Every Saturday in the spring, summer and fall, the parking lot that we share with other businesses houses a car meet. It starts around 10 in the morning. Old classic cars, muscle cars and hot rods all gather around sharing a common love of all things cars. Until the “kids” show up. They’re in lowered trucks, loud exhaust imports, turbos, lights, wheels, flashy things that kids like. The “old timers” move out. They give their spots up until the following Saturday morning, when they’ll once again assemble with their like minded people and start the cycle all over again. The kids stay until the wee hours of the morning and then they too leave. The parking lot never changes. Just the people that inhabit it.
Mind you, I’ve never seen any sort of altercation between the classics and the currents. There’s a sort of mutual respect that they share a common goal of having their dream car, but they just go about it in different ways. The Classics don’t understand why anyone would put thousands of dollars into an economy car to try to make it a high performance. The Currents have respect for the classics, but of course a ’68 Camaro is fast, it’s got a huge motor. They don’t understand why the Classics goal is to have a car that looks like it drove off the assembly line merely a day earlier.
We have this factioning in our industry. There’s the tie-in. There is a line in the sand and there are vocal, loyal, hard working and hard fighting people on both sides.
When I began to vape, nearly 3 years ago, it wasn’t the rage it is now. It wasn’t a common occurrence to see a “vaper in the wild”. But majority of us were new to it. Sure, those around us had gotten the hour long discussion about what we’re doing, but it wasn’t common to see someone walk through a parking lot with a vape in their hand. When you did see those people, it was an instant “bro-ment”.
You had a commonality with a stranger. It wasn’t awkward when someone said “Try this juice!”. It was new, it was fresh. The strange could be a 20 year old guy or girl, a 45 year old mother or father or a 60+ grandmother or grandfather. It didn’t matter race, religion, creed, blood, age or experience. It was awesome just to see someone else that shared the struggle that you had went through or were still going through.
Then business happened. The e-cig industry has blown up over night. In reality, the last 2 years have seen this industry go from an odd look in the smoking area of a job that won’t let you vape inside to designated vaping areas that no one bats an eye at. A change from “I knew someone that tried that” to “I’ve been vaping for X months” or “A friend/family member/coworker was successful with this, I wanna try it.” It’s mainstream. It’s “hip” to a lot of circles. I blame California for a lot of this. Hookah Pens… Oh, how I loathe Hookah Pens. But they found a niche and were all the rage. The problem is that they were selling them to kids due to them having no nicotine. So then kids were at school with disposable Hookah Pens.
More and more companies opened. Juice manufacturers, mod makers, stand makers, t-shirts, sticker producers, hats and shirts. Many people that had been positively affected by e-cigs have attempted to turn it into a business. Many are successful. Some are not. Everyone wants to be a part of something. And when it was young, the e-cig industry welcomed it with open arms. Come one, come all, how can you help us grow? It was glorious.
I remember my first “Vape Meet” when Smoky Mountain Vapers had just relaunched. The camaraderie was palpable, man. I’ve never seen a more eclectic group of people meeting to just celebrate something they felt so strongly about. It was amazing. People from 18 to 60+. People that knew what they were doing helping those that didn’t. People that didn’t know much trying to learn all they could from the seasoned vapers. Juice being passed around like a collection plate on a busy Sunday. The buzz in the air was intoxicating.
Comparatively, it would be like a Saturday in a parking lot where classic cars and imports mingled together, high-fiving each other, looking at each others cars and just generally enjoying their hobby regardless of the age gap.
Unfortunately, it seems like there are those in the vaping community that are becoming the grumpy old men / women of vaping. They’ve been doing it so long they’ve found their perfect set up. They’re happy with 20 watts and a Kayfun. They’re satisfied with a .8 build on a Reomizer and the same juice they’ve been doing for years. They don’t understand why someone wants to become a “cloud chaser”. They don’t understand why someone wants to vape certain kinds of juice. It befuddles them, because THEY’RE not there, so why should anyone else need to be? They’ve moved from just being happy with their own world to trying to destroy others. Some of the biggest reviewers are guilty of this.
“Another sub-tank. I wish China would move past this fad.”
“This device goes up to 150 watts, so it’s dumb unless you’re a cloud chaser.”
“It doesn’t compare to my Kayfun/Russian/Odysseus/Etc.”
Attacks on juice companies are more and more the norm. We all watched as Suicide Bunny was taken through the ringer for having Diacetyl and Acetyl Propionyl (D.A.P.). Cuttwood suffered through their own mishaps with titanium dioxide used to color their juice pink. Labels featuring cartoon characters are burned at the proverbial stake.
Well, the detractors would have you believe that it’s all for the greater good. That while there’s no proof that the levels of D.A.P. that have been found in juice can be harmful (no long term studies, though no diagnosis of popcorn lung outside of the known popcorn factory workers when Diacetyl is present in cigarettes at much higher levels than most tested e-juice), they claim that “Juice can be made without it, so why risk it?” Sure, juice can be made without it. But it’s not the same juice. Ask Space Jam. Their Starship 1 was pulled when they couldn’t replicate the flavor without having a D.A.P. flavoring. So, yes, juice can be made without it, but juice can be made without Nicotine as well. So, shouldn’t we all be off nicotine? I mean, it’s a known harmful component of e-liquid. It speeds up the heart and restricts blood vessels. What’s the difference here? Juice can be made without D.A.P., but it can be made without Nicotine too.
Colorful labels, especially those that make reference to a breakfast cereal, a candy, a soda, etc are now the point of contention from detractors. They say that this type of labeling is irresponsible. They say that we’re fighting against the FDA who’s biggest gun is the “Save the kids” mentality, and we’re tying our own noose. And I can see that claim, sort of. If you’ve got Captain Crunch (the character) on your label, it’s illegal. It’s trademark infringement, open and shut. But as we’ve discussed on an earlier entry, what about the Hellboy RDA? That’s a trademarked image and yet no one is calling for the atomizer’s crucifixion. Conspiracy Mods makes a kick ass mod called The Agent. I want one. But it’s a rip off of the Agents from The Matrix. The Cherry Bomber box mod has Jessica Rabbit from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” emblazoned on the front, straddling a bomb. A new series of mods are emblazoned with blaster rifles and lightsabers while their matching attys have Lord Vader’s helmet and the Empire logo. Names that flirt with copy-written material are the norm. A new regulated device called the Tesseract (the same name of the big bad weapon in Thor and The Avengers multi-billion dollar blockbusters) has just came out. But when does it change from “It’s an attempt to rip off the original” to “This sells because of Nostalgia”? There’s probably not many people under the age of 18 that remember “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. If not for the Hollywood blockbusters of the same name, only us Comic Book Nerds would know the Hellboy logo on sight. Neo has come and gone and you can no long buy Agent Smith toys at Walmart. Star Wars will never die, but that’s okay because we’ve watched since the original 3. We’re not going to get into specifics of juice, because frankly they’re too many. And you can claim that the government are going to come down on this industry because of those logos, but every single hearing that I’ve watched, they talk about ANY flavors that aren’t tobacco. Strawberry Fuzz is one that sticks in my mind that the old crotchety representative kept saying at the last one. I don’t know who makes Strawberry Fuzz, but I want to try it just because this guy has a hard-on about hating it. The point is that it doesn’t matter what they name is. There are people in the regulatory bodies that will not be happy with ANY flavoring. It doesn’t matter how fancy, clean, ikea-like your labels are. If it contains grape, strawberry, peach or chocolate they’re going to say it’s targeting kids. They’re only not going after the hardware, because they’re still sticking to ego batteries. That’s what they think we’re all using. If they had any research about any of the devices above (only a few of the “offenders” out there), they would be vilified too.
When is enough, enough?
Surge, the highly caffeinated soda from the 90’s recently made a comeback. It did so, not because it is an amazing soda that rules all other sodas. It was successful in it’s resurgence (that’s one) because of nostalgia. We (the 30-somethings) remember drinking it in high school. Hell, they had a machine at my high school that was only $0.25 a can. Milk was $0.35… People like being reminded of a simpler time. So when a e-juice manufacturer or a mod maker comes up with a design or a flavor that mimics something from their memory, it’s hard not to pay homage to the original. And yes, it’ll sell well. Surge does. Juicy E-Juice will. The Agent will. They’re all things that are in our memories. There’s a reason that Thundercats, He-Man, Power Rangers, Pokemon, etc have shirts available up to Sco-Sized. We have the ability to purchase things that we think are cool. I have a tattoo on my forearm done by an amazing artist, Jamie Cooley, that is R2-D2. Does that mean that he and I should be vilified for glorifying tattoos? Are we trying to pervert the innocent youths to become inked from head-to-toe? No. He drew it because it’s an awesome part of his memory. Of his existence. I had it permanently placed on my body because it’s a part of mine. The argument that certain things are targeting kids while others have a blind eye turned toward them destroys any detractors credibility, to me. If you’re going to fight one thing, fight them all. If you’re only going to go after certain things while you “leave out” or hell, even sell the others, you’re a hypocrite and your actions are simply inspired by jealousy.
Anything can be perverted to be targeting one group or the other. Where’s the cries that ABC Company is sexist because they don’t include a pink variant? Atomizer X is anti-old people because the holes in the post are so small? These claims are ludicrous. But unless you’re going to apply your “logic” to everything in this industry, your opinion is only that. An opinion.
So when do we decide if this is truly concern from people that fear the gov’t, hateful vilification through jealousy, self loathing because we’re not relevant anymore or simply the Classics leaving the parking lot as the Currents move in? I don’t know. Hopefully people stop infighting and worrying about not being number one and realize that we’re stronger as a unit. We’re stronger when we can stand up and say “I am an adult and I like fuckin Boo Berry Cereal and Gem and The Holograms!”
So cloud chasing isn’t your thing. Cloud comps aren’t your thing. That’s cool. But we hosted one last night and raised nearly $1000 for advocacy and the Tennessee Smoke Free Association. The average age of the people there were probably late 20’s early 30’s. These are the “currents”. If you disenfranchise them with your attacks, plus inundate them with fear from the gov’t, how many of them with say “Fuck it, I’m just gonna smoke?” These people, they’re the ones funding the fight. Indirectly through consumerism that allows shops to support groups like TSFA or directly through donations.
You don’t have to live for something to believe in it.
However you vape, I’ll fight for you.
Until next time…