The electronic cigarette is not just a tool to quit smoking. It is also an aggregator of friendships, habits, gestures. What was only perceived by vaping enthusiasts to date has now been put on paper in a recent Norwegian university publication. The Norwegian academics Rikke Tokle (Norwegian Institute of Health) and Willy Pedersen (University of Oslo) observed for four years – from 2014 to 2018 – the habits of consumers of electronic cigarettes, attending their own meeting points and participating in discussions on forum. The result is a sociological treatise that for the first time places the vaper in a subculture divided into two identities: the Cloud Hunter and the Substitute.
The Hunter of Clouds is characterized by four dominant elements: the desire for protagonism during the gesture of vaping; the sense of belonging to a community, even through the use of shared symbols; the public and indiscriminate defense of vaping; the constant search for high performance tools. In essence, it is the profile of the enthusiast that has found in the vaping an activity if not principal, at least collateral to its own, able to fill up most of the day. Often the cloud hunter is politically committed to improving the regimes of vape and aims to become a reference point for his community. He often uses technical terms in English even though he does not know the literal meaning.
The Substitute is instead the one who limits himself to considering the electronic cigarette as a mere tool to reduce the consumption of tobacco, until it stops altogether. The goal is to stop smoking through a more pragmatic way, avoiding further health risks and escaping the stigma of smoking and managing nicotine addiction. It uses sporadic discussion forums and when it does it is to ask for information on the correct use or functioning of the electronic cigarette, not to be updated on the legislation or on new commercial proposals. Instead, he has a high regard for the reference retailer, a person who places all expectations on smoking cessation.