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What you smoke can say a lot about you

Happy Hookah off Peachtree Street NW sells all sorts of vape products and related smoke items. Photo by Dakota Smith | The Signal

After the introduction of the vape and the Juul, cigarettes are no longer in vogue, with many different options when it comes to picking your next buzz. These come with pros and cons leading many people with many different options of smoking. Today, smoking devices act as almost an accessory that speak for themselves.

To some students, the traditional cigarette is treasured for being just that—traditional. Mari Mujiri, an Arts and Sciences student, has been smoking throughout college, and despite the introduction of new vapes, she’s been faithful to the cigarette.

“It’s old school. It’s a routine. You light it, you ash it, you put it out. It sounds weird to non-smokers,” Mujiri said.

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After being heavily glamorized in Hollywood with timeless classics like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” (think Audrey Hepburn’s distinct cigarette holder), there’s now a certain old Hollywood aesthetic associated with it. But today, cigarettes are no longer the standard or even the norm, instead serving as an active choice—an accessory.

And whatever kind of cigarette you smoke can say a lot about your personality. Ryan Capone is a Georgia State student who frequents the various areas used for smoking on campus. He thinks there is a lot that can be said about someone based on the brand and kind of cigarettes they smoke.

“There’s a kind of culture. Like if you smoke cigarettes, you view someone who smokes Newports differently than Marlboros differently than American Spirits,” Capone said.

Capone even remembers a time recently when he tried to buy Newports and the woman behind the counter told him no, because he was “too pretty to be smoking Newports.”

But today, as technology progresses and advances, so do the methods of smoking. In modern times, the vape is a popular choice. Vape culture is filled with their custom mods; many vapers take pride in the creativity and do-it-yourself attitude.

Kyle Louis was first introduced to vaping through one of these crafty friends.

“I had a friend who had a whole tackle box of parts, tools and five different vapes. She was serious about it,” Louis said as a cloud of cotton candy smoke swirled around him.

When vapes first gained consumer appeal, users were building their own from scratch. Vape enthusiasts would quite literally build the machine they wanted to smoke from, often assembling batteries, tanks and coils.

This popularity led vaping to quickly spread through the mainstream. Suddenly, with the sale of prebuilt devices and pre-packaged nicotine juice, vapes became accessible to everyone, no prior knowledge necessary.

And as with cigarettes, there is a distinct style of vape for every person.

For example, the larger the tank on a vape, the more battery life it has and the “fatter” the clouds are produced. Significant modifications (“mods,” as they’re called) are useful for people who vape frequently or perform tricks. In contrast, smaller vapes are more discrete—perfect for any novice looking to get started, or those not interested in longer battery life and cloud size. Vapes are also specialized for whatever e-juice or “tobacco product” you may be smoking.

The popularity of the vape springboarded it into the territory of subcultures and social networks. Today, vape lounges pepper street corners in almost every city and vape competitions set out to rank those who rip the fattest clouds.

But vape culture has now led us to new territory, what is referred to by many as the “iPhone of vapes”: the Juul.

The concept behind the Juul is almost ingenious. It bears no resemblance to a cigarette, opting instead for a monolithic black design that looks more like a USB stick than anything. It’s discreet—the Juul’s size and vapor production make it easy to enjoy indoors and without the risk of secondhand and thirdhand smoke. But unlike its flavors, not everything about the Juul is peachy, or even mango.

THE STIGMA BEHIND IT

“Juuls are a meme,” Capone said.

Because most smoking devices are stereotypically associated with certain groups, like Marlboros versus Newports, the Juul is often seen as a joke—or worse, a meme.

Right now, there is a dramatically high number of Juuls infiltrating high schools. And with Juul’s mass-market appeal, the U.S. is now seeing an increase in teen nicotine usage. And because of it, the Food and Drug Administration just declared teen e-cigarette smoking an epidemic.

A simple search on YouTube for “Juuls” instantly pulls up hundreds of thousands of videos labeled “Juul challenge,” “Juul Tricks,” “Juul Compilation” and “How to Hide Your Juul.” Many of these videos display high school students boasting their Juuls and even performing their tricks inside classrooms.

Capone is interested in the Juul because he thinks cigarettes affect his dating opportunities but he is apprehensive to buy a Juul because of all the connotations that come with it.

“I’m embarrassed to go to a gas station to buy pods or a Juul,” Capone said.

Such meme stigma is nothing new. Vapers have been experiencing for years with the onset of memes like “vape god” and “vape nation.” And many people still have negative associations with vapers.

“People have that stigma where if you smoke vape, you’re a p—-. Like, you have a Honda that’s lower to the ground and you’re a d——–,” Louis said.

But most smokers don’t care—they’re still getting their buzz whether it’s a meme or not.

Louis explained that he was originally weary of owning one of the larger vapes but stopped caring once he stopped focusing on what others thought. Instead, he focuses on how it improves his life, like being able to smoke inside his house and no longer smelling like cigarettes all the time.

“In the beginning, yeah I was embarrassed. I had a small [vape] pen. But it just wasn’t doing enough for me,” Louis said.

While various vapes and cigarettes all have their own upsides and downsides, smokers agree that it’s not what you’re smoking; it’s who you’re smoking it with.

COMRADERY PASSING LIGHTERS, MEETING PEOPLE:

Many Georgia State students are able to network and meet people with similar interests in the various areas used for smoking on campus. They appreciate the community that smoking builds.

“It’s a social thing. You give out cigarettes and you hand around lighters. When it’s cold, we’re huddled together,” Mujiri said.

And the comradery isn’t only confined to cigarette smokers, as people can still mingle in the circle with their vapes.

“You connect with someone else when you see a vape,” Louis said. “I can hang out with the cigarette smokers with my vape but not have the need to pick up a cigarette.”

Stigma or not, these smokers know they can follow the clouds and meet each other on the other side.

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