Smoking cannabis has a certain badass, counter-cultural je ne sais quoi: think Lester Burnham and Ricky Fitts lighting up behind the hotel in "American Beauty", or Dale Denton and Saul's cross-shaped joint in "Pineapple Express". But while rolling the perfect blunt or jazz cigarette is a time-honoured, comforting, multi-sensory experience, let's face it: burning tubes of carcinogenic plant material is both bad for your delicate lungs, and inconsiderate to those with whom you share the air.
Once considered niche, even vaguely douchey, the public perception of vaping has been transformed in recent years due to an increased sense of how bad smoking is for you, and by beautifully-designed, highly efficient devices that break free of the cheap aesthetic of early-model e-cigs. The future is, increasingly, smokeless - and a growing population of cannabis consumers are embracing a healthier, lower-key, and more discreet way of getting high.
PAX Labs is one of the companies leading the way in the future of vaping. The first iteration of the PAX was introduced in 2012; however, it's the PAX2 that's been hailed as a game-changer on par with the iPhone. Unlike finicky, hard-to-clean early vaporizers with many moving parts, the PAX 2's cleaner design doesn't try to mimic the look and feel of smoking. Instead, it positions vaping as totally distinct category.
"The PAX is a very discrete, sleek, elegant product, which means there's less stigma to use," says Pax Labs CMO Richard Mumby. "I think one of the reasons people really like it is that you can use any loose-leaf material you want, which allows users independence in consumer choice. As opposed to most e-cigs - which are pre-filled, closed systems, like our JUUL product which has cartridges that contain nicotine - this is an open system." A growing list of celebrities and folks in the film industry seem to agree.
Push to reinvent the industry
PAX isn't the only company hoping to reinvent vaping. ION bills itself as the "most disruptive personal vaporizing product to emerge since the beginning of the vaporizing movement."
Unlike the PAX or the also-top-rated Magic Flight Launch Box, users insert cartridges of extract into a medical grade glass cartridge with a "state-of-the-art low resistance heating element."
CEO Todd Mitchem tells Civilized his company is attempting to set the bar higher for cleaner, more efficient, safer devices.
"We learned that [vaporizer companies] were taking a lot of shortcuts: using inexpensive hardware, not realizing that a lot of those cartridges contained glue, bad atomizing elements, and other contaminants that might not be the healthiest for consumers, despite might what be great oil inside the vape."
The next major step? Ensuring both consumers and lawmakers understand vaping as distinct from smoking and other delivery methods.
"We're really working hard with legislators to get vaping established as its own category," says Mitchem. "Vape hardware deserves to be its own thing, regulated separately from tobacco or Big Pharma, and protected as its own entity so that it can be best designed for consumer safety. Not a lot of people are talking about that."
Lifestyle brands leading the way
PAX's approach embraces vaping as a lifestyle: linking up with big names in music, fashion and art in a bid to change the face and culture surrounding vapes. They've commissioned murals around the country, partnered with K-HOLE and exhibited a limited edition PAX2 at Art Basel, as well as collaborated with The Weeknd and designers like Richard Chai at Men's Fashion Week, holding retail launches at über-hip boutiques like Opening Ceremony.
As to whether better, easier-to-use, more beautiful vaporizers will mean fewer cannabis consumers lighting up, PAX's Richard Mumby says they're not particularly concerned about whether rumours regarding the death of smoking have been greatly exaggerated.
"It's not about the death of one industry and the growth of another," says Mumby. "What drives us is seeing and hearing from consumers how much they love our product. We feel that as we continue to provide great experience, great service, and great warranties, we're continuing to create a category."