FAULT Focus: How e-cigarettes have changed pop culture

In years gone by, it used to be the rule that if you wanted to create a  cool, rock n roll, brooding character, then they had to smoke. Be it James Dean’s breakthrough role as Jim Stark in Rebel Without A Cause, John Travolta’s swooning and charismatic portrayal of Danny Zuko in 1978’s Grease or Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden in 1999’s Fight Club – if you want to portray a badass, they had to be seen with a  cigarette.

Of course, it wasn’t just male brooders of yesteryear who had to always be seen dragging from cigarettes on screen, a demur example of its female counterpart can be seen in the legend that is Audrey Hepburn. Even her most famous photograph taken from Breakfast at Tiffany’s shows her irradiating natural beauty but in her hand, the famous cigarette holder clenched so delicately.

This, of course, was simply a sign of the times, while now we might discern the cigarette, smoking tobacco has been a way of life worldwide for centuries. In 1974, over 50% of men in England smoked but by 2015 that number had fallen to 19.1%. Thanks to a number of different factors namely, vaping, nicotine gum and nicotine patches, the number of cigarettes smoked has fallen but not the ingrained cultural connotations that come from mood caused by smoking haven’t. So where has pop culture turned to I hear you ask – e-cigarettes.

Watching an actor on screen blowing out plumes of smoke, whiskey in hand as they act out whatever dramatic scene is asked of them still implies a level of drama, seeing a cigarette in hand also brings the negative connotations of stale smoke soaked furniture and blackened teeth but luckily for producers, e-cigarette smoking does not share the same negative connotations.

 

 

Take for instance ‘The Tourist’ which stars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie sees Depp’s character Frank puffing away on his e-cigarette on a train (not something we’d advise). Notice how Depp is able to keep the same brooding, sexual prowess of the gentleman above without the uncomfortable and culturally out of touch sentiment of cigarette smoking.

Even small screen characters who are famous for their cigarette smoking have now moved onto e-cigarettes even Eastenders’s own mainstay Dot Cotton. For years, Dot could be seen on the show smoking, pre-UK smoking ban there are even clips of Dot smoking inside her place of work but fast forward to today and Dot Cotton is in the famous Queen Victoria Pub puffing away on her Vapestick.

On screen isn’t the only place that the vision of smoke is required, however, even we have participated in the switch over in our shoot with Angel Haze. On the 2014 Online Cover shoot, we depict Angel blowing out plumes of smoke but without a cigarette in sight. On set, we used an e-cigarette filled with e-liquid from Vape Club which we then removed before taking the photo.

As the popularity of cigarette smoking continues to fall, we’ll no doubt see e-cigarettes fill the void for years to come.

 

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