January 2017

Post-FDA Regulations: Using Sociology to Search for Answers

By Tony Ottomanelli

“We have seen this become a major problem on the rise as of late. There are too many people in this industry who let ego, jealousy or personal disagreements come between them and the betterment of this industry. Until those who allow these things to happen, actually grow up and start acting like adults, this fight will be near impossible to win.

To all those who seek to have this problem, please grow up. There are billions of lives at stake and they are far more important than who you like or dislike, or who came up with what idea. If someone came up with a good idea, don’t whine and complain that it’s terrible because you’re jealous you didn’t think of it first. Be supportive and constructive.

If you have personal issues with someone, squash that immediately because personal issues are putting a stop to the real work that needs to be done. To sum it all up as best I can, this isn’t middle school. We are all adults and it is time to start acting like it.”

This is a direct quote from Ryan Hyneman, a member of a few different advocacy groups, one being the VapersArmy, and the other being the much more intense group known simply as The Vaping Legion, a hardcore, self-policing, advocacy and public health group.

When reading something like what Ryan had written to me, I knew that this was a very serious and growing conflict unfolding among fellow vapers. Information of this importance, coming from any member of The Vaping Legion, tends to become a huge concern due to the fact that The Vaping Legion is by far the most hardcore advocacy group that takes pride in their research and actions. Considering this, I felt it was absolutely necessary to refer back to some sociological terms that may help explain, or at least define these circumstances. Sociology can be used as tool to help us better understand this problematic behavior.

For instance, the sociological term relative deprivation is, “the conscious feeling of a negative discrepancy between legitimate expectations and present actualities.” In other words, things are not as good as we hoped they would be. This is a term I believe to be in direct correlation to what we are experiencing among the vape community. Basically, with all the severity included in federal regulations, it is certainly causing many vapers, namely vaping advocates and small business owners, to feel marginalized and unfortunately targeted as belonging to a trivial group that has been forced into a position of social stratification.

Many sociologists have studied social stratification in great detail, typically in the form of researching economic inequality. A number of entrepreneurs within the vaping industry will now have their lives drastically altered or transformed. Whether vape shop owners or e-liquid manufacturers, we will eventually and unfortunately see many of our favorite small businesses diminish over the next two years or less.

Therefore, the stress is stretching far and wide throughout the community and we are seeing an

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increase of emotionality. This term is absolutely necessary to reflect on, due to the fact that it is defined as “a dimension of temperament that refers to the tendency to be easily or intensely irritated by events.” Many vapers would agree this is in direct correlation to what we are experiencing in present times due to the severity of the rather eventful FDA regulatory overreach.

It was not long ago when the vaping industry had once taken the free market by storm. It had strived to impress the masses, sending shockwaves of technological innovation. The industry was expanding on levels never before seen by society, manufacturing goods and services at an extremely fast pace and wide range, accompanied by an explosive business development platform, new brand introductions, building exceptional prowess, and expressing imaginative pride in product development and enthusiastic customer services.

In addition, the industry was augmented by ordinary citizens, virtually transforming into visionary leaders throughout the small business sector, operating functional establishments swiftly, mastering their craft, employing thousands of the previously unemployed, while simultaneously assisting millions of others to quit smoking thereby eliminating the possibility of deadly tobacco use.

The aftermath of the FDA regulations has sent another type of shockwave, this time in the way of causing individual vape-related business professionals to somehow become systematically exhausted.

Some vape enthusiasts even began expressing reactionary behaviors and weary attitudes which could be defined as highly dramatic, drained of optimism with a lethargic approach to advocating and an exasperated stance towards the vaping lifestyle.

Obviously, all these unfortunately dramatic scenarios tend to reproduce more of the same generating feelings of hopelessness, complicating matters to the detrimental outcome of somehow corrupting the vape community, essentially causing destruction from within the vape realm.

As vapers, we already have enough to battle in the form of outside societal influences trying to tear us apart, whether the obvious regulatory overreach of the FDA, political organizations, special interests groups, or individual politicians; so why would we try to make things worse from within our own social group? I definitely understand that tensions are high, but it would surely be far more advantageous directing the drama towards the instigators of this overly complex scenario of insurmountable regulations.

We cannot allow anything inside or outside the community to destroy this special smoking cessation support movement. Vaping has developed into a very strong motivator for a number of people within the vaping community. For some vapers, being a part of this community is all they have in their life that they are passionate about. For others within the community, it’s all about money and they just want to cash-in and cash-out, which I can understand from a certain perspective; however, that is not what the vaping movement is supposed to represent as a community.

There are a number of other intellectual terms even motivated by social psychology, a branch of psychology that is basically a cousin to the discipline of sociology.

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Given the situations we’ve discussed here, there is one particular term which stands out from the rest to help define the circumstances we find ourselves in as a community.

That term is referred to as, reactance. The social psychological term reactance is a motivational reaction to offers, persons, rules, or regulations that threaten or eliminate specific behavioral freedoms. Reactance occurs when a person feels that someone or something is taking away his or her choices or limiting the range or alternatives.

It is obvious that this is directly connected to how many vaping advocacy affiliates and vape-related businesses are experiencing a form of reactance all due to the FDA vaping regulations.

Just as vapers have worked so hard to build an industry from the ground up as well as a close-knit global community, we must work even harder to remain united. Maintaining a unified state of being is absolutely essential to the preservation and longevity of the vaping lifestyle. No matter where your allegiance lies or how many allies you’ve collected over the years, we must engage in constructively effective communication rather than participating in petty arguments, finger pointing and name calling. Some of the interactions among vapers that I’ve observed on social media have been downright shameful and embarrassing. This is not who we are nor what we’re supposed to represent. We’ll strive together and we’ll thrive together, or else we’ll die together.

We all know vaping is so much more than what the government agencies and public officials make it seem to be, as though it were something beneath the human spirit, something of a bottom-feeder culture set to destroy our youth.

But vapers know this is far from the truth. Vaping is about helping people. Look how far we’ve already come as a subcultural phenomenon. Look at how many smokers we’ve already helped switch to vaping as a safer, low-risk, healthier, and more enjoyable alternative.

In Sociology, the vaping community could be considered a reformative social movement. An alternative movement that seeks to improve some aspects in society. We seek to reform the ways in which society views and treats vapers. Taking this into consideration, some other vapers may view our cause in the vaping community to be considered a redemptive social movement, which is a social movement that seeks to change individuals and institutions. A movement that stresses conversion towards a “new creation.” Not to mention, the motivation behind the vaping community could be considered an alternative social movement, which seeks to alter some specific behavior.

While all of these social movements certainly seem extremely similar when defined sociologically, they are different in regard to slight variance, much like the attitudes and behaviors we are seeing from so many vapers within the community. It’s as if we all agree, but just not often agreeing in specifics and exacts. Yet, we must remember that these slight variances in disagreement can be constructively worked out and then we can all come to terms with the fact that we’re all in this together. All in all, we are the ones who save lives, we are one and one for all!