As one of the great compromises of the 21st century, vaping is a phenomenon no one could have predicted.
With vaping as one of the most popular forms of smoking cessation in the world, it’s funny to see how 20 years ago the concept would have been absolutely alien. Back in the 60’s when the idea of heat not burn devices were first proposed, we overlooked it as something which would never be popular. It was only when tobacco was proven to take a toll on our health did we begin to find alternatives. That’s why until recently, much of science fiction saw tobacco as a given, even light years in the future.
With no reason to believe we’d ever stop smoking, and science fiction took the scuzzy cyberpunk elements of the 80’s, showing a dystopia more than a utopia. This conveyed how technology would more likely support our vices than wipe them clean, shows how we can solve travel and internet problems, but we can’t solve our own personal demons. Cigarette smoking then, was just a given.
The classic Ridley Scott science fiction horror Alien sees the crew of a large space freighter terrorised by an alien being. Made in the 70’s, the film depicts the crew much like modern day lorry drivers and ship crew, laughing and talking round rough metal dinner tables and smoking cigarettes. Even in a future where we can travel to distant galaxies and have off world colonies, movies in the 70’s still saw smoking as part of the norm.
The neo noir science fiction masterpiece Blade Runner has Harrison Ford play a futuristic version of the archetypal detective. Here he smokes cigarettes even whilst drinking in futuristic bars. The dystopia of Blade Runner sees a world of pollution, androids and imposing skyscrapers. Again, this is a vision of the future in which technology has become a threat more than it has a help. This means that instead of vape-like devices, we still have tobacco and cigarettes, and if anything, people have become even more unhealthy. This just goes to show the pessimistic view of the future that people had back in the 70’s and 80’s.
The film on which the screenplay of Alien was based, this space comedy follows a group of space travellers whose job it is to destroy unstable stars. Again, the crew of this space cruiser are bored and listless, acting much like modern day, or at least 70’s truckers. One crew member is even seen to be smoking cigars, apparently still popular hundreds of years into the future and in space ships seemingly devoid of fire alarms.
A Scanner Darkly
This Richard Linklater directed science fiction mind bender was filmed in a trippy blend of animation and live action and follows an undercover narcotics agent as he infiltrates a group of junkies hooked on a futuristic drug. Robert Downey Junior’s character in the film smokes cigarettes throughout, showing how even with futuristic drugs, people still couldn’t imagine a world where smoking wasn’t the norm. Again this is an example of how we never see alternatives to smoking in visions of the future, and how clean living is never the norm.
This classic dinosaur adventure sees a world where genetic engineering has pushed the boundaries of evolution. Even so, Samuel L Jackson’s computer expert can’t seem to kick the smoking habit, chain smoking throughout the film to a point where you worry about his health. If anything’s going to give him away to the raptors, it’ll be his strong smell of cigarettes.
It seems that we are still yet to see a future in fiction where vaping has become the norm. There’s still plenty of room out there, but even filmmakers can’t seem to kick the habit just yet.