The Vape of Good Hope

Vapes. They’re everywhere. They’re the coolest thing on the block.

Should we be grateful that they seem to have reduced the smoking habit of teenagers? Smoking is far less prevalent than when I was a kid, and I hear fags go for up to a quid on the black (that is, school) market. That’s not good business sense on limited pocket money, not when there’s something much more easily nickable from B&M. And smoking is way not cool. You have to have a colourful device that emits strawberry vapour to be anyone these days. I’m not even gonna go into drugs, because that’s a whole different kettle of ballgames. Let’s just concentrate on legality and influence for a moment.

The marketers know what they’re doing. Of course they do. Not since alcopops has their cunning plan been more obvious. An array of bright, sparkly, magical looking items of stuff… sleek or space-age, and all manner of potions and liquids with strange exotic names to try. The boys, the older ones at least, and by older I mean about 13, seem to prefer the giant Sony Walkman sized ones with lights and petrol colours, with full chimney and pazazz regalia. They look like walkie talkies from some epic adventure space set. The girls tend to prefer the sleek, pink, diamante versions, a lot of the time not even vaping, rather flashing them around like the accessories they are and that young people have been trained by our media to value. At a push, you’ll make do with the disposable ones cos they’re easier to get hold of for the common teen. These things make their way on to tiktok vids, and dance ensembles, and there’s a raging market in our town that is consuming kids from younger than eight upwards. How do we address this? Can we address this?

Most Gen X, ie, my age.. are the grandparents of these kids. Their parents are Millennials. God help them. Show me a gen x/millenial that resisted the temptation to mess about with fads, gadgets, light up stuff, and all manner of substances that seem to always find their way everywhere. You can’t. There aren’t any. We’re too messed up from the Cold War, Reagan, Thatcher, and the Sega Megadrive. This generation dominate certain social media sites like Facebook, their after work status declares, “it’s wine/beer o clock”, and we’re the ones still huddled outside venues, bars, workplaces, or anywhere else, like social pariahs, smoking fags. Or you get the giver uppers, who stopped smoking, and now constantly chew on their vape like an old farmer with a pipe, consuming far more nicotine than they ever did, but it’s ok.. this nicotine is apricot and mint flavour.

What about long term? Is popcorn lung a thing? We don’t yet have any long term studies. Back when cigarettes were considered good for you, or at least not dangerous, or at least not yet publicly dangerous cos of, you know, profit and tax and that, back when I was twelve, my two favourite clothing items were my Marlboro t-shirt, and my JPS jumper. Twelve year olds wearing these things was no issue. When I eventually started smoking seriously, at the relatively late age of 19.. guess which smokes I smoked? Yep.. Marlboro. And then I found Sobranies in a local garage in Holyland road next to West Wales Kawasaki, neither of which exist anymore, and of course it became all about Sobranies, because they were different colours, until I got older, and it was all about cheapest.. onto Berkeley’s, cos my mum’s friend smoked them, and then turned into half ounce of Golden Virginia and green rizlas please, where it has stayed ever since (don’t get me started on grams, and now you can get blue rizlas. I’m keeping up with the fads, you see?).

The Sobranies were super cool (in my eyes), especially the pink ones… the Black Russian ones tasted horrendous.. but man.. black fags, gold filters.. how cool is that? The coolest race bikes were the Marlboro Ducatis, the Rizla and Lucky Strike Suzukis, the Rothmans whatever they weres.. Yamaha? I remember the logo more than the bike itself, and that’s from someone who loves bikes. My point is… it was cool, right? It was what vapes are now.

Now the shops hide the cigs away, in generic death brown packaging, which means that the shopkeep takes ages to find the one you want. Contrast this with the colourful, beautiful, pony and trap / grapevine infested packaging of wine? Or the memories of those amazing super cool ads for Stella Artois and Guinness, and Budweiser, and Fosters that have taken on cult status. Mum and dad love a drink. If you don’t drink, you’re considered a bit of a weirdo, let’s be fair.

I’m currently living opposite a Bargain Booze shop. It’s the only shop in town that has customers all day and all night long. On Christmas eve, Christmas day…. all the time, all the days. It’s by miles the most frequented shop in town. What we’ve done is create a culture where everyone is self medicating, and where children still feel like they want to emulate the adults around them. For all of society’s changes, that’s a non variable.

Frankly, there’s no way on this earth that we can fight the culture of kids wanting vapes and vodka. Maybe one day all vapes and bottles of wine will have to be the same mummy brown/ corpse green colour as fag packets are now. Maybe one day they won’t reserve whole double aisles in supermarkets just for stocking pretty coloured liquidy stuff that will make you feel better. I go in my local bargain booze a lot too. I don’t even drink, but they sell milk and bread and baccy and sweets and cat food and they’re closer than Londis. As I’m queuing behind the Stella boys and Gin girls, I eye the bottles on the shelf, and to be fair, they all look wonderfully attractive. They make a magnificent display.. like art.. bottles with hats, and glitter labels, and colour therapy on every shelf. If I wasn’t already aware of how smeggy most of it tastes, and didn’t have a long personal relationship of hate with alcohol, then I would definitely be tempted pretty quickly to just pick one up, especially if my friend got one too. Tobacco may be deemed ugly now, but tequila is still here, looking swish, and vape juice is just getting started.

The young people I work with want to show me their vapes proudly, and I try to explain all this to them, but you try condensing this down into a one minute conversation with someone who knows it all just like you did when you were thirteen. I’d love it to be a case of, I get emphysema so you don’t have to! But unfortunately, do as I say, not as I do, ain’t gonna wash with the generation who have access to all knowledge, even the knowledge that their habits are dangerous. They don’t care that it’s dangerous. We may moan about internet influencers, seeing that influencer is now a term, a job. But the big influencers, are friends, peers, and I hate to say it, us elders.

Perhaps, let’s level the playing field a little. Let’s replace the grapes and ponies on alcohol labels, and replace them with beaten partners, drunk driver accidents, lost jobs and families, suicides and all the other wonderful things that alcohol incentivises. Shall we? Lets make vapes look like the Vicks Sinex things they give you to give up smoking on the NHS, or better still, let’s stop inventing ever more ways of committing some slow death wish, and pushing them onto a largely unsuspecting young public. Can we?

Shamens, and holy men, and their ilk.. they used substances to gain enlightenment, not to fuel up for a fight outside the Prince of Wales. We’re all looking for our truth, and our peace. And until we make inroads to this, the props we rely on will always have the upper hand. It’s no good banning one thing, making it unfashionable, like smoking, and then just shifting the desire onto some other addictive consumer good. Are you trying to “rescue” the public or aren’t you?

Even better, isn’t it about time we tried to create the type of society where no-one feels the constant need for some kind of pacifier? Because after all it’s just some insecure fidget spinner oral fixation thing that we’re partaking in here, because we spend our lives in a state of anxious terror, but it’s ok, because they have watermelon flavour now, to go with our super summer banana split cider. We should probably go down Spar and get a throwaway barbecue.

Happy days.

Published by Tess Delaney

I mostly only come out at night... mostly....

One thought on “The Vape of Good Hope

  1. Absolutely brilliant Tess, I was smoking at school as we all were back in the day, only packed up when my lung collapsed 25 years later. I no longer drink either (6 years this time) but if I was still smoking I’d be a maniac on vapes, you wouldn’t be able to see me for constant cloud of fruit flavoured, rainbow inhanced haze. Thank fuck I’m older now & maybe a tiny bit wiser.

    Like

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