums have banned it.

It’s worth pointing out that these laws and rules are prone to change and could soon differ across England, Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Welsh Assembly, for example, is proposing legislation that would classify e-cigarettes as a tobacco related product, meaning they could see the same restrictions placed on them as cigarettes.

Modding and the Vaping Community

Despite so much negative press (and maybe to some extent because of it), the online vaping community is very strong. There are quite literally hundreds of vaping forums and networks online, where vapers share tips, advice and generally chat about all things vape related. 

One particularly dedicated subculture to arise from the wider online vaping community is the hobby of modding. Modding is the practice of tinkering with existing battery and tank designs to incorporate different features or aesthetics. The first mod was arguably the ‘screwdriver’ which was adopted in 2008 to replace the existing e-cigarette case. Since then modding has become a craze and there are now countless mods on the market and many more homemade builds. Mods, especially those that eschew digital circuitry for mechanical architecture, can help increase valour flavour and throat hit. Modding is clearly very involved and does require a good understanding of electronics to practice safely, so it’s clearly not for everyone.

The vaping community is also actively involved in trying to raise awareness of vaping, it’s potential benefits for society and our health services. Unsurprisingly, you will find some very vehement opinion by many people involved the vaping community and a lot of criticism levelled against government policy, as well as ‘big tobacco’. Whilst we at Superior Vapour certainly don’t support everything that is said, we do believe strongly in the importance of having a vocal vaping community and in encouraging a sensible and informed debate around vaping policy in the UK.

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