Duluth's first electronic cigarette shop, Lake Effect Vapor, will open on Oct. 4 with a grand opening that includes a deejay and big screen TVs.
"I've got about $40,000 worth of inventory and all the best hardware you can get," Lake Effect Vapor's founder and UMD grad Brian Annis said.
The hardware is called mods, short for modified electronic cigarette. The devices range from the size of a finger to an emcee's microphone.
"And for the mods, you can spend anywhere between $20 to $200," Annis said. "I sell the ones that look just like cigarettes, too, but I sell a way better quality one than they do at the gas station."
E-cigarettes work by vaporizing nicotine “juice,” a mixture of nicotine, water, and a few other chemicals. They come in a variety of flavors and nicotine concentrations.
"Some people use zero nicotine. They just like the flavor and the action of it," Annis said. "In my shop you can pick cowboy killer, which has a hard-core tobacco taste, which some smokers want, or you can pick watermelon, or cinnamon roll, or black licorice, or whatever you like."
Annis originally planned on making Lake Effect Vapor a lounge, where people could go to “vape” and hang out. Duluth's City Council put an end to that. A series of ordinances that take effect Oct. 9 will effectively treat electronic cigarettes exactly like tobacco cigarettes in the eyes of the law.
“We support the city in their enforcement of all ordinances,” UMD Vice Chancellor for Student Life Dr. Lisa Erwin said. “However, in general, the University is not bound by municipal ordinances.”
Current UMD policy does not address e-cigarettes.
An often overlooked distinction between electronic cigarettes and regular cigarettes is that e-cigarettes contain no tobacco. Historically, tobacco has been smoked for its nicotine content, which evolved as a neurotoxin to insects. In e-cigarettes, chemically-isolated nicotine is vaporized and inhaled directly.
"It's a good idea to ban them, but UMD should be a tobacco-free campus,” UMD freshman Luke Matthews said. “I see people with dip in all the time. They should ban that, too, to be fair."
"It's kinda stupid (to ban) since it's just vapor," said Sophomore Allison McKennell. "They're not bad for you, right?"
Long-term research is non-existent, but current scientific consensus is that e-cigarettes are a much better option than tobacco cigarettes as a nicotine delivery system.
"Nicotine delivered by a vapor with few known toxicants should theoretically carry relatively low risks, particular when compared to (tobacco) cigarettes," wrote Richard O'Connor, Ph.D., in an article published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Most remain in the dark about how e-cigarettes work and their health effects.
"I heard that they're safe, but I'm really against tobacco," UMD junior Amy Aarsvold said. "I think it's just making it more convenient to use tobacco. I support the ban. People just shouldn't use tobacco."
Annis is adamant about e-cigarettes replacing tobacco cigarettes.
“Not only is it helping people (to quit smoking), it's the next big thing. It's going to be the biggest advance in anti-smoking in years,” Annis said. “One of the main benefits is that there's no smoke because there's no combustion. The reason it's so much healthier is that there's there's no tar, there's no carbon monoxide, nothing that will build up in your lungs. Nicotine as a drug, if you look at it, is just like caffeine."
Annis believes misinformation is behind the ban. "[The City Council] was stuck on 2007’s research, that has all been proven to be false, on this [nicotine] juice that was made in China," Annis said. "All the juice that's sold [at Lake Effect] is made in the U.S., and the ingredients are approved by the FDA."
Despite the roadblocks put in place by the new city ordinances, Annis is pushing forward with his business plans.
"[The] grand opening is on October 4, we're still moving forward with everything, and Duluth's not going to hold us down,” Annis said. "I've already had 10 or 15 UMD students come up here looking for e-cigs. They're still looking to quit smoking using electronic cigarettes. Our grand opening will be a party. We'll have a DJ, and we'll have a complete lounge, big screen-TV."
BY JOHN FAHNENSTIEL firstname.lastname@example.org
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