Namira Hossain reflects how vaping is gradually gaining popularity in Bangladesh
Humans have been inhaling smoke for a long time – in the Americas. Archaeological evidence show shamans would smoke tobacco as far back as 5000 BC. Ancient literature from India, such as the Atharvaveda written circa 1500 BC, mentions cannabis. The Mayans smoked as far back as the 10 century AD and the Aztecs worshipped goddess Cihuacoatl who was made of tobacco. However, it was not until the Conquistadors brought back tobacco to Europe as a cash crop that social smoking became common. From the 16th century onwards, pipe smoking and coffee shops were quickly adopted as leisurely activities.
This has now become the new digital revolution, people now smoke from machines which light up blue and exhale clouds of smoke flavoured with Bourbon, Caramel, Coconut etc. Just how handwritten letters have been replaced by email, books by ebooks, pipes, cigarettes, shishas etc have now been replaced by their electronic equivalent. This is one of the reasons, why this trend has quickly caught on and become a hobby for ex-smokers hoping to quit and techie-geeks alike.
This worldwide trend has found its’ way to Dhaka as various outlets have opened that provide tanks and juices, such as Vapor Smith in Banani, Vapor Hub in Uttara and Vapor Cloud in Dhanmondi. There is also a Facebook group, Vapors of Bangladesh for enthusiasts to share pictures, buy and exchange tanks or juices.
Sheriyar Rahman, a member of the group tells New Age Xtra about the appeal for vaping, ‘coil smithing and not smoking cigarettes anymore. It started off as smoking cessation methodology and became a hobby.’ He goes on, ‘coil smithing is the hobbyist aspect of it. Making different builds and techniques to fine tune the flavour or the vapour amount. And from an aesthetic perspective, gives an outlet.’
Joy Alam, also a member of the group says, ‘Working out is easier, more stamina than before when I used to smoke. And the good flavour’s a bonus.’ But what exactly is an e-cigarette?
US patent application No. 8,490,628 B2 defines an e-cigarette as ‘an electronic atomisation cigarette that functions as substitutes for quitting smoking and cigarette substitutes.’ They were first invented in 2002 by a Chinese pharmacist as smoking cessation devices, and China remains the primary manufacturer of e-cigarettes globally today. The devices atomise a nicotinated propylene glycol solution, known as e-liquid, that may be doctored with additional additives, such as flavourings and colourings or variable nicotine concentration.
Aslam Jalil Monty, 44, is a vape enthusiast and explains how the process works, ‘It’s like a gadget. The tanks have pre-made atomisers which turn red and convert the liquid to vapour. There are three ingredients, which includes the food flavorings and nicotine is optional. I started off with 12 mg nicotine and now have switched to 6 mg. The idea is to go to 3 mg and then eventually zero milligram. As nicotine is the addictive part, soon I will not need to smoke anymore.’
Aside from the obvious advantage that vaping does not have the same suffocating smell of cigarettes, the funky names of juice flavours such as Suicide Bunny, Space Jam, Unicorn Milk etc add to the appeal. The machines themselves such as Smok, Eleaf, Kangertech come in colours such as Storm Trooper White and Darth Vader Black. Despite the pop-culture references and funky names, not everyone can vape due to the age-limit.Vendors have to see proof of identification and do not sell to minors. Even the Facebook group is stringent about screening and do not allow those below 18 years to join the group.
Sheriyar says, ‘It’s hilarious watching the stampede every time a new batch of juice comes in. It’s a bit of a fad at the moment. But once the glamour dies down, it’s a safer alternative.’ It is a very costly habit though, as he goes on to say, ‘biggest consequence appears to be empty wallets.’
However, due to this trend being very new, not much is known about its’ long-term effects. Aslam Jalil Monty says, ‘only smokers who want to quit should try this, people should not pick up vaping just because they think it looks cool.’