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This is my e-cig. There are many like it, but this one is mine

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Every day, I take apart the pieces of my e-cig and clean them. I wipe each part down with tissue or Q-Tips. I examine its parts, naming their arcane names and checking for signs of wear and failure. I unscrew the metal from the metal, I fill it with a self-made mix of nicotine-infused liquid, I check the seals.

I reassemble, I tighten the bonds, I snap out the end of the barrel and look for leakage. I watch for changes in the color and consistency of the liquid, of the vapor created from it, I swap out the battery for a fresh one.

It’s a ritual that more than one person has said looks like cleaning a gun. It is not very different. A gun is an instrument for killing. An e-cig is an instrument for delivering a drug — but it is also an instrument for delivering a tiny death so that I might forestall the desire for a true death, which is the true purpose of a cigarette.

This is how the internet makes products and culture

This is my e-cig. It consists of a Kanger T3’D ProTank and a standard Ego-C Upgrade Passthrough battery. These parts have subparts. Different e-cigs have different parts and subparts with different names and each person must choose how much to know about these parts and then which parts they prefer. There are new parts every day.

There are many like it. Vaping is a master class in learning about the interplay of objects and technology and culture and the internet. Culture is a virus that attaches itself to objects. They cannot escape it and we are incapable of stopping its spread. Instead of Marlboro vs Camel there’s Joyetech vs Kanger, instead of filters there’s atomizers and cartomizers and voltages. E-cigs and their names and their attributes are borne of the internet and meaningless without it. To learn their names and their qualities you must participate in an internet culture that is a wonderful and terrible mix of forums, small businesses, interminably long and deeply obsessive YouTube reviews and instructional videos, arthouse evangelists, modification enthusiasts, and mysterious Chinese companies that are the ultimate source of your gear.

Keep vaping weird

You watch disposables appear at the corner bodega and know that they are not your e-cig and they do not come from your people. They are the first attempts by major tobacco corporations to co-opt your culture and and make it a commodity. To stop you from hunting down the random shop in Arizona that you trust because its proprietor keeps a good selection and makes helpful and not-too-long YouTube videos that introduce you to this strange world without requiring you to become fully a part of it because you’re an adult and the truth is you really only have so much time and so much space in your life for a new culture. These companies want to de-weird it. To make it theirs.

But this one is mine. The e-juice is a mix of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine and nicotine and tobacco and cinnamon flavoring. I store it in small plastic bottles with needle tips which make it easier to fill my tank. As I clean my e-cig I take care to minimize how much of this apparently dangerous liquid comes in contact with my skin. I am told by my fiancé (who is not fond of this e-cig but is certainly glad that it is no longer a real cig) that PG can cause allergies in a very tiny portion of the population and to look into finding VG liquid instead.

Because I love her I will do this. I will end up at even smaller sites than I was at before, promising locally-sourced organic liquid. I will discover that pure VG liquid is hard to find and that it has a different consistency and creates a vapor with a different feel. I will reduce the concentration of nicotine in my juice even though I don’t really know what these numbers mean. Someday maybe I will stop entirely.

A vocabulary as complex and nuanced as a sommelier’s

Until then I press the button and watch it light up and I take in the vapor. I know that there is terminology to describe the throat hit of this vapor that is quickly becoming as complex and nuanced as a sommelier’s, but I do not know that vocabulary. I know that there are drip tips and variable voltage batteries and many choices for the Ohms of resistance on the coils that heat the cotton that turn the liquid into vapor. But I will not fall too deeply into trying those things.

No. I have chosen what this thing is and I will clean and maintain it like the instrument for drug delivery that it is. This is my e-cig. There are many like it, but this one is mine.