Welcome "Vape": 2014's Controversial Word Of The Year!

You know I'm all about that vape, bout that vape. Credit: Thinkstock

You know I'm all about that vape, bout that vape. Credit: Thinkstock

Yes folks, it's that time of year again. NO! Stop those Christmas carols—it's not even Thanksgiving yet. We're talking about the annual addition of a word into the Oxford Dictionary.


Each year, the Oxford Dictionaries select a word of the year: one in the United States, and one for the United Kingdom. Sometimes, this word is so awesome that it dominates the colloquial sphere of both regions. Like last year's word (which was "selfie"), 2014 has produced uniformity across the pond.

Ladies, meet the official word of the year: vape

As you might suspect, the word of the year does relate to the popularity in usage. And according to the Oxford Dictionaries:

"As e-cigarettes (or e-cigs) have become much more common, so vape has grown significantly in popularity. You are thirty times more likely to come across the word vape than you were two years ago, and usage has more than doubled in the past year.

Usage of vape peaked in April 2014 . . . around the time that the UK’s first ‘vape café’ (The Vape Lab in Shoreditch, London) opened its doors, and protests were held in response to New York City banning indoor vaping. In the same month, the issue of vaping was debated by The Washington Post, the BBC, and the British newspaper The Telegraph, amongst others."

As Oxford implies, this year's word has largely seen its glorious rise due to its being steeped in a bit more controversy than duck-faced photo-snapping. For one, while vapes are largely used as a high-tech replacement for a cigarette (aka, as an "e-cigarette"), they are also perfect for marijuana consumption. Ganj, as we all know, is not legal in most states, so some have capitalized on the subtleness of sucking on a vape to get away with enjoying Snoop Dogg's favorite pastime publicly.

But even when weed isn't involved, controversy, ahem, swirls. In San Francisco—where it seems like a (formerly asthmatic) lady can't stroll the great outdoors without running into one of those handy-dandy inhaling devices—citizens voted to outlaw vapes in public places back in the spring. Which means we can't get high while grocery shopping (admittedly, a good thing)—but those of us inclined toward nicotine also can't suck down THC-less, flavored fumes over cocktails with friends. 

So what's the problem with e-cigarettes even when they aren't laced with weed?  There are a couple. Many argue that it's difficult to regulate the age of the smoker, which leaves kids at risk of getting hooked. With sickeningly sweet flavors like "honeydew banana" and "blueberry cotton candy," this concern of marketing to the youth is valid. I mean, can you actually picture a 30 year-old accountant inhaling something like that? #Embarrassing.

Another concern is, well, the very product being inhaled itself: The FDA is still analyzing it. And as things stand now, the FDA doesn't have a clear opinion about vape contents and the level of harm they can do. In fact, there's little science to back up any vaporizer claims. Is secondary inhalation harmful? How harmful is the inhaled nicotine, anyway? 

But, San Francisco—being Tech Mecca—has capitalized on vapes as a tech product. Luxury vapes are prevalent, with the folks backing these high-end designs hailing from prestigious backgrounds. Ploom, for instance, the brand behind the famous Pax vape, was created by Stanford alumni as part of a Master's thesis circa 2010. Thus the denouncing of such products could rile up a greater fight in this bustling city. London, on the flip side, has been more welcmoing of the vape culture as demonstrated by its vape coffee bars.

So as much as we love to hate the connotations of last year's Kim-Kardashian-tinged word, it seems that Oxford Dictionaries may have sparked an even greater conversation with their decision this year. Thanks again, weirdo wordsmiths.

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