Even as e-cigarettes have become more popular and mainstream, many people still have a narrow and often inaccurate idea of who vapers are. Some groups of vapers stand out more than others in public and in the media, while others groups are rarely noticed or recognized.
The stereotypical image of a vaper, the one that likely pops into many people’s heads when they think of e-cigarette users, is this: a young, 20-something college male who thinks he should be allowed to vape anywhere and likes e-cigarettes because they’re “cool.” And, while people like this stereotype do exist, they are certainly not representative of the vaping community as a whole.
Vapers are a large and diverse group composed of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. In fact, the vaping community is one of the few places where you’ll see middle-aged smokers, young adults, retirees, young professionals, and people from other wildly different demographics come together.
While this is something that most vapers understand, many non-vapers, news organizations, and lawmakers don’t. Instead, fears about teen vaping and the potential risks of e-cigarettes take center stage while they wholly overlook the benefits that e-cigarettes bring to less-visible groups.
Young or old, wealthy or poor, the vaping community is open to all adults, especially those seeking to improve their lifestyles and give up smoking. In this post, we’re going to give you a snapshot of some of these lesser-known, misrepresented, and less-visible groups of vapers.
A large number of vapers in the US come from rural areas, which are also known for having some of the highest smoking rates in the country. Unfortunately, rural vapers are often overlooked even though they are also disproportionately affected by laws and regulations that restrict access to e-cigarettes.
For example, when lawmakers introduced legislation to ban online e-cigarette sales in 2015, rural vapers pleaded to be heard. There are many places in the US, they pointed out, where brick-and-mortar e-cigarette shops are virtualy non-existent. For many Americans, online shopping is the only way they have access to e-cigarettes, vape juice, and other vapor products.
However, some rural states like Oklahoma have recently seen a huge boom in their local vaping industry with more entrepreneurs opening up vape shops than ever before. These small businesses not only fuel local economies, but they provide a valuable service to the many smokers who live in rural America.
Although they are rarely recognized, a large number of non-white Americans and people from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds vape. Unfortunately, these groups are virtually invisible to the media, and very few studies have looked into the vaping patterns of diverse communities.
However, one small study of 285 vapers in the US made some interesting observations, including that vaping is more common among people who identify as white or Hispanic than black. They also found some differences in vaping patterns and motivations; for instance, white Americans were more likely to vape as a means to save money, while black Americans were more likely to vape as a means to quit smoking.
In the future, it would be great to see more research and media recognition of the many non-white vapers in the US. More awareness could bring more attention to underrepresented groups of vapers and highlight their unique needs and contributions.
Despite the fact that vaping is now quite widespread, many people still think of it as a predominantly male activity. The stereotypical image of a vaper is usually male, and many still don’t think of vaping as something women do.
Studies on vapers do, however, show some minor differences between men and women when it comes to vaping habits and motivations. For example, although the differences were small, one study showed that women were more likely than men to use simpler, first-generation e-cigarettes and enjoy vaping for it’s stress-reducing and mood-lifting effects.
If you’re interested in learning more about women vapers, check out our previous post highlighting the female vaper sub-community. You can also read this post on female e-cigarette models, where we take a closer look at what it takes to make a career as a social influencer in the vaping industry.
Quitting smoking is an extremely difficult challenge, and one that many smokers have to attempt again and again to be successful. Every person has to find their own reasons and strategies for quitting, and it’s not always a linear or cut-and-dry process.
Because of this, many smokers begin using e-cigarettes before they try to quit completely—this makes them “dual users” of both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes. While dual users are often talked about in the media, they almost never represent their true interests and motivations in an accurate way.
Dual users often get a bad rap in the press and even in academic papers, which tend to portray dual users as being worse off than people who only use traditional cigarettes. They often point to dual users as proof that e-cigarettes don’t help people quit smoking; they argue that, if e-cigarettes were a viable alternative, then they would have given up cigarettes completely.
The truth is, the majority of smokers become dual users as part of an attempt to gradually to “wean” themselves off of traditional cigarettes or reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke. Most dual users intend to quit smoking, and become dual users as a way to get closer to that goal.
It is unfair to demonize dual users or use them as evidence that e-cigarettes don’t help people quit. This is especially true when you consider the fact that the vast majority of quit-smoking attempts are unsuccessful, even when people use traditional nicotine replacement products and smoking cessation programs.
Dual users deserve more recognition for what most of them really are and what they’re trying to do—reduce the harms of smoking and eventually quit. They don’t deserve to be consistently demeaned and misrepresented as failed subjects in the e-cigarette public health experiment.
In general, vaping tends to be more prevalent in communities with high rates of smoking. This makes sense since e-cigarettes are designed to be a smokeless alternative to cigarettes.
It just so happens nearly three-quarters of smokers in the Unites States live in low-income communities. And, while researchers aren’t exactly sure why this is, many postulate that it has a lot to do with tobacco marketing strategies and lack of access to quit smoking services.
The large numbers of smokers in urban and low-income areas means that they tend to have larger numbers of vape shops and vapers, too. While some anti-vaping activists see this as a bad thing, it is far from it; it’s a good thing when low-income smokers have access to an affordable smokeless alternative when they want to quit.
This is an important problem that rarely gets the attention it deserves, even though it has major implications for public health. According to research published by the World Health Organization and the U.S National Cancer Institute, “tobacco use accounts for a significant share of the health disparities between the rich and poor.”
Research from the CDC also shows that low-income smokers have less access to health care, more trouble quitting, and are more likely to die of lung cancer. Because of these unique challenges and needs, low-income smokers may have more to gain from vaping than just about any other group.
Low-income smokers are also the most likely to be affected by high e-cigarette taxes, which may discourage them from making the switch and trying to quit. When e-cigarettes costs go up, they become less affordable and less appealing to low-income smokers, increasing the likelihood that they will continue smoking instead.
Smokers Who Want to Quit
It may seem strange to list smokers as a “less-visible” group of vapers, especially when you consider the fact that e-cigarettes were originally invented as a tool for smokers. However, with media attention so focused on teen vaping and fears that e-cigarettes will “re-normalize” smoking, this fact often gets lost in the noise.
In reality, the vast majority of people in the US who vape are current or former smokers. According to a study conducted by the FDA, the majority of these people say the reason they vape is to quit smoking (94%) or improve their health (88%).
Unfortunately, while lawmakers worry about the effects of e-cigarettes on non-smoking youth and young adults, they ignore plight of smokers and the negative health effects of being unable to quit. That’s why it’s important to continually remind our congressmen and lawmakers at the FDA that it is smokers and former smokers who are most affected when they pass laws restricting access to e-cigarettes.