Are You Ashamed Of Vaping?

This is a serious question; Are you ashamed to be a Vaper? Think about your answer for a minute before you decide. After you’ve thought about it, after you’ve finished reading this perhaps, I would love it if you could post your answer below in the comments.

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You see, for many Vapers, switching to electronic cigarettes comes at a pretty late stage in a person’s smoking journey. I would venture to say, by anecdotal evidence only, that Vapers are, for the most part, past the age of 35. Many have worried about the damage smoking was causing them and rather than stopping altogether, for whatever reason, they instead began “smoking” electronic cigarettes instead of quitting nicotine. But why am I telling you this? You may be one of them.

As someone who is older than I care to admit, I remember the times before smokers were considered low class, uneducated, blue collar, inconsiderate slobs they are considered to be now. I remember the days when even the best people smoked on TV shows, in movies (watch a James Bond movie and see how many people smoke anywhere and everywhere, and no one says a word), in restaurants or planes…everywhere. You were never judged for smoking, it was just something you did. Along with millions of others.

I believe the above slurs are unfair, insulting, bigoted and wrong, but there they are. But what about you? Do you, as a Vaper, see a smoker and think these very same things? Do you see someone smoking a cigarette and utter under your breath “what a loser”? I hope not.

When you smoked, whether you knew it or not, people said these things about you, and if you smoked in public these things were said about you many times a day. I know this to be true because I quit cigarettes in 1992. All my friends were non-smokers; most of them were people that never picked up the habit. And they could be vicious when saw someone smoking. My wife smoked though, she smoked right up until March 2010, and so for me it was never about calling people names. As an ex-smoker living with a smoker how could I muster up such nastiness against one of my own? But other people? People that never smoked, we were second-class citizens. 

Although there is never a good reason to be vicious toward someone, there are legitimate reasons to get upset when you share a cab, sit next to, or otherwise share the same space as someone who has either just finished smoking a cigarette or is currently smoking a cigarette. Be honest here; smokers stink. Cigarette smoke, after it settles on a living breathing person, smells horrible when you’re not used to it. So while you’re being an asshole when you call someone a name, or give them the stink-eye, or even embarrass them because they are stinking up joint, it’s almost impossible to think pleasant things about the person. It’s a lot like riding up in an elevator with a flatulent-happy co-rider. It’s just not fun.

On the other hand, as Vapers we are much more pleasant to be around, at least according to many non-smokers. We don’t stink of tobacco and we don’t cause anyone to hold his or her breath, or force anyone to walk ahead of us to avoid the smell. Most non-smokers get pretty much the same experience standing next to you and me as they do with someone that doesn’t smoke or vape. At least now, in 2013. But that might not last too much longer.

Sadly it doesn’t end there.

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While most people won’t be offended if you’re vaping outdoors, you’re bound to run into people that claim you are ‘stinking up the place’, or ‘spewing smoke everywhere.  It is beginning to happen more and more, especially indoors, at restaurants and other places where people congregate. Buses, elevators, standing in line, and other places and/or situations are volatile places when you are actively vaping. It’s getting to the point where a lot of us avoid vaping near anybody other than another vaper. Like smokers, we have been conditioned to hide it, to disavow it, to keep it secret. Is this out of respect for non-smokers, or is it some other reason?

So, I ask you again, are you ashamed of vaping? Is it possible to be a Proud Vaper and remain in the closet?

Would it be wrong of me to say that if you aren’t a Proud Vaper it’s because, like anti-smokers (a very different animal than a non-smoker), you too believe vaping is ‘smoking’? 

True Story

Because it has been 2 decades since I quit smoking everyone that knew me when I began vaping were shocked that I had picked up smoking again. “Oh my God! After HOW many years?” or “I cannot BELIEVE you started smoking again!”… These statements were hurled at me for weeks on end; sometimes friends or associates would say these things to me as a way to convince me to stop using electronic cigarettes. I had no intention of stopping because I never felt like I was doing anything wrong, but to them there wasn’t any doubt that I was forever addicted. I definitely didn’t feel like a smoker. It’s difficult to equate a pack of Winston Lights to vaping some vanilla custard e-liquid, at least for me, but for others it wasn’t far off.

When I began my ‘adventures in vaping’, as I like to call this period in my life, I was immediately struck by how much fun it was. I never vaped as a way to satisfy a craving because I didn’t have any. I enjoy it because I love to blow smoke rings, I loved to send the vapor up my nose, through my mouth, and create a huge cloud of vapor in front of me. I also love the incredible flavor pummeling my taste buds.  That is the ‘physical’ fun of vaping.

Even when I was vaping with mini-batteries and with prefilled cartomizers I enjoyed the taste of Blu Cigs Pina Colada, Peach Schnapps, or their Classic Tobacco. And man oh man, when I graduated to larger batteries and real eLiquids which I dripped into blank cartomizers and then clearomizers, and then larger tanks, and on and on, I just fell in love with it all. With so many flavors to experience I began vaping pretty much around the clock. I love every minute of it.

So, when my friends confronted me, yelled at me, all I could manage to do was ask them to try it, to tell them how much fun it was, and then, when I was frustrated enough with their constant hassles I told them in no uncertain words that what I was doing had nothing to do with smoking, that the ingredients shared nothing with tobacco, except for nicotine, and that to compare the two was very much akin to comparing taking vitamins and swallowing ecstasy. In other words, smoke is smoke, vapor is vapor, and their comparisons were ignorant and unwanted. After a while they got used to the fact that I was vaping, but to this day only a couple of friends allow me to vape in their house.

Today, my life is surrounded with vaping. My wife and I vape between 8-12 milliliters a day each, and I vape between 4 to 6 flavors a day, because I review them, or sample them, for my opinion. (my wife vapes only one flavor at a time). And we vape everywhere, in the doctors office, in the grocery store, in restaurants, with a minimum of hassle from other people. When we are asked not to vape we put them away out of politeness.

I advocate vaping to smokers and I am always telling non-smokers to consider the alternative and not to be negative to friends or family, or even strangers, that are making an effort to stay off tobacco by vaping. I can’t count the number of smokers that I’ve turned  into vapers. I try my best to get them to try vaping, to taste the incredible flavors, to enjoy the plumes of vapor, and its been successful for the most part.

I also make it a point to educate those around me that might think vaping has something to do with smoking. So far there hasn’t been anyone I couldn’t get to come around to understand that the two are as different as night and day. Vaping is the one hobby my wife and I enjoy together.

One of the few times anyone has ever said anything to me about vaping in public was this middle-aged woman who stared at me while we were waiting for our individual appointments at my doctors office. She said to me “Do you have to do that in here?” I looked at her and simply said, “No, I don’t have to. But I want to.” And then I added, feeling badly that I was kind of a jerk with her, “If you can honestly tell me that my vapor is somehow causing you personal discomfort or injury then I’ll stop.” She looked at me for a few seconds and the only thing she could muster was “Well, no, but it certainly can’t be good for you.” We are a strange species we humans.

I should have told her that vaping is good for me. It helps to keep me sane in an insane in an insane world. But I didn’t, I just continued to enjoy my vape for a couple more minutes, and then put it back in my pocket and waited on the doctor. I think I may have felt a tiny bit of shame.

John Manzione/Publisher

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