As a smoker smoking was just something I did. I didn’t talk about it or compare brands with others, I never even looked at the details written on the packs. I was a Benson & Hedges Gold smoker (apart from a brief interlude on Marlboro Lights) and that was the be all and all. So as a new vaper I had no expectation of it being any different, it would once again just be something I did. But vaping was different. A cigarette is an infinitely less complicated thing to master than even a CE4 /Ego combination, which is pretty much entry level stuff in the vaping world. And so I found myself trawling YouTube and Google for instructions on such things as how to dismantle and clean it, how to replace the atomiser head and what it means when the battery light blinks several times in quick succession.
What I found was literally thousands of people from across the globe who were prepared to give up their time to help. Some had written tutorials, others made videos, and still more answered specific questions posted in umpteen forums. No question was to silly and there seemed no limit to the time and energy they would spend in ensuring that the question was answered and understood. When they weren’t answering daft newbie questions they were chatting among themselves, posting pictures of their own devices, entering competitions, teaching each other new tricks, writing reviews of new products, bickering or arranging vape meets..
..wait..what? Vape meets? What I had stumbled upon was a vast online community united by having discovered a way to give up tobacco and keen to pass on their wisdom. For the majority of them vaping had become not only a substitute for smoking but a hobby and a new sense of identity. There were some who would pay hundreds of pounds for the latest artisan created device, and others who would make their own. Some had small businesses selling vaping products but were primarily vapers themselves – the only way you could tell the business owners apart was from their identifying flashes on the forums. And they had vape meets.
My local one meets up roughly every 6 weeks and it was with some trepidation that I signed up for my first one. I knew no one and it’s a daunting prospect to walk into a room full of strangers who all know each other. I needn’t have worried. My only regret was that the group were so friendly that I simply didn’t get time to talk to everyone. The ice breaker was always the same – comparing devices or liquids. In August 2013 I went to my first Vapefest – an annual event which that year was held in Tamworth. If you can imagine going to a beer fest with a trade show tacked on, entirely populated by 1,000s of friends most of whom you haven’t met yet – that’s kind of what it was like. This was a world away from smoking.
They say that your chances of giving up smoking are far greater with the support of NHS Stop Smoking Services. Well vapers have their own support network – with knobs on!