A Nerd’s Last Word

by Michael Bosley

Not since the public smoking ban was introduced in 2007 has there been so much tension between the ever divergent camps of soggy, cold resentful smokers forced to huddle outside for warmth with other smokers and the self-righteous clean air-loving non-smokers smugly waving back at them through the cosy restaurant window.

However, this two-way battle has been propagated further with the addition of the ‘vaping’ brigade; a band of potential quitters, curious experimenters, hipsters and in some cases, children who have shunned the old-school, cancer causing cigarettes in favour of sucking on a big electric stick.

The unimaginatively named e-cigarette is now used by over two million people in the UK alone, though a conspicuous lack of regulation means celebrity endorsement and advertisement is rampant, despite a lack of independent long-term studies to support or disprove their health benefits. With the government dragging their heels over how these devices should be taxed and regulated, this ambiguity has raised pockets of confusion amongst the dichotomy of e-cigarette admonishers and approvers, with some premises banning their use except in smoking shelters and some openly welcoming them‚ as in the case of ‘vape’ cafes which have popped up in (where else) London.

No formal law exists banning the e-cigarette in public places at present, though Wales are due to push for a ban under the Public Health Bill by 2017, meaning ex-smokers who have not long gotten used to the comforts of indoor recreational nicotine absorption will now once again be banished into the wind and rain with the few remaining, hoarse-throated ‘real’ smokers, stripping them of the glamour and on-trend status they once enjoyed.

E-cigarette users are in a difficult position; neither smokers nor technically non-smokers, they are forever the unwanted third-wheel. They are suspiciously eyed by wary fellow passengers and patrons, whilst smokers simply snigger at their self-conscious attempt to be the apparent standard bearer for change.

They’ve done themselves no favours by adopting the verb ‘vaping’ either. The very term has an unsavoury quality about it. To ‘vape’ surely would mean that you are a ‘vaper’ or a ‘vapist’. So if you were to proclaim ‘I am a vapist’, you’d most likely be mistaken for a heavily accented German confessing a sinister crime.

Perhaps there is an element of bravery to be one of the pioneering few to have dared to walk the streets with something so extraneous and ridiculous looking in the hopes that one day it will be as normal as wearing glasses or Instagramming your meals. Perhaps one day they will vape on the bus and refuse to leave when asked; the Rosa Parks of our time!