Too early to tell on vaping

Category:  News
Wednesday, February 20th, 2019 at 6:49 PM

Quitting cigarettes has never tasted so good, and with flavors like “Bahama Mama” and “Flyin’ Hawaiian,” the taste of tobacco has, in certain groups, become obsolete. While some remain traditional, vaporizers have moved themselves into stores everywhere, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that smoking is at an all-time low.

But is it actually the healthy alternative? Or is it slowly killing people, one puff at a time? “If I smoked as much as I vaped, I would probably be pretty close to dead. I know my electronic cigarette will tell me how many puffs I have taken, and it stops at around 9,999, and I can reach that in about two months. I believe if I were to be doing that with cigarettes, I would have cancer by now, because I have been vaping since I was in eighth grade, and now I’m 22,” said vaping connoisseur, Kyle Sheehan.

There’s something about owning a batterypowered nicotine dispenser that has people hooked, but the new fad is comparable to the birth of cigarettes because not many people know what this new craze is doing to their bodies, long term.

According to beaumont.org: “The most dangerous aspect of e-cigarettes is that up until last year, they were completely unregulated and even today we still don’t know exactly what’s being inhaled,” warns Dr. Brent Fuller, Beaumont internal medicine and pediatrician physician. “When a young person gets one, it’s kind of infectious to their friends, and then their friends get one and the chain continues.Then they all kind of think it’s cool, even though they had no need to start in the first place. Whereas the entire idea behind vaping was a healthier alternative to cigarettes,” said Sheehan, as he admitted that he too was part of this culture when he was younger.

According to the National Center for Health Research: “There are no long-term studies to back up claims that the vapor from e-cigarettes is less harmful than conventional smoke. Cancer takes years to develop, and e-cigarettes were only very recently introduced to the United States. It is almost impossible to determine if a product increases a person’s risk of cancer or not until the product has been around for at least 15-20 years. Despite positive reviews from e-cigarette users who enjoy being able to smoke them where regular cigarettes are prohibited, very little is known about their safety and long-term health effects.”

Granted, there is no combusted tobacco being inhaled into your lungs when you vape, so your health really depends on the “e-liquid” that you choose. And the long list of chemicals in cigarettes is smaller in “e-liquid,” but that doesn’t mean that vaping is necessarily healthy. When asked if he could kick it whenever he wanted, Sheehan said: “I think that’s kind of a silly question, because I would never want to. I like it so much, not for the actual drug itself, but because I think it’s interesting. And since I got into making my own juice, it has made it that much better, because it turned into a hobby.”

A senior at Penn State Behrend, Cole Brown was exposed to vaping by Sheehan during his freshman year of high school. “I think what has taken hold in the vaping community is that people think it’s cool. They like to do smoke tricks; they like to play around with it; and their friends have one so they get one too. I think the predominant use is not for nicotine consumption, but just for having a vape.” Brown doesn’t vape for the novelty anymore, but he is a frequent customer at Vapor Cabana in Erie, as he described getting into vaping as “way too easy.”

“It filled some boredom of a pre-teen and it was cool, it tasted good, and it gave me a little nicotine headrush, which tied the bow on it nicely,” he said. When asked if he still thought it was cool, Brown responded with, “No, in fact I think it’s quite the opposite because of how popular it got, and I think that has detracted from it, but maybe once upon a time.”

For Brown, vaping is not about the hobby or the image, but more so for the nicotine. He spoke of looking for the smallest and most portable vapes when shopping for his habit, and said that he missed the classic vapes that were approximately the size of a pencil.

“It has almost identical effects as coffee,” said Brown, and that’s why it’s hard for him to quit. In fact, he said he wishes he could quit. But instead, he details his favorite flavor of “e-liquid” as “Raspberry Mango,” otherwise known as “Rango.” With Brown and Sheehan still vaping, they recognized that their taste for flavored nicotine came from the vapes themselves, and before vaping neither of them had any interest in nicotine, let alone cigarettes. To this day, the two are still good friends and they occasionally discuss vaping when they have the time.

Each store is different in its own way, but most of them operate on the same level. However, after visiting three separate vape stores, only one of them was willing to speak freely on how they functioned, and that was 7/10 Glass and Vapor in Edinboro. Like any operational business, the store was stocked with merchandise and equipped with knowledgeable staff members.

“You have to know all of your products and juice flavors,” said Austin Farrell, a sales associate for 7/10.

The establishment was colorful with labels from around the world, as relaxing music played softly in the background from a TV that was connected to speakers surrounding the store, which provided ambience for the shop. The counters were filled with juices on sale, and customers were granted the opportunity to sample the countertop flavors.

Regardless of the traffic coming in and out of the store, the staff was versatile, malleable and quick with answers.
When asked why there were so many juices on sale, Tyler Eliason said, “We liquidated a lot of our stock so we could have the up-to-code products to meet the deadlines to have new warning labels [on e-liquid].” The employees of 7/10 discussed customer service as being important to their shop, and Eliason said they often go out of their way to visit different conventions in order to learn more about the products they sell.

To run a store like 7/10 you need a tobacco license because the FDA ruled that electronic cigarettes are tobacco products, seeing how they are an alternative to cigarettes. Therefore, you are required by law to be 18 or older when purchasing the products. At first, the employees of 7/10 expected the FDA to be much more harsh on regulations, “but they turned out to be fair,” they said.

Speaking on behalf of vaping as a way of networking with people, Eliason said: “There definitely is an odd camaraderie among the vaping community. People who otherwise wouldn’t have vaped might not have come together.” Staff member Jordan Doss picked up from Eliason and said, “People are really excited to share information with other vapers.” He also chuckled and said that some people want what they don’t need when it comes to choosing a vape.

The staff acknowledged that no one really knew what vaping was doing to their bodies long-term, but Eliason mentioned that he smoked before he started vaping, and when he smoked he could barely ride his bike.

“Now I ride my bike to work,” he said. Since vaping is still so new to the market, Eliason mentioned that 7/10’s biggest obstacle is not having a model to frame their infrastructure after. Much of how they advertise is word-of-mouth and through social media.

Regardless of the limited advertising, the shop still pulls in customers, and it’s not just the younger generation. Sitting inside 7/10 highlighted the multifaceted outreach, in which people from all demographics were interested in refilling their pods or looking to purchase a new RDA vape kit. With that said, Vaping doesn’t seem to be dying.

Rick Chernicky | @edinboronow

Tags: vaping

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