The Stigma of Vaping

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Mouth fedoras? Cloud bros? We’re sure you’ve heard the derogatory slang towards vaping. In this post, we are going to face the stigma of vaping head on.  

We dug into the history of vaping and talked with some of brightest minds in the vaping community and get their opinions on this issue. We also looked at some of the recent portrayals by vaping in the media to see if we could get a better understanding of how vaping is currently being portrayed.




A stigma is a mark of disgrace. Anti-vaping activists are working hard to accomplish this, and they’re making progress. More people now think vaping is dangerous. There is a great stigma to smoking, and they have been largely successful in equating vaping and smoking.

– Jeremy Mann,


Let’s face it, smoking and vaping look eerily similar. Someone inhales from a circular device, and then blow out a gray colored gas. For the uneducated, smoking and vaping can seem like the same thing.


While they may look similar, smoking and vaping are fundamentally very different. Smoking produces over 7,000 chemicals through the process of combustion, while vaping produces a cloud of vapor that contains only four chemicals.


I think, for the most part, that there isn’t really much of a stigma; at least not one generated by vapers. However, there is a growing misconception in the wider public that conflates vaping with smoking; thereby attaching the widely acknowledged stigma of smoking to vaping. Most of that stigma originates from the continued “war on smoking” promulgated by factions within Public Health, and of course Tobacco Control.


Smokers, by and large, are heavily ostracized from society – they’re not allowed to smoke indoors, now they aren’t even allowed to smoke in their own cars (with kids in). By deliberately conflating vaping with smoking, the general public’s perception of vaping has significantly been abraded.

– Paul Barnes, @MorphRV,

[Tweet “Most of that stigma originates from the continued “war on smoking” promulgated by factions within Public Health, and of course Tobacco Control.”]



If a stigma does exist, it may have something to do with the media hype and the adverse reactions from those who believe mainstream media, especially never smokers or former smokers who might think vaping is a “crutch.”

– Karen S Musselman, Smoker’s Logic eCigs  


The reason people may believe there is a stigma attached to vaping could very well be attributed to financial gain. Type the word ‘vaping’ into Google’s search engine and it returns some 22,800,000 search results in under a second. Both mainstream and non-mainstream blogs, forums, and websites generate stories, fabricate the results of studies, or downright lie about the so-called dangers of vaping for nothing more than click-bait. And they do it every day. At some point, left unchecked, these profit-motivated self-publishers just might find that they’ve managed to stigmatized people who have quit smoking and replaced it with something that is 95% less harmful. Imagine generating hatred against a certain segment of society for no other reason than money. That? Well, that is evil.

– John Manzione – Publisher Spinfuel VAPE eMagazine


If one takes the time to Google vaping and search through the results, they will find a surprising number of articles that portray vaping in a negative light.


With all these outlets publishing stories about vaping’s potential dangers, it seemed only right to examine the studies these stories were examining and see how they came to their conclusions.


As vapers we are constantly fighting the various anti-vaping laws and taxes, and also fighting against the propaganda that tries to equate vaping with smoking. Smoking has been successfully “denormalized.” Our fight now is to prevent smoking’s stigma from being attached to vaping.

– Jeremy Mann,




You may have seen reports recently stating that vaping can produce formaldehyde. A study carried out by five Portland State University scientists and published in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed that when vaping at high temperatures, e-liquid could produce formaldehyde.


This study was picked up and covered by NPR, The Motley Fool, NBC, and many other large media organizations. While it is true that vaping at extremely high conditions can produce formaldehyde, the authors of the study left out some critical details.


The temperatures that the study used were so high that no human could ever vape it comfortably. The study essentially concluded that when vaping at temperatures too high for human consumption, a carcinogen forms.


This study is similar to stating that if someone cooked a chicken breast for 24 hours, carcinogens would form. While there may be carcinogens, no reasonable human would ever eat a chicken breast that had cooked for that period of time.


The New England Journal of Medicine posted a tweet after they published the study that read, “Chemical analysis of e-cigs’ vapor shows high levels of formaldehyde. Authors project higher cancer risk than smoking.”


When one of the authors of the study heard about this tweet, he stated “I didn’t see the tweet, I regret that. That is not my opinion.”


Articles like this help to further the stigma commonly associated with vaping. [Tweet ” Titles that state that e-cigarettes and vaporizers contain carcinogens will get more clicks and visits than an article that states vaporizers may be safe for use.”] With this type of article becoming more common, the stigma of vaping dialogue will continue to plague the industry.



Mostly, this stigma – however slight or prominent – can be considered a direct result of misinformation in the media, propagated by some dubious science and bizarre press releases.

– Paul Barnes, @MorphRV,


Harvard University carried out a study in which it examined e-liquid vapor for chemicals that had been found to cause a condition known as “Popcorn Lung.”


The condition gets its name from employees of a popcorn factory that had inhaled chemicals found in the butter flavoring used in microwaveable popcorn. These workers contracted “Popcorn Lung,” and some were forced to undergo full-on lung transplants.


The study reported that small amounts of the chemicals that caused popcorn lung were present in e-cigarette vapor. What they failed to mention was that the amounts of these chemicals found in traditional cigarettes are 100 and 10 times higher than the amounts they discovered in electronic cigarettes.


No smoker of traditional cigarettes has ever contracted popcorn lung. Many major media outlets ran stories that stated e-cigarettes might have the potential to cause popcorn lung.


If cigarettes have 100 and ten times more of the chemicals that cause popcorn lung, and they have never caused popcorn lung, how could any reasonable media outlet make the connection that e-cigarettes cause popcorn lung?


Clickbait and more views could be one explanation. More people will click on a story about e-cigarettes causing a disease than one that states that e-cigarettes are harmless.


It is no surprise a stigma of vaping exists when stories like this one are so common.


This is no longer a ‘live and let live’ society. Differences are no longer respected and celebrated, and too many people allow others to do the thinking for them. This type of society always breeds hysteria, and hysterical people have no problem stigmatizing people who choose a different path. So, no, I do not believe there is a stigma around vaping right now.  It’s certainly possible that there could be, someday, especially if people continue to choose to live in ignorance. And they probably will.”

– John Manzione – Publisher Spinfuel VAPE eMagazine



“I believe ‘stigma’ is too strong a word to use to describe what non-vapers may think or feel about vaping or people that vape. No vaper I know has ever been made to feel disgraced, or unworthy, because they choose to vape. Now, on the other hand, smokers have been stigmatized for years now, of that there is no doubt. When I notice a smoker in public I turn my eyes to the people around the smoker and I see hateful daggers shooting out of their eyes, being directed at the smoker. I have not yet seen those daggers when people notice someone vaping. I see curiosity, maybe bewilderment, but not hatred.  Not yet.

– John Manzione – Publisher Spinfuel VAPE eMagazine


Because of the staunch of prevalent anti-smoking campaigns that ran over the past few decades, many people automatically associate nicotine with cigarettes and cancer. While nicotine is found in cigarettes, it does not cause cancer. Many doctors consider nicotine to be about as harmful as caffeine.


[Tweet “While nicotine is found in cigarettes, it does not cause cancer. Many doctors consider nicotine to be about as harmful as caffeine.”]


Many people associate nicotine with causing cancer. A survey taken by the Royal Society for Public Health in England discovered that 90% of UK residents believe that nicotine is the primary cancer-causing agent in cigarettes.


With stats like these, it is no surprise that a stigma of vaping exists. If the majority of people believe that nicotine causes cancer, and e-cigarettes possess nicotine, it is easy to see why they might stigmatize e-cigarettes.





Yep there definitely is a stigma that vaping is only for nerds, hence why people call vapes “mouth fedoras.” The reason for the stigma is that a decent amount of the people who get into vaping actually are dorks, so unfortunately it’s kind of justified. I think as long as you look and act like a normal person and don’t get to pretentious about it, you can vape without fear of any stigma. You shouldn’t let it stop you from vaping.

– JR Reynoldson, Vapor Vanity (


The only “sort of” negativity I’ve had in my four years of vaping were from my son and my now-late brother who couldn’t quite understand why I was vaping after being smoke-free for four years.  Once I explained it to them, however, they were okay with it, but they still teased me a lot about it anyway.


As for vaping out in public, I haven’t had any negative comments or experiences.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  I’ve had smokers come up and ask questions about my vape device, how does it work, etc., as they were thinking of trying to quit smoking but hadn’t been successful thus far.  So I see more of a curiosity than a stigma where I live.


I was recently in the hospital overnight and the nurses and doctor had no problem with me vaping in my room!  They simply closed the curtain and let me vape away.  I thought that was actually nothing less than amazing!  But then, I was in a private room by myself.  One of the nurses even put my vape battery on the wall charger for me so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed!

– Karen S Musselman, Smoker’s Logic eCigs,   


For many people, vaporizers are viewed in a similar way as fedoras are. Unfortunately, some people have begun to view vaping as something dominated by masculinity. With large mods and builds, vaping can be an intimidating topic to enter for many people.


Just as personal computers started out as something dominated by a subculture of young men, vaping has taken a similar route. But just as personal computers have moved from being something that was dominated by a nerdy subculture into a product used universally, vaping will follow the same path as vaporizers become more streamlined and easier to use. At the end of the day, vaping is a way for people to enjoy nicotine without having to ingest tobacco.


[Tweet “At the end of the day, vaping is a way for people to enjoy nicotine without having to ingest tobacco.”]
The social stigma associated with it will continue to decrease as more and more people take up the practice of vaping.


More and more celebrities have begun to reverse any chance of a stigma continuing to exist. There are few things Leonardo Dicaprio loves more than his vape. Katy Perry used a vape at a Golden Globes after party. With countless other celebrities and cultural icons taking up vaping, it would be surprising if the stigma around vaping will continue to exist at all.


Have you noticed a stigma around vaping? Do you hold any negative opinion about people that vape?

Tell us your thoughts by commenting on this Facebook post!

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