Do you know that feeling when something gives a huge number of people a bit of pleasure, and helps them kick a habit that stands a substantial chance of killing them, and all you want to do is criticise it and mock them for it?
No, neither do I.
But you can’t spend very long as a vaper or involved in the debate without encountering just this type of person.“Oh, you’ve switched to getting your nicotine in a way that’s at least 95% safer? Well, you look like an idiot smoking a laser pointer. Vaping is so not cool.”
“Oh you think you’re improving your health do you? Sending me your peer-reviewed research like I actually care about what’s true and what isn’t? Well… I’ll have you know that e-cigarette smoke contains chemicals.”
And on and on it goes. Just like we categorised the main types of vaper, there are many distinct varieties of anti-vaper, and we’ve collected 10 of the most common into this list. It isn’t exhaustive, and many people undoubtedly fall into more than one category, but here is our taxonomy of the vape-haters of the world.
1 – The Anti-Addiction Crusader
Sipping a cup of coffee to chase away the hangover from the few gin and tonics she downed the previous evening, this type of anti-vaper is all about the addictive nature of nicotine. These are the types who tell you that you haven’t actually achieved anything because you’re still inhaling nicotine, as if the nicotine is more of a concern than the butt-load of carcinogens.
The hypocrisy is entirely lost on them as they start on the morning’s third cup of coffee. Because addiction is just bad, mmmkay. We’re still all slaves to the relatively benign stimulant and this type of anti-vaper takes great pleasure in pointing this out. “Why haven’t you weaned yourself off that thing yet?” they ask, as if nobody could possibly ever just continue doing something because they enjoy it.
2 – The Enemy of Industry
The enemy of industry is quick to point out that “Big Vape” wants you to be addicted to nicotine. Just like Big Tobacco, they aren’t interested in your health; they’re purely interested in making a profit for themselves. All of the positive studies about vaping are probably funded by Big Vape and anybody who tweets about e-cigarettes even once or twice are likely part of the Great Astroturf Army. Shills, shills everywhere.
Big Tobacco is really still this type of anti-vaper’s main nemesis, and they’re always quick to quote the marketing execs from the leaked documents with their shady, Mad Men-esque schemes. But the same vitriol is smoothly transferred over to the vaping industry, especially since they tend to overstate the role of the tobacco companies in the vaping business. Consumer capitalism is going to kill us all, and the nicotine peddlers are one of the four horsemen of their apocalypse scenario, along with Big Sugar, Monsanto and the moneyed man-child currently sitting in the oval office (or more likely, playing golf).
So they tweet – angrily – about it all using their bespoke, au-natural electronic device made by this really small, local company called… err.. Apple.
3 – The Cooler-Than-Thou Anti-Vaper
Smoking is cool. If you disagree I’m here to tell you that your subjective opinion is just wrong.
It’s become increasingly unpopular to state this in public but there is no getting around it, and one variety of anti-vaper is more than willing to admit this.
But rather than a celebration of the rogue-ish, reckless abandon of lighting up a cigarette, this type of anti-vaper – who is generally also a non-smoker – uses this statement purely as something to beat vapers over the head with.
Tube mods look like robot penises, box mods look like cassette players and anything that vaporises nicotine is a douche flute of some variety or another. They’ll toss around terms like mouth-fedora and paint unflattering pictures of vapers in any way they can.
Even Tobacco Control – the literal peer-reviewed scientific journal that should blatantly know better – got in on the action with the “you look like an idiot smoking a laser pointer” cartoon. I can only imagine the smug look of satisfaction on their faces as they approved that piece of holier-than-thou superiority.
But the funniest thing about this whole attitude is how they expect vapers to care. Do they imagine us saying, “Oh my god, these people think we look like fools with our box mods! I still need nicotine, but I better go back to the form that will probably give me cancer. Couldn’t spend my life looking like a bit of a dork. Heaven forfend!”
4 – The Fog-Fearing Cafe-Dweller
A distant cousin of the cooler-than-thou anti-vaper who sees vaping as a fashion accessory for losers, the fog-fearing cafe-dweller is just so upset that his local cafe lets people vape while he’s sipping on his flat white. The plumes of sweet-smelling vapour are borderline vomit-inducing and every single vaper in the world looks to him like the most inconsiderate vape-douche you could care to imagine. In this anti-vaper’s mind, there is simply no such thing as a discreet, considerate vaper, and people definitely wouldn’t go to the effort of publishing numerous articles or surveying people about vaping etiquette.
This anti-vaper feels like an extra in The Mist and spends most of his day dramatically coughing and spluttering, yearning for the days when the only things you could smell were his coffee – the smell of which is fine and definitely not identical to a coffee-flavoured e-liquid – the overpowering perfume of the woman at the next table and the tuna sandwich the person on the opposite side is tucking into. All of that is fine, but the faint, periodic whiff of blueberry? In his cafe? Disgusting.
5 – The Die Hard Anti-Smoker
The die hard anti-smoker is absolutely shocked – shocked, I tell you – that people would even consider smoking in this day and age. Don’t they know it will kill you? Can’t they see the warning labels on the packets? Do we need to make them bigger, or something?
But the (understandable) dislike of smoking is quickly translated into a dislike of vaping, a.k.a. a dislike of not smoking. Vaping is probably just as risky as smoking, because otherwise why would it look so similar? If anybody questions that assumption the die hard anti-smoker will call up the enemy of industry to point out how all of the evidence to the contrary is fake news paid for by one of the bad guys. Inhaling anything that isn’t air is just a way to slowly kill yourself.
The die hard anti-smoker becomes an anti-vaper because the Pavlovian revulsion at the sight of a cigarette is triggered just as strongly by a cloud of vapour, and thinking any more about the issue before coming to a conclusion is just too much work.
6 – The End-Game Enthusiast
The die hard anti-smoker comes in another form when he or she is part of tobacco control. The “end game” – to utterly erase smoking and nicotine use from society – is an extension of the same basic goal and people spend an awful lot of time thinking about how to make it happen. You might want to suggest that like alcohol, drugs, coffee and anything else that dumps a bit of dopamine into your nucleus accumbens, people will probably want to do it no matter what you do to try and stop them (see also: taxes, indoor use bans, more taxes, garish warnings, more taxes, plan packs and more taxes). But that argument just never hits home.
This type of anti-vaper is a dreamer. He or she is propelled into vape-hate by a utopian fantasy of a world where the sight of somebody lighting up a cigarette would be unthinkable and alien. A world where the only psychoactive substances people are permitted to enjoy are the ones they don’t dislike quite so strongly. A world where the only way to get a bit of nicotine rush would be to eat a metric ton of aubergines.
Tell the end-game enthusiast that this isn’t really a utopia for quite a substantial number of people and you’ll be met with a blank stare. Cigarettes are the enemy to be eliminated, and vaping is similar enough to be just as big an enemy.
7 – The Helen Lovejoy
Won’t somebody please think of the children?!
The Helen Lovejoy is the type of anti-vaper that sees the whole vaping industry as a surreptitious plot to ply the children of the world with candy-flavoured poison. The Helen Lovejoy gasps in horror every time the results of the US National Youth Tobacco Survey is released and shuts her eyes firmly every time somebody uses those exact figures to show that regular vaping by never-smoking teens is incredibly uncommon. She tosses out big numbers and never hesitates to remind you that nicotine harms developing brains.
The Helen Lovejoy also has an unhealthy obsession with e-liquid flavours, especially any that sound like something a kid would like. She would have you believe that she completely stopped enjoying sweet things the moment she turned 18, and that the only possible reason somebody would sell cotton candy e-cigarettes is to get little Jessica addicted to nicotine. Yes, she saw that the Monitoring the Future survey found that most teen vapers don’t use nicotine, but she has decided that this is just because kids have literally no idea what they’re doing.
It’s safe to say that the US anti-vaping scene is absolutely dominated by Helen Lovejoys.
8 – The Terrified Daily Mail Reader
“E-Cigarettes Cause CANCER, Science Boffs Find!”
The terrified Daily Mail reader sends you a link to a headline like this over Facebook pretty much every week. He knows that vaping is just as bad for you as smoking because otherwise why would such a reputable publication say so? Tabloid newspapers aren’t more interested than clicks than truth; they are the only way to find out what’s really going on in the world.
Pumped up into a perpetual mix of rage and abject terror by uncritical reports drawn from crappy studies, the terrified Daily Mail reader swallows every anti-vaping story hook, line and sinker, and would rather continue smoking than put that poison into his lungs, thank you very much. Really, he is somebody that would have a much more accurate opinion if he focused on what scientists said more than what unethical journalists pump out every week, but the other types of anti-vaper only strengthen his resolve. Vaping is evil; the headlines said so.
9 – The Clueless Researcher
The clueless researcher hadn’t heard of vaping until they told her that the university was conducting a study of them. She picked up the latest tank that all the cool kids are using – the CE4, of course – and kicked one of these “mod” devices up to 5 volts and was absolutely horrified by what she found. It turns out if you misuse an e-cigarette, bad stuff comes out of the end.
In her mind, this is vindication enough. She proudly announces to the university press officer that her team’s research shows very clearly that e-cigarettes are the devil and vapers are about to sprout tumours any minute now. She didn’t take the time to find out a bit more about what she was actually doing, but the life of a scientist is a busy one, and she was much more comfortable working with cigarettes anyway. They’re much simpler.
She feeds this flawed information to the terrified Daily Mail reader and goes home feeling very good about herself. After all, nobody knew this would happen until she neglected to learn how vaping works and got a publication credit in a major journal.
10 – The Enemy for Pay
The enemy for pay knows what he’s doing. Vaping is safer than smoking, obviously. There are vastly fewer carcinogens in vapour than smoke and all of the evidence says so. But that doesn’t matter. Because pharma pays his wages and wants to sell the smokers something instead. If people start vaping, who will buy patches and gums? Who’ll pop a pill when they could be enjoying a cheesecake e-juice?
He uses his position and his reputation to tell people “the truth” about vaping. He doesn’t lie. There is no need to if you’re careful enough. You can say e-cigarettes “contain carcinogens” without technically lying. Someone might protest that this lacks absolutely crucial context and is deeply misleading, but is that somebody a respected researcher who can get his or her opinion in the newspaper at the drop of a hat? Didn’t think so.
The enemy-for-pay is secretive, though, so spotting one isn’t easy, and he or she may even believe the rhetoric. But in this corrupt and often ugly world, it’s hard to deny that they exist.
Anti-Vapers vs. The Facts
One thing that ties all of these disparate types of anti-vaper together is most of them buy into myths and misconceptions. Whether they believe the results of bad studies or simply use them to justify their pre-existing bias, they will be frequently found spouting long-debunked talking points and ignoring the huge body of research that contradicts them.
We might not be able to fight fear with facts alone, but with an understanding of what drives the opposition to vaping and a veritable arsenal of reliable research, some of these anti-vapers could still be convinced.