There is a new trend shrouded in mystery, slowly appearing out of its own thick white cloud. It’s vaping, the futuristic pastime of smoking an electronic cigarette. Like the haberdasheries of old, vape lounges are popping up everywhere, but besides the nicotine, vaping has little in common with its predecessor, traditional smoking. It’s natural to equate the two, as Maine did when it recently passed a law banning vaping wherever smoking is banned, but are they really the same?
Ostensibly the law was meant to protect people from second-hand vapor, an odorless byproduct of vaping. But, since the vapor hasn’t been proven to be dangerous, it seems to really be about something else.
We have attempted to demonize smoking and ostracize smokers pretty successfully over the last 20 years. When you see someone smoking now, it’s usually at an arbitrary spot in a parking lot, away from their workplace. It looks like a lonely, sad existence, especially in winter. Along with other efforts to curb smoking, this has led to an all-time low number of people who smoke, or will admit to it for a survey. What vaping has done is to allow a behavior that emulates smoking to become socially acceptable.
Did you think we could eradicate nicotine use by making it more difficult, expensive, and humiliating to smoke? Human beings do so many things that are bad for us, but to stop would be to cease to be human. The demon that is nicotine has a new disguise, and hundreds of flavors.
Besides, the popularity of vaping is not necessarily a loss for public health. In fact, many heavy smokers who had been unable to quit even while facing serious health problems, are breathing easier thanks to vaping. True, it would be best if they never smoked in the first place, but vaping offers a practical alternative without the carcinogens and tar associated with traditional smoking.
Recently I visited my local vape lounge, Vapeology on Stillwater Ave. in Bangor. The name sounds like either a scholastic pursuit or a secret finishing move from Mortal Kombat (Baraka Wins: Vapeology). Inside the store was a haze of vapor and an overwhelming number of flavored juices to choose from. For about $50 you can get a vaping starter pack and poof, you’re on your way. There is even e-juice with no nicotine if you just want to mimic the act of smoking, and a pumpkin latte flavor just in time for fall.