Vaping Reviewers, Advocates and Influencers
When I first started using e-cigarettes, I used to watch a lot of reviewers on YouTube. I quite quickly found some that I liked and trusted what they were saying. It helped me become accustomed to the language, the different types of devices and it provided a useful distraction during those first few months I stopped smoking and switched to vaping.
Back then there were only a handful of people talking about vaping products on YouTube, and a lot of them were focused on the DIY aspects like building coils and modifying e-cig devices.
Today YouTube is probably the biggest outlet for information, it's very unusual for there not to be at least a couple of videos on the vaping gear you are interested in. Often there will be review videos of tanks and mods before they are even available for sale, with reviewers being sent prototypes or special 'review sample' products.
It's easy to see why manufacturers take this route as vaping products are in a very different position to most other retail products. As 'tobacco related products' they are unable to be advertised in most of the more traditional ways and it's an inexpensive and effective way to get your products seen. This is probably the most common 'complaint' about YouTube reviewers, that they aren't genuinely reviewing the items, they are just performing a video advertisement for the products. I'm sure that may be the case for some but there are plenty of others that are reviewing the products in a fair way and providing a useful service for their viewers.
Some reviewers have changed their YouTube channel's model in the last year, both due to YouTube's own rules and the fact that vaping is so often under attack these days. In the USA there are a couple of reviewers that spring to mind immediately; they used to have channels that were fairly light-hearted, looking at products and generally having fun but lately have become far more serious in tone because of everything that's going on over there. They have become far more focused on advocacy and keeping people informed and up to date with all that's going on in the political world with vaping. I'm sure there are people that don't like that change but I understand why they felt they needed to speak up and start taking their channels in a slightly different direction.
YouTube has been taking a fairly hard approach to vaping for the last couple of years, I'm not sure if this is just because of its position as a 'tobacco product' or whether it's from anti-vaping groups lobbying to restrict what you and I can watch on the platform. What happens in America over the next year might well play a large part in what we will be watching on the platform in the future. It's not just YouTube either, Facebook and Instagram have also been clamping down and seem to be constantly updating their rules. I do worry where we'll be in a year or so, it's not that hard to imagine a world where any content that seems to promote vaping could be removed from all social media platforms.
I often think that here in the UK we are in a far better place and largely, we are. I did however become pretty disheartened when I started looking into stop smoking services in my local area. I felt that might be somewhere I could do some good for my community and would give me another rewarding side to my job. When I looked into who I could contact I found many dead services, underfunded groups, phone numbers that don't exist any more, out of date information and no real opportunities to even speak to someone seriously about it.
I'm not giving up on it but it was depressing to find out that these services weren't as well supported as I thought they were. I even found out that an excellent service I mentioned in a blog here a year ago no longer exists. I'll presume it's about money, as these things usually are, but it could just be a lack of results. If I could help one person a week successfully switch from smoking to vaping that would be highly rewarding to me. But if someone was paying me a wage out of people's taxes then they might expect far higher results than that. If we are going to take the government's 'smoke free by 2030' slogan seriously, which is now only 10 years away, then promotion of e-cigarettes and the full support of local services would seem essential to me.
E-cigarettes need to be kept in the public eye and people need to be talking about them. We can't let the great things that e-cigarettes and vaping have already done for people be forgotten or ignored just because the rate that people are converting appears to be slowing down. Mainstream media outlets only appear interested in the negative stories, it seems to be increasingly difficult for the vaping industry to advertise where a pro-vaping stance seems to still be controversial. Of course there's forums and blogs where people can speak freely but I often wonder, how many smokers are we reaching?
Are we just talking to ourselves as vapers? If we can't reach the general public with a positive message and we can't reach people local to us that are still smoking, then how much good will we actually be doing? I know my frustration is shared by some reviewers/advocates and YouTubers. I know not all of them always promote the positive image we would like, however many are doing excellent work and at the moment I think those people are needed more than ever.
Simon - My Vape Box