Vaping is not new.
In fact, the first iterations of a vape device trace all the way back to the 1930’s.
But, despite having roots that reach into the early 20th century, I think it is safe to say that the vape industry (as we know it) is still very much in its infancy.
And like most new and burgeoning industries, the world of vape is constantly changing.
Trends seem to take hold almost overnight and then vanish just as quickly.
Sub-ohm tanks are replaced with dual-coil, cloud chasing RDA’s and RTA’s and high-powered, multi-battery regulated mods, which are then replaced by single-coil, bottom-fed, flavor-banging RDA’s and squonk mods, which are then replaced by the latest RDTA.
It’s enough to make your head spin.
And as a result, I learned a very long time ago to never get too comfortable with my current setup because the next improvement is always right around the corner.
The only constant in vape, it seems, is that it is always changing and that a household brand name today can very easily be history tomorrow.
But this time, there are signs that the latest trend in vaping might have some staying power, which could have major implications for the industry from top to bottom.
In POD(s) We Trust
Like many of you, I was first made aware that vaping existed way back when the first e-cigs (like Blu) hit the market.
I even remember ordering one and giving it a shot. This was around 2010 or 2011.
Considering that I wouldn’t vape again until 2017, it should go without saying that I wasn’t impressed.
But here we are, with almost a decade of innovation in vape devices behind us, and AIO’s, pods, and disposables (which closely resemble the earliest versions of commercially available vape devices) have officially taken the world by storm.
At first glance, the success of these devices seems unbelievable considering that unlike their predecessors, they have had to compete with high-powered, intricately designed mods and atomizers, all of which allow the user to fine tune their vape experience to exactly where they like it.
However, once you take a closer look at these tiny devices, you quickly realize that they offer a lot more than the early “e-cigs” ever could.
Salt Nic Mania Has Swept the (Vape) Nation
I don’t doubt that you are already aware of all of the reasons why pods, AIO’s, and disposables have caught on like they have, but just in case, let’s cover what makes them so damn appealing.
We’ll start by getting the obvious out of the way up front.
The introduction of salt nic has allowed pods to break onto the scene in a major way.
While we all have different aspects of vaping that we are very particular about, at the end of the day the name of the game for most of us is getting our nicotine fix. And when the choice is between a 6mg freebase or a 50mg salt nic, there really is no comparison.
Salt nics are certainly a good place to start in understanding how these devices have become so popular, but while a more potent version of e-liquid alone may have been enough to win over smokers looking to make the switch, it takes a lot more for these devices to catch the attention of avid vapers.
That’s where the perfection of their performance comes into play.
While some of these devices may look like the early cig-a-likes of yesteryear, the vape they deliver is much more comparable to modern-day devices in both flavor and cloud production, which makes them appealing to smokers looking to quit and to experienced vape users alike.
Being able to deliver a more potent form of e-liquid along with a great vape are two attributes that are hard to ignore. And possessing these two characteristics alone would have likely be enough for these devices to have at least carved out a space in the vape world for themselves.
But where pods and the like really set themselves apart is in the one area where other types of devices can’t compete; convenience.
As anyone who has ever had to pack up multiple bottles of e-juice, batteries, cotton, a build kit, wire, and multiple atomizers will tell you, being able to grab your pod/AIO/disposable and a USB cord and go makes life as a vaper an absolute dream.
Taking all of these things into account, it makes it hard to see pods, AIO’s, and disposables as just another passing fad.
This may very well be the new normal.
And while I admit that I am among the converted (despite swearing that I’d NEVER use pods/AIO’s/disposables) I can’t say I am thrilled about what I think it means for the future of the vape community.
The End of an Era?
There are a lot of things that set vaping apart from smoking, but perhaps the biggest difference (aside from, ya know, the whole not dying of cancer/emphysema/COPD thing) has always been the hobby aspect that accompanies it.
Vaping makes you part of a club the likes of which smoking could never provide.
For instance, I never considered going to a tobacco convention or joining a cigarette Facebook group (neither of which even existed, to my knowledge).
Never once was I inclined to watch reviews on the newest Marlboro product or post a hand check of my new pack of Camels.
And yet with vaping, I have done (and continue to do) all of these things.
But this new version of vaping seems to be slowly stripping all of it away. And that’s because until now, vaping has always been so much more than just a nicotine delivery system, but it certainly feels like pods are reducing it to exactly that.
While vape reviewers and groups and forums still exist, can they maintain their relevance if we all end up essentially using the same device?
Will there be anything left to really talk about?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t fear for the strength of the vape industry as a whole. In fact, I strongly believe that these devices have the ability to reach a far larger audience than box mods and atomizers ever could due to their ease of use and wide availability.
However, I do fear that they have the potential to kill the “community” aspect of vaping, which is such an important part of what makes it so special.
It is also what has been the driving force behind the current business model for so many vape entrepreneurs to this point.
As I walked this year’s ECC and saw just how many booths were taken up by companies selling disposables and pod systems, I wondered how long conventions like this could continue if every product ends up essentially being the same as the last?
As more and more people are finding themselves picking up their pods in lieu of their mods, I wonder what will keep them going to their local shop in order to talk vape with fellow hobbyists instead of just placing their order online?
As I see fewer and fewer drops and less and less demand for high-end atties and mods, I wonder if there’s any place in this version of vape for the modders out there who have been so instrumental in helping to build the vape industry into what it is today?
But most importantly, I wonder what happens in the fight for this industry if we are all reduced to individual users who have no real connection to one another? Without the passion and the united front that has gotten us this far, do we even stand a chance?
I certainly hope so.
And hey, I could be completely wrong about all of this and by this time next year, we may have forgotten that pods were ever even a thing.
History would certainly suggest that this is the most likely outcome, but I suppose we will just have to wait and see.