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The Stigma Around Vaping

October 22, 2018

The Stigma Around Vaping

-Authored by: Randi Sprintis 

 Almost everyone who vapes will inevitably find themselves in a reoccurring defensive position. You’re out and about, you pick up your vape pen, before you can exhale, someone has something to say about it. More often than not, it’s not a very nice comment. It can be a bit confusing, especially for vapers, why a negative stigma surrounds vaping. Your friends and family had nothing to say when you were a smoker, but for some strange reason, they find the act of vaping unacceptable. 

When something like an e-cigarette can often be used an alternative to smoking, why does the collective non-vaping audience take such a cynical view? Even when you remove the comparison to smoking, vaping has picked up an inexplicable negative reputation. Determined to figure out why, we dove into a few plausible reasons that could point to the stigma around vaping.

Toxic Masculinity

A few years ago, Mic.com released an article that drew attention to the hyper-masculine culture that lies behind the vape industry. This formed a direct line between the negative stigma around vaping and its advertising. While females are more likely to try vaping than men, the messages, optics, and aesthetics all seem to lure in the male consumer. Upon first look, we thought that the writers were possibly reaching to prove a point. However, after reviewing at a few clips from different vape conventions around the country, it’s clear that there are mainly half-naked women working the floors, not men. A lot of cheeky shorts and tube tops might remind you of the old adage: ’sex sells’.

Despite the rise of the women’s movement, the female figure is still a staple in the advertising industry. It doesn’t just stop at conventions, you can also see evidence in posters, magazines advertisements, and even in the names of e-liquid flavors. There’s a lot of masculine and aggressive innuendos that could be seen as toxic to the female vaper. Many of these advertisers have taken a page out of the old Marlboro cowboy book and primarily targeted male vapers. It’s clear that the industry tends to swing towards the male buyer over the female buyer. This could possibly be one factor in the collective stigma around vaping. 


In Your Face

Another element that could be contributing to the negative stigma around vaping is the flashy vaper stereotype. When the trend of bigger clouds, tanks, and batteries started to steal the scene, many people began to think that the vaping culture took an obnoxious turn. In the same article mentioned above, Shawn Avery, a vape blogger and reporter stated that “The non-vaping public sees vaping the same way they see fedoras.

They associate it with this awful MRA [men's rights activist], neckbeard culture.” So in addition to the hypermasculinity draped over the industry, there’s also the stereotype that all vapers want you to know one thing, that they vape. They want extravagance. They want to be noticed. Of course, this stereotype has done nothing to help the industry recover. 

Can’t See the Difference

As we concluded our research into the stigma around vaping, we noticed a very basic fact amongst the general public: they can’t see the difference between smoking and vaping. It is true that much of society continues to see vaping and smoking as the same thing. The tobacco industry has taken a turn for the worse over the last decade. Smoking is not nearly as popular or as accepted as it was ten or twenty years ago. Even though vaping is an alternative to smoking, many people lump both into the same act.

This is probably one of the most frustrating misunderstandings, especially for smokers who have made the switch to vaping as a nicotine alternative. Nonetheless, it’s time for society to quit picking on vapers. The industry is still considered fairly new and it has a lot of growing up to do. Eventually, the overall culture and marketing tactics will grow and change as well.


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