The Not-So-Great Vape Escape: Sociologically Reflecting on the Anti-Vaping Movement
Words and photos by
Anthony J. Ottomanelli II
For the year 2014, Oxford Dictionary named its Word of the Year “vape” due to its ever-increasing popularity. Coincidentally, 2014 is the same year in which I was able to quit smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes, with professional assistance all due in part to Oxford’s Word of the Year. Proud to say, I’m now at a level of full-time vaping and have not had an actual tobacco cigarette in one whole year. In fact, after smoking a traditional cigarette a few weeks after turning solely to vaping, I became ill and nauseated. Therefore, I’ll never go back. Vaping is here to stay in my life. However, is it here to stay in my town state or even my country?
Once more, the “United” States is steadily and surely becoming divided on yet another topic that has been spun into a developing unnecessary social issue lingering over the edge of becoming a much bigger societal problem. Basically, vaping has entered the territory of being identified as a potential threat to health and humanity. Sadly, the continuous surge of vaping propaganda, whether in support of or against it, is now a potential fortune to be had on both sides of the coin, naturally another American Masterpiece. As a sociologist I am inclined to relentlessly question such behaviors, values and overall methods. It is therefore my sociological duty to pursue any type of resolution that only can be fueled by ideals of rationality and logic.
The primary reason why there has been so much skepticism about vaping is simply because it appears to resemble the action of smoking traditional cigarettes. If the public is told that vaping is just as bad as or worse than smoking cigarettes, then they’ll regrettably believe in these counterfeit claims. Even though vaping is a long way away from sharing any similarities of smoking tobacco-based cigarettes, besides the obvious appearance of how it is administered, the general public will remain as the most gullible. We tend to believe the first thing we hear about something unfamiliar or even more popular nowadays; we usually also believe whatever is reported to us by the mainstream. Over the past 10 years or so, we’ve heard nothing nearly as negative about vaping as we have been hearing very recently. If you have yet to hear anything so robustly negative about vaping, then you’ll certainly be seeing it very soon, coming to a theater near you. Vape bans are rapidly spreading all over the county—whether big city-living or small-town slumming—these bans are everywhere.
During the summer days of 2014, in the tourist-attracting, scenic town of Golden, Colo., there were restaurant patrons seated on outdoor patios who supposedly became exceedingly irritated with all the people smoking or vaping outside or simply passing by on the sidewalks. From this, there were apparently numerous complaints of ruined appetites and spoiled meals directly linked to the impossible concept of second-hand vapor. The 2015 vaping/smoking ban in downtown Golden was based on these unexplainable disturbances in which only City Council was able to vote on this subject matter. A writer for the Denver Post, Josie Klemaier, wrote the Golden City Council concluded that local businesses would suffer the cost of decreased business opportunities from losing customers (http://www.denver-post.com/golden/ci_26432351/golden-passes-outdoor-smoking-vaping-ban). Keep in mind, this vaping/smoking ban is not merely for indoor public locations, this ban inexplicably forbids the use of vaping devices and traditional cigarettes anywhere outdoors. We can’t embrace the art of vaping inside somewhere, nor can we partake in it outside.
This anti-vaping movement merely is based on the notion that if these deliciously-scented, quick-to-disappear vapor clouds were to come into contact with any potential customers for all the small-businesses downtown, then the consequence would be an economic backlash of unpredictable measures. Since my family owns a restaurant in downtown Golden, I can speak on behalf of a few local business owners and assure any skeptics that the ideas of lost business or a tarnished customer base will not be an inescapable effect from the mere sight or smell of vapor’s presence. In hindsight, realistically, the vaping/smoking ban may very well create exactly what it claims to be attempting the prevention of.
Although no action has yet to be taken by any Golden locals or outsiders, there still are many individuals to discuss this controversial topic with. From my steady inquisition of questioning nearby residents, mainly those who live downtown, where the ban is forced upon the public to obey it thus becomes clear that many want to do something, even if that something is to speak out on the issue. One resident living right in the middle of this mountain town’s downtown, Daniel Chafetz, said, “To impede on an individual’s right to vape or smoke in the open air is downright offensive to the very concept of American rights, which is supposed to be out-lined in our nation’s Constitution as having the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Just imagine how our Founding Fathers would have reacted. If the Golden City Council members were properly educated, (story continues below)
(continued from above)… they would be much more concerned about polluted air than the occasional smoker/vaper on the street.” (http://www.denverpost.com/golden/ci_27566792/golden-city-manager-mike-bestor-announces-retirement)
Keep in mind, this Golden resident who made these comments is a non-smoker and non-vaper, yet Chafetz still maintains the Golden ban is pure hypocrisy, shameful and unconstitutional.
Considering this, many Golden residents who I was able to speak with concerning the smoking/vaping ban that went into effect Jan. 1 all seemed to have identical words to express. I had brief interactions with local residents and out-of-towners in downtown Golden. Many of the locals whom I had brief interactions with would simply reply “It’s so stupid. It makes no sense!” As if that vocal result was not entertaining enough, the responses I received from tourists or non-residents seemed to also reply with the same blanket-statement each and every time, also very amusing, they would typically state, “I had no idea that was even a legitimate thing here.” The next best thing was the other most-popular reply I heard was along the lines of simply stating, “I didn’t even know we couldn’t smoke. You aren’t allowed to vape either? Why?” All of these recorded statements surely were all characterized by an obvious state of pure bewilderment.
After my social-interaction methodologies were embraced by many of the Golden street wanderers, I decided to try and acquire information by collecting any rational explanation from those who had the power to strip away such freedoms to begin with. With limited resources and ticking time, I tried to contact a few key members of Golden’s City Council, especially focusing on the city manager, Mike Bestor. Bestor never answered any of my requests for a comment. Then I read the local newspaper, The Golden Transcript. The Transcript featured a story involving Bestor announcing his retirement, just barely after one month had passed by since the ban went into effect. According to the Transcript article, the retiring city manager is stepping down to pursue other adventures. What could possibly be more adventurous?
Overall, the public is just too afraid to educate themselves on the factual information about vaping and perhaps explain to their children what vaping is and why people choose to partake in it. It’s almost far too obvious; the shortsighted anti-vaping affiliates are fearful. Fearful that there is something new out there they should learn more about; fearful of their own confusion; fearful because they honestly have no clue what vaping literally consists of. But the antidote to their fears is already here, vaping is that antidote because vaping has unquestionably changed lives and will continue to change lives, allowing former smokers to drastically alter their lifestyles for the better. However, people tend to fear what they don’t understand. Yet, we must understand this: our fears are our own and can never be overcome unless we unlock close-mindedness and walk into the direction of those fears.
Nevertheless, no one in particular is saying that vaping is a health craze; we’re just expressing how much we believe it to be much healthier than smoking tobacco cigarettes. Regardless, perhaps the scientific research published by prestigious medical journals and other publications are being “spun” by the mainstream media, interpreting scientific findings incorrectly? Or, is our country’s populace simply fearful of what they don’t know the slightest thing about? Is it the fact that there are not yet any long-term studies able to be conducted on the health risks of vaping? Are all of these vape bans happening in cities and universities across the country merely just a pawn in a much bigger chess game of financial gain from other opportunities consisting of unrelated profitable business ventures? Are small town governments receiving payoffs from private enterprises? The possibilities are endless, yet not nearly as everlasting as the vast amount of vaping propaganda that has swiftly saturated the market as well as stamping a permanent stain in the social fabric of America’s uncertain perspective about vaping, our vision of tomorrow and foresight for the future. Then again, the very act of vaping itself is our future, so I guess everyone better learn how to share because the time is now, the end is not here and the future we must share is much closer than it is near.