Despite the pervasiveness of vaping on college campuses in recent years, social research has largely overlooked recreational vape use among young people. Drawing upon quantitative survey data and qualitative interview data collected from students at an elite liberal arts college, this mixed-methods study reveals three major findings regarding the nature of vaping on college campuses: (1) how the complex social meaning of vaping is crafted among college students, (2) how students are socialized into the embodied habits of vaping, and (3) how vaping impacts users’ identity. While students view nicotine addiction as isolating and socially deviant, occasional vape use among friends is normative on campus. Thus, socialization into this deviant behavior usually occurs in the presence of other vapers through elaborate interaction rituals. Despite frequent use, many students used methods of subversion to diffuse their socially deviant identity and avoid the label of an “addict”. This research adds to the limited body of literature connecting social deviance and identity, as well as literature exploring socialization into socially deviant behaviors. This study also posits several policy implications for deterring recreational vape usage.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Stephen Ellingson, Matthew Grace

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.