e-Cigarette users, or vapers are an interesting bunch of consumers. Unlike most consumer products, vapers have formed a sort of counter-culture. Even major media outlets have taken notice of this phenomenon.
Vaping is a virtual community full of people passionate about electronic cigarettes. We love to talk about our products, and congregate on online message boards and social media to talk about products and other news of the day. In some cases, meetings happen offline as well where people physically check out each other's gear and talk shop.
Real-world relationships have even formed as a result of these virtual communities.
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While electronic cigarette users tend to be of a little older demographic, there are a wide-variety of people represented in these groupings. Gender, political affiliation, socio-economic backgrounds. All of these lines seem to blur.
e-Cigarettes are one consumer product that seem to bring a wide range of people together. There is one other thing that this group of enthusiasts are known for. Activism.
Whether it be a national stage such as FDA hearings on alternate uses of nicotine replacement or small town hall meetings on Main Street USA (the real one, not the one at Disney), vapers are there.
They are there telling their stories. Talking about how they almost effortlessly moved from a pack-a-day habit or more to using e-cigarettes. You'll hear their motivations. They wanted to walk up stairs without coughing, they didn't want to smell like smoke, they wanted to be around to see their grand kids born.
When talk among vapers turn to certain organizations or individuals that, through any number of motivations, want to see e-cigarettes removed from the market or handed over to pharmaceutical companies, things get heated. This group of individuals defend their choice of nicotine delivery like a mother bear defends her young. Otherwise polite and quiet people start sounding like Abbie Hoffman.
All of this seems very unusual when we're talking about what is essentially a recreational consumer electronic product. Sure there's people with a preference for gaming console or smart phone. Some of them are very outspoken, but rarely would you see them testifying before a state legislature.
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What is it that makes vapers so different?
What is going on with e-cigarettes that it turns normal folks: college students, housewives, executives, mechanics and so on into such tenacious defenders of individual rights?
Yes, these people are genuinely afraid. They are afraid of the consequences of electronic cigarettes or vapor pens being removed from the market or regulated to the point of uselessness.
It's not like we're talking about a nutty conspiracy theory here. Plenty of places have already taken that step. France recently announced it will ban e-cigarettes in public areas. Russia is planning a complete ban, much like several third-world states that have bought into the myths of e-cigarettes. Many of which, interestingly, are nations with terrible smoking rates.
European vapers have been fighting against the EU's proposed Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) which initially would have rendered e-cigarettes ineffective. A massive campaign of activism and discussions with elected officials was the result. The TPD is still a threat, but several compromises have already made it in the form of amendments. Some folks felt so serious about the issue they actually voted against their usual political party to protest politicians supporting the directive.
Here in the United States things are in a painful state of flux. The FDA has been threatening to regulate e-cigarettes for years after their attempts to completely embargo them failed. In some ways things are worse with the FDA. Nobody knows what the agency plans to actually do when it finally does get around to regulation.
It's these factors that has everyone on edge and plain afraid. If e-cigarettes were to be removed, millions of people would be faced with the very real possibility of going back to traditional cigarettes.
Granted not everyone will go back. There will be a black market, and others may simply quit nicotine altogether. But, for many, e-cigarettes were their last hope.
Banning e-cigarettes means those people go back to smoking. As we've all been taught, smoking kills.
And the fear of a death sentence is the common thread that keeps the community together. It's the reason this community is so active. The stakes are simply too high to treat with the level of apathy typical of the American public.
The reason so many different people from so many different backgrounds formed a tight-night and very defensive community is simple. They are fighting for their lives.
For more information on e-cigarettes and activism, be sure to visit the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association at CASAA.org.
About the author
Steve K. is the Chief Vaper over at Steve K's Vaping World. He never believed he'd ever give up cigarettes or write his congressman, yet both have happened. You can also follow Steve on Twitter and Facebook.