One thing that will help vaping become more normalized in society is seeing the act on television. And this is beginning to happen much more regularly. Of course, having that extra prominence brings with it benefits and disadvantages. Here are nine occasions where vaping took center stage in a TV series.
House of Cards (Season 2, Episode 4)
The Netflix production House of Cards is one of the most popular series around right now. Kevin Spacey plays the deceptive Democrat politician Frank Underwood, and shows himself to be a vaper midway through the second season. His wife Claire accused him of smoking when seeing him with the e-cigarette, at which point Frank fired back saying he wasn’t, because “it’s vapor”.
This was a great moment for vaping as it made it the focus of the show, instead of just an afterthought. And by explicitly differentiating smoking from vaping, House of Cards showed they were out to educate as well as just entertain.
Not that it was all great promotion for the vaping community, with Frank also adding that vaping was “addiction without the consequences”. However, we’ll take what we can get. By illustrating vaping as a way for smokers to switch to a less harmful alternative was a great advertisement for harm reduction advocates, vaping’s appearance on House of Cards did the cause far more good than harm.
Luke Cage (Season 1, Episode 6)
While Marvel is renowned for its silver screen productions tailored to a younger audience, on the small screen, the company has come up with much more serious shows – Luke Cage is such an example.
In Luke Cage, which can be found on Netflix, there is a vaping shop called Beyond Vape which the series’ characters can be found next to in episode six of the first season.
There are no in-your-face vaping scenes in the show, but its presence is more than enough. We’d much rather see a vape shop than a tobacco shop! And who knows? In the future, perhaps we’ll even see Cage himself blowing a big vape oil cloud.
Billions (Season 1, Episode 2)
Billions on Showtime brought a weed vaporizer to the scene as an alternative for the characters, which are usually seen toking on a pipe or joint. There’s a cool moment in the second episode of season 1, where Malin Ackerman and Damian Lewis are captured enjoying a quick session on a Pax 2 vaporizer.
The spontaneity of the scene is what really captured our attention. Instead of making the weed and vaping the highlight, it was just there in the background almost as the two enjoyed a normal conversation. They could have been smoking a joint, a cigarette or a pipe and it would have come across exactly the same.
Indeed, that’s really what we want to see when we talk about normalization. Ultimately, these TV shows aren’t about weed or vaping, so to make them the focus would be unnatural. Yet subtly including vaporizers and e-cigs without a fuss into shows will do wonders in bringing such equipment into the mainstream.
True Detective (Season 2, Episode 2)
Season 2 of True Detective came in for heavy criticism after failing to live up to a terrific first series. But there’s a cracking little segment in the second episode of season 2 which concentrates on vaping. Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) and Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) are two cops brought together to work on a murder case, when the topic of e-cigarettes comes up.
Ani is a vaper whereas Ray prefers to smoke cigarettes. Despite traditional smoking generally being considered a “cooler” act than vaping, Ray admires how Ani tokes on her e-cigarette, and compliments her with the line, “You know you pull off that e-cig. Not a lot of people do.”
McAdams’ character doesn’t seem to have much interest in engaging in an e-cigarette discussion, yet undeterred, Ray continues! He said that he couldn’t get to grips with e-cigarettes and that he wasn’t keen on the feel, quipping that it’s too similar to “sucking a robot’s dick”.
Ani doesn’t seem overly impressed by Ray and his comments, but chooses to say nothing. But perhaps Ray’s words had a negative effect on her, as she wasn’t to be seen with an e-cigarette again in True Detective. In fact, even worse, she was back on the normal cigarettes in episode five. Thanks for nothing, Ray!
The Simpsons (Season 26, Episode 20)
The Simpsons has been on televisions across the world for decades and there’s perhaps no more popular cartoon than this one from Matt Groening. That vaping made it onto The Simpsons should be filling us with joy given that the show’s creators have a reputation for always showing both sides to a social argument. But instead, they chose a safe route with vaping, choosing to just mock it and draw on pre-held notions.
Vaping appeared on The Simpsons in 2015 in the 26th season and every character could be seen trying it out (even Maggie, the baby). This got alarm bells ringing straight away as one of the biggest concerns with vaping right now is that it could be appealing to children, so to have kids and even a baby in the show vaping (whether it’s a cartoon or not) is sending out the wrong message.
Then The Simpsons took a direct jab at flavored e-liquids and kids with Apu trying to convince Bart to buy some by warning him that they aren’t for children before taking him through vape oil flavors. There was nothing on the show about how vaping is helping former smokers to quit, and this lack of balance definitely felt unfair.
2 Broke Girls (Season 4, Episode 11)
2 Broke Girls has never exactly been cutting edge comedy but the CBS show was on our screens for six seasons. During the 11th episode of the fourth, the characters made some lazy comments towards vaping.
The show was set in a diner and during the episode concerned, there was an entire table of vapers blowing huge clouds that the girls picked up on and decided to joke about. The “hipsters” as they were labelled were mocked for their vaping habits as 2 Broke Girls unhelpfully derided the act. Although we’ll give them some credit – instead of using traditional vape pens, the vapers in the show were using vape mods which the audience may have picked up on.
Young Pope (Season 1, Episode 4)
Young Pope is a HBO show concerning Lenny Belardo, archbishop-turned-head-of-Catholic church played by Jude Law. Slightly bizarre, the show has caught the eye of many for its unique and unusual storylines.
Belardo certainly isn’t a traditional pope, and Pius XIII as he is known, is often causing havoc among the rest of the Vatican for his questioning positions. At one point, the pope – yes, the pope – even doubts whether God is real!
So, how does vaping play into all of this? Well it turns out that Pius XIII is a heavy smoker. While in many shows this wouldn’t raise eyebrows, since this is the pope that we’re talking about, it’s a habit that draws much ire among his colleagues.
Indeed, Pius XIII seems to revel in the defiant act of smoking and we see him doing it throughout the show. Although, at one point, the cardinals do attempt to get him to change his ways by offering the pope an e-cigarette. Unfortunately for us vapers, such a moment doesn’t garner the positive attention that we would have hoped for.
Jude Law’s character bats away the e-cigarette, claiming that they are “worse for you than the real thing”.
While it’s nice to see vaping is getting that additional recognition, we really could have done without this!
Deadliest Catch (regularly throughout)
The focus has been on fiction series so far but Deadliest Catch, the fishing programme which sees the world’s bravest fishermen head out to some of the planet’s most dangerous waters in search of epic catches, also has a close connection with vaping.
Fishing for days if not weeks on end in the middle of nowhere often leaves them searching for things to do. Hence many in the show smoke cigarettes to keep occupied. After Captain Phil Harris died from a huge stroke, one of the cast made the switch to vaping. We’d hope that there wasn’t a direct link here, although it’s not reaching to suggest there is.
The cause of the stroke was never officially linked to smoking but Phil’s son Josh had changed to e-cigarettes pretty much straight away after becoming the new captain of the now famous Cornelia Marie fishing vessel.
More Deadliest Catch
To stand out for smoking on a ship full of smokers took some effort but Matt Bradley managed to do just that. Once a huge chain smoker, the Deadliest Catch star did the vaping world a great service after dumping the cigarettes for vape oil.
Bradley has a big presence in vaping nowadays, owning a business and often showing up at conventions. An awesome voice, Bradley is the sort of guy we want to see waving the vaping flag!
Z Nation (Season 2, Episode 4)
Zombie shows are all the rage at the moment and Z Nation is one of the most popular. Vaping rocks up in season two, episode four, when two actors can be seen vaping on some older vaping equipment as well as some fancy modern gear. I guess if vaping can still survive in the perils of zombie domination then we should easily be able to secure victory in our normal world!
Will we see more vaping on TV?
There’s an old saying that “all publicity is good publicity”, and with vaping on television, we may just find out if it’s true or not. Let’s start with the positives. Vaping being on TV introduces it to an audience who may have been unaware, and even those who don’t vape or have an interest in it will become more accustomed to seeing it.
However, if portrayed overwhelmingly negatively, the downsides of vaping are going to be what sticks. Health groups across the land are always trying to attack vaping, and the last thing we need is it to become a running joke on TV. If nothing else, people may just feel embarrassed to vape.
It’s likely going to be a case of “wait and see”. We’ll never be able to rely on TV shows to be a driving force for vaping, and nor should we – dramas are for entertainment not education. But we can hope for acceptance and normalization