I remember the first time I ever took my e-cig out in public. “What the hell is that?” was the most common refrain, along with “Look out for Future-Man here,” “Who do you think you are, Captain Kirk?” I don’t know why the latter one, I don’t recall ever seeing them on Star Trek, but then I was never that big of a Trekkie… although standing outside next to a bunch of glowing-ember-clutching smokers with with the blue tip of my e-cig flashing out at everyone else in the beer garden could come across as science fiction to some drunk-as-guts people.
Things have certainly changed. Now it’s not uncommon to see multicolored lights blinking out from everywhere as the nicotine-cravers cop their fix. Some comply with current anti-smoking laws, and some vape wherever the hell they please until someone has the temerity to tell them to stop. Vaping is still a relatively new activity, at least as far as legislators are concerned, and so in a lot of places laws have not been put in place (or current anti-smoking laws have not been amended) concerning where it is and isn’t legal to use your e-cig; however, there are still social standards that apply.
I’ve vaped inside of bars and restaurants, and I’ve been allowed to at times, and asked to stop at others. Sometimes it depends on who’s working, and other times on how full the place was. But, after the illicit thrill of being able to indulge the simulacrum of smoking inside wore off, I decided to only do it in designated smoking areas; some people are still very sensitive of stuff in the air (despite the fact that maybe they work in an area that’s ten feet away from a traffic-heavy road pumping God-knows-what into the air, but I digress) and, as much as it inconveniences me to move my arse a WHOLE TWENTY YARDS to the smoking area, I do it.
Other folks, as I’m sure we’ve all learned by now, can be jerks. Vaping is still new, compared to smoking, and some wads will argue the toss with servers or bartenders who don’t explicitly have the law on their side; that is, the legal law, not the “being a not-piece-of-$#!+” law. I’ve witnessed horror-show human beings ruin just about everyone’s night by screaming at staff members who have politely asked them to not vape inside, spouting crap about how “it’s not illegal! It’s not and you can’t stop me KICK ME OUT, THEN! YOU GONNA KICK ME OUT? YEAH, YOU WOULDN’T HAVE THE GUTS!” to some poor kid trying to save money for college. It’s the “You’re not the boss of me and anyway it’s a free country!” argument anyone with siblings remembers from when they were six.
But there does linger a certain sense of shame, when you’re outside with your ex-people enjoying their actual cigarettes, and you’re huffing away on some tech and exhaling a lightly-scented cloud of peanut butter and banana cream vapour. It’s just not as cool, and while you might have felt all James Dean leaning against a wall a moodily puffing away on your coffin nail, now you just feel like some midlife-crisis-having jerk-off who forgot what “live fast, die young” means, or like you’re having a quick break before you resume your search for a kale and quinoa-infused power-shake with wheatgerm booster.
So why do it? Well, hey, if there was a legal heroin substitute that gave you all the good feels the drug does without the drawbacks, but it required you to strap six jelly-dongs to your head and three in your mouth to work properly, you’d do it. You wouldn’t be super-happy about it, but if that addiction is in you and you can take care of it, you’d be surprised at what you’ll do. Sure, there’s an active e-cig modding community, and the stuff they come up with is cool… but it’s like saying “Hey guys, check out this cool-beans pocket protector I totes pimped O-U-T!” Smoking cigarettes still holds an allure of not-giving-a-damn rebellion (at least to smokers), but us vapers need a middle ground that isn’t out-and-out death-bringing, nor is it total abstinence. Either of those, at least, have an already-defined place in the social strata: Non-smokers are the norm, and smokers are the devil sent to ruin their day. But vapers? We’re a growing community, but when we have douchenozzles like the clowns I mentioned above repping us, it makes us all look bad.
Personally, I miss smoking. Now that I can smell again, I realize how awful I smelled and how much it must have affected the non-smokers I live and hang out with (whereas before I thought they were all just jerks who should get over it), but damn, every time I see someone light up, I want to go beg at their heels for a delicious cancer-helper to give me that buzz that vaping pacifies but never satisfies. The plus side, however, is I get to live a while longer, my insurance costs are less, my teeth look better, I don’t have grotty nicotine stains yellowing my fingers, and I only smell like an internet writer, which is bad, but not “noxious cloud of slow-die gas” bad.
Aaron Dennis-Jackson is Man Cave Daily’s Australian Correspondent, though not for much longer, as he’s moving to America to make it a sexier, funnier place. You can check out more of his stuff here and here.