Monday, May 13, 2013

Inside the world of vapers, the subculture that might save smokers’ lives

Digital Trends
Andrew Couts
May 13, 2013


Maybe you’ve read a news story about e-cigarettes, seen them for sale, or bumped into someone conspicuously vaping away at your favorite bar. But the e-cigarettes available at your local gas station or drug store are just the tip of an iceberg. The scene runs deep and wide and is home to a fiercely passionate subculture of people who combine fanboy zeal with the righteousness of the converted while spawning an underground economy around the surprisingly controversial claim that it can help smokers quit. Thanks to definitions the government disputes and regulation lurking around the corner, it’s a subculture at real risk of vanishing in a cloud of vapor.

“FDA intends to propose a regulation that would extend the agency’s ‘tobacco product’ authorities – which currently only apply to cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco – to other categories of tobacco products that meet the statutory definition of ‘tobacco product,’” an FDA spokesperson told me.

The FDA said it would issue its proposed e-cigarette regulations in April – but that threat never came true, just as it hasn’t come true in the past. Still, many in the industry fear an all out ban and what it would do for their lives.

“This is a world that regulation would cripple,” says Greg Conley, legislative director for the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), a grassroots, volunteer-based political activism group for users of e-cigs and other smokeless alternatives to tobacco cigarettes. “This is a world of technology, unlike tobacco. This is a world where, every two weeks, there’s a new product on the market for the people who want to spend a lot of their money on mods to buy.” And because of that, he says, requiring vendors to fill out mountains of paper work every time they release a new product would wreak havoc on the industry and the community it serves.

As much as vapers fear the FDA – virtually everyone at Vapefest mentions this menace – Conley says the constant impending doom is also what makes the vaping community so tight-knit.

“I think that sense of urgency about e-cigarettes that exists within more experienced users, that sense of urgency that exists about legislation, fosters the community,” says Conley. “Unlike a lot of consumer products that Digital Trends writes about – traditional consumer technology – there aren’t groups out there saying that your consumer technology is dangerous and unregulated, and made by people who have no regard for public health.”

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