Vaping Life: A Fusion of Trends, Tech, and Demographics
Directly related to demographics is the concept of vaping economics. In other industries, the most common dynamic is that the younger demographic caters towards less-expensive products due to financial constraints. Older participants have longer working experience, and can therefore plop down more money for their craft. A prime example is a sports car club -- you're just not going to see too many 20-somethings tooling around in Ferraris or Lamborghinis.
But in vaping, this dynamic can sometimes be inverse to our normal expectations. It's often the younger crowd that buys the latest and greatest in APVs and MODs, while certain segments of the older demographic -- usually long-time smokers -- tend to stay with simpler kits and packages.
The reason is that for personal vaporizers, a stellar premium kit can be had for a few hundred dollars. Even for someone being compensated at the lower end of the income spectrum, it's fairly easy to save up that amount. If anything, delayed gratification on other purchases or a series of smaller sacrifices -- those Starbucks trips add up fast! -- can result in a brand new vaporizer in a quicker than anticipated time frame.
Combined with the vigor of youth -- and a few impulsive decisions -- the younger demographic taps right into the vaping undercurrent. They're eager to learn more about the art and the mechanics of vaping, and the technology that's used in today's premium APVs are organically aligned with the modern digital lifestyle. For example, many personal vaporizers are charged using a micro-USB connection, a portal that is increasing common as physical devices leave an ever smaller footprint.
The older or more experienced demographic have seen it all already. They may not have the time or even the interest to integrate themselves into the vaping culture. While young newbies are almost always impressed with correlated events such as cloud chasing competitions or vaping conventions, the older demographic may have other time commitments that prevent them from accessing such channels.
Additionally, too much involvement in extracurricular activities will negatively impact the cost-effectiveness of the vaping platform as compared to analog cigarettes. Fundamentally, a large segment of smokers are looking for a cleaner, healthier, and less pricey way of enjoying nicotine and throat hits. Getting caught up into the vaping culture can lead one into a dedicated pursuit of cloud chasing. That's not a bad thing at all; however, it may not be everyone's cup of tea.
Blending Art and Science
As many people who join the vaping community discover fairly quickly, vaporizers are a blend of art and science. In order to enjoy the best vaping experience, a vaper has to consider a plethora of factors. Coil temperature, wattage, and coil resistance are critical elements that can dramatically alter the end result. Like a long-range sniper dialing in his or her shot, a vaper not only has to understand individual impacting components, but how they all interact with each other.
In the competitive landscape, no detail is overlooked. One attribute pushed in a certain direction can cause substantive changes in other features and functionalities. Therefore, the ability to make quick and minute changes is critical for the cloud chasing vaper. Even more challenging, there's no standardization in the environment. Everything is trial and error, which further necessitates modularity.
With elite vapers, it's not just the options with which they are concerned. Having all the functionality in the world won't mean much if you can't tell what you're doing. Advances in user display interfaces, higher performing chips and circuitry, and precision temperature control systems must provide two benefits -- the primary or advertised benefit, and a way to communicate that benefit.
In order to better explain what I mean, consider some of the vaping devices of old, and even some of the e-cigarettes sold today. The user interface in prior generations often just consisted of a simple light that "flickered" its message to the vaper. That may have sufficed during vaping's infancy and growing years. However, technically advanced vapers require much more communication and equipment feedback.
A few years ago, liquid crystal display (LCD) interfaces started hitting the marketplace. This was a tremendous leap in the personal vaporizer segment because the e-device could provide real-time feedback to the end-user. Specific functions such as precision wattage control were the biggest beneficiaries of LED technology. Without having to engage in guesswork, vapers could dial up or down their power settings, and know exactly in what range their e-device was operating.
The latest technological trend in user interface systems is the organic light-emitting diode, or OLED for short. The biggest advantage of the OLED over the prior-generation LCD technology is that the OLED has no backlight. A backlight is a form of illumination that is specific to LCD screens, which actually do not illuminate on their own. A separate illumination device is required; hence the backlight. This system shines light from the back or to the side of the display panel.
LCD's represented a big step forward in terms of resolution, compared to the Cathode ray tube (CRT) platforms that were used throughout most of the 20th century. This is an overlooked but critical asset to the vaper since portable vaporizers have little to no real estate to spare. As a result, the resolution has to be clear and have the ability to "project" itself to increase perceived size.
But LCD isn't without some drawbacks. In applications such as TV or computer screens, LCDs can lead to eye fatigue. While the resolution is a step forward, there's still an artificial backlight that is shining into the user's eyes. Imagine staring into a lit flashlight all day. Even at a lessened magnitude, the exercise would eventually become draining on your eyes. When we watch TV, that's basically what we're doing.
This may not be the biggest problem for vapers, who probably don't spend too much time staring at their devices. But another disadvantage of LCDs is that they don't have the best acuity in challenged conditions such as sunlight exposure. That could make it difficult for vapers to attain necessary feedback.
OLED in these cases makes a world of difference. OLED doesn't require a backlight; instead, it essentially emits its own light source. Not having an extra component means that OLED interface systems can easily fit into a portable vaporizer platform. OLED is flexible so it doesn't have the same physical constraints of other electrical components.
For competitive vapers, they'll really appreciate the rich textures and sharp contrasts of the OLED interface, which is far superior to LCD. Perceptually, OLED has a pronounced "pop" effect over standard displays, almost like 3D without the corny glasses. That can come in handy during the (literal) fog of competition, when on the fly adjustments need to be made.
Vaping Technology is for Everyone
While competitors will no doubt gravitate towards technologically-advanced items, many serious hobbyists and non-smokers will follow suit. Just like millions of people will buy Air Jordans despite not having the elite-level skill to justify such specialized gear, so it is with the vaping consumer base. Having the proper equipment allows fans -- or cloud gazers -- to legitimately attempt to emulate their vaping heroes.
Plus, there's a huge market for this stuff. Vapers see the latest developments within their industry and community, and wish to experiment with the new available options. Hobbyists from other sectors have the opportunity to witness vaping for the first time, and are hooked by the constantly evolving art form.
In this manner, the advances in vaping represent a self-sustaining economy. The elite vapers are the front face of the movement -- they draw the crowds. In turn, the masses buy the devices from which the elites are drawing. This brings in more revenue for vaporizer manufacturers, allowing them to invest more in research and development, as well as promoting events and sponsorships. The cycle repeats itself, with the only difference being that the next go-around is bigger and better than before.
This is ultimately what makes the vaping industry functionally and morally superior to Big Tobacco. Vaping is an industry of velocity -- it's constantly in motion and striving in its pursuit of perfection. Big Tobacco hasn't changed since...well, ever. Vaping promotes a vibrant and mutually beneficial ecosystem. Big Tobacco operates under an almost scorched-earth like policy.
On a broader scale, the impressive aspect of the vaping industry is its ability to integrate modern consumer technology with the personal vaporizer platform. Many outsiders wouldn't think of putting OLED interfaces or advanced circuitry in a "smoking device" -- to them, smoking is just smoking.
Thankfully, vaporizer engineers and product designers have far more creativity than the average person. Indeed, I'm not going out on too much of a limb when I say that vaping is one of the most creative consumer sectors, if not the most creative.
Nowhere else does one have to marry disparate ideas and components in order to make a cohesive whole. A vaporizer engineer has to be an electrician, a chemist, a physicist, and a mathematician to be able to successfully create a desirable e-device. And unlike large products like automobiles, it's extremely difficult to segment vaporizer manufacturing component by component. Each piece of a vaporizer is intricately linked with each other, and impacts the overall functionality and safety of the whole system.
Vapers themselves have to exercise considerable intellectual investments towards their art of choice. It's not just a matter of buying a device and drawing from it. To get the most out of the experience requires modulations and downright tinkering with multiple components and accessories.
The potential to have the "eureka" moment is one of the driving forces of the vaping industry and subculture. Rather than viewing it as a chore, hobbyist vapers relish the opportunity to dive further into their passion. This is where all the boring science and math classes that we've all slogged through is given a paradigm-shattering makeover.
Back in our schooling days -- and this applies to older Millennials and prior generations -- the education system was built on rote memorization. Learn for the sake of getting good grades so that you can go to a "good university" and get a "good job." The emphasis was based on the fear of getting left behind; that is, if you didn't perform well now, you would suffer long-term consequences later.
We know based on the success of "rebel companies" like Apple and Facebook that the correlation between standardized education and success in the real world is not perfectly aligned. Ironically, the vaping industry highlights this misconception quite clearly.
The education system fears the vaporizer because they erroneously view it as a "gateway" to illegal or immoral practices. But the overwhelming majority of vapers -- and especially so for hobbyist vapers -- have augmented their interest in the physical sciences thanks to their vaping consumption.
All of the elements that make a vaporizer tick -- electrical currents, energy transfers, thermodynamics, and many more -- are rooted in physics, and the principles discovered by Isaac Newton and Michael Faraday. Under most circumstances, talking about Newton or Faraday will put people to sleep. But incorporating their groundbreaking ideas into chasing vape? That's a lesson many people will pay to learn!
In short, vaping and all of its granular components can be modified to complement any passion, pursuit, or lifestyle. Those that simply want a no-fuss, no-frills platform to enjoy an experience analogous to traditional cigarettes can procure "mouth-to-lung" vaporizers. Others that want to take their art to the next level have an abundance of options. Furthermore, direct-to-lung advocates are virtually guaranteed to enjoy new experiences as the manufacturing and research and development trends are geared towards the hobbyist and non-smoking crowd.