Is Vaping a True Culture?

Matt Wallace
Aug. 14, 2014
by Matt Wallace

vape culture

In 2013, sales of e-cigarettes nearly eclipsed the $2 billion mark. The sales number have only increased since then. In fact, in 2018 one vape company was valued at $5 billion! Yah, with a bee. Vaping is a tobacco product designed for adults. Vapers use electronic cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes. Smokers are looking for their nicotine fix without the dangers of carcinogens. The fact of the matter is that the carcinogens are generated by the combustion of smoking. With electronic cigarettes, there is no combustion.

With numerous websites devoted to connecting e-cigarette users to other “vaping” aficionados, the question arises over whether or not e-cigarette users could be considered collectively as a culture. Is vape culture a thing? Numerous e-cigarette conventions, such as Vape Summit, have sprung up across the country. Thousands flock to these events to meet other vapers. They also view and test new products and discuss legislation regarding the still new e-cigarette phenomenon. Does this qualify the so-called “vapers” as a culture? For a better answer to what is a fairly broad question, the idea of “culture” needs to be put into perspective.

What is Culture?

For years, sociologists and anthropologists have struggled to nail down one encompassing definition of “culture”. Even now it seems too nebulous to truly define. There are dozens of theories within sociology about what comprises a culture but there is fairly universal agreement that culture is comprised a certain elements:

  • symbols used to communicate
  • a shared language, beliefs, and norms.

To make things even more arbitrary, the idea of “subcultures” is also at play, which essentially designate cultures that actively reject the mainstream culture. But that would arguably still be classified as a type of culture. Yet, some may wish to avoid the designation as subculture has become a fairly politicized word and carries fairly negative connotations. Sub cultures can be associated with radical notions of anti-authoritarianism and anti-social behaviors. Nonetheless, groups like Star Trek fans (Trekkies) and Comic fanatics have actively embraced the idea of being a “subculture”. And the term has become a way to embrace their distinction from the regular mainstream culture.

So, is Vaping a Culture?

To really assess vaping’s status as a culture or subculture, we can simply examine if the e-cigarette community has the previously mentioned traits of a culture.

Symbols
Does the vaping community possess symbols they use to communicate? While this is debatable, some could consider just the appearance of an e-cigarette a badge of pride for many vapers. Symbols also represent several recognizable brands across the country.

Beliefs
Anyone familiar with the vaping community would definitely argue that there many shared beliefs. Those beliefs range from the best way to build your e-cigarette to the idea that 6 mg e-juice is probably a little strong. Obviously like any culture there are schisms. And while vaping’s schisms aren’t as divisive as who the true successor to the Prophet Mohammad really is, what e-juice flavor is the best has inspired some contentious debates.

Speaking of debates, there are other contests of prowess in vape culture. Most notably is cloud chucking! Cloud chucking is competitive vaping. The winner takes the prize for the biggest clouds of vapor.

Vape Culture Language

Do vapers have their own language? Does the word “dripper” mean anything to you? No? Then you probably don’t vape. Vaping jargon is so expansive that a website dedicated to the e-cigarette community, E-Cigology has built a glossary of e-cigarette jargon for the uninitiated. Not only is there a unique language but vaping has its own dictionary!

  • Bat – an e-cig battery
  • Atty – atomizer
  • Sub ohm – using atomizers with less than 1.0 ohms of resistance
  • Cloud chasing – pursuing the hugest possible vape clouds

Conclusion
Is vaping a culture? Even by the fairly high standards of sociology, it seems fairly clear that the e-cigarette community fulfills the definition of a culture. Vaping is a very fulfilling hobby for millions of people. When Herbert A. Gilbert patented his concept of a “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” in 1963, he was simply trying to find a healthier way for smokers to smoke. As a result he could be considered the patriarch of a whole new American culture.

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