“Who Are The Vapers?” A Short Ethnographic Documentary Film Produced through Sociological Research Methodology

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It’s entirely reasonable that some people might read this title and think to themselves: “Say what?” More often than not, whenever I inform people that I’m working on a Filmmaking Project that is Ethnographic in nature, they will look at me as if I were an unearthly being polluting their narrow understanding of vocabulary. Yet, I must admit, when I first learned of the meaning behind Ethnography, it was not until I was 24-years-old registering for my first Grad School course at DePaul University, which was titled: “Ethnographic Documentary Film Production.” I basically had to look up the definition of Ethnography and it stated, “Ethnography is a qualitative design, where the researcher explains and exposes examples about shared learnt patterns of values, behavior, beliefs, and language of a culture shared by a group of people.”

Taking this into consideration, now that we all know what an actual Ethnographic Study consist of, it is now crucial to also understand what this filmed research is all about. “WhoAreTheVapers?” will be the title of my short documentary, so we will explore the individual life of a diverse collection of interview participants who are passionate about the act of Vaping. We will be observing VAPERS in their natural habitat. Typically, the preferred area where  vapers seem to come together is inside brick & mordor Vape Shops or Vaping Expos worldwide. The Vaping Industry is a business now close to earning almost a $5 billion annually.

For those unfamiliar with Vaping, it is the heating of distinctly flavored nicotine in liquid form to the point of vaporization with the use of an electronic device designed for inhaling the vapor; an alternative source for delivering nicotine via inhalation. Altogether, one could easily admit that Vaping is essentially the most influential harm reducing technological advancement for public health by way of decreasing the existence of smoking combustible traditional tobacco cigarettes. However, at the same time, many would also argue that Vaping is the same or worse than smoking in regards to your overall health and well-being. Which explains the deeming FDA regulations threatening the Vape community and their rights as consumers by inaccurately labeling vapes as tobacco products. Yet, Vaping products do not include any tobacco whatsoever, there is only nicotine so the likeliness of consuming harmful carcinogens is not nearly as high as it would be with Smoking traditional cigarettes.

Nevertheless, the anti-Vaping movement is being forged in the name of junk science and hack reporters all willing to accept residuals for publishing false information. Truthfully, I have no proof of this at the moment, but as a Sociologist, my socialized instinct tries convincing me  that Big Tobacco as well as Big Pharma, joined forces and are combining assets for donating financial contributions to numerous organizations, individual professionals, institutions, Industrialists and especially regulatory agencies and political figures with their motivation being described by the destruction of the Vape industry. In reality, what this would do is threaten the extinction of the small business sector in our free market based economy, in which Vape shops are all primarily Mom & Pop operations. Destroying small businesses is literally anti-American, after all, we are a Capitalist nation and allowing thriving small businesses to continue on a pace of flourishing expansion is a strong component for Capitalism as a systematic approach to economic development, which is indeed a key feature to this debate many have yet to consider.

All in all, with much politically-charged disputes surrounding the Vaper Community, I’m hoping to make a film that is much more of a story dedicated to revealing the personal lives of VAPERS rather than focusing on the politically-driven strategies we tend to see and hear too much of. The personal backstories from VAPERS are very compelling, emotional, and relatable for many people who are not Vaping or for those unsure of their stance on Vaping or perhaps those who could care less otherwise.

My primary objective is to offer the Vaping-outsiders an opportunity to learn more from the firsthand accounts they’ll discover directly from the vaper, who will be speaking their minds as individuals representing themselves and nothing else. This will all be accomplished by in-depth interviewing by asking open-ended questions with a freestyle conversing format accompanied by a camera. Additionally, filming the day-to-day activity and socializing vaper behaviors that take place within those Mom & Pop Shops.

In addition, from the perspective of using social research methods, this documentary will serve as an observational study. Therefore, my theory is that viewers of this film could very easily acquire more empathy towards VAPERS after hearing all their riveting stories. This empathy can, in turn, hopefully create more social acceptance by the general public, if the majority of our own citizens agree that Vaping is the poster-child for improving public health, then we will help eliminate the statistic of tobacco killing 1/2 million Americans annually. Which side of history do you want to be associated with? Are you a creator or a destroyer? Do you have no interest in formulating an opinion? Let me fill your apathy with empathy and we can all Vape together, harmoniously.

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