VIENNA - Melissa Traugh believes in the freedom to go vaping.
Traugh opened Freedom Vapor, an electronic cigarette store, on Sept. 29 at 1509 Grand Central Ave., Suite 5, in Vienna.
Electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine to a person in a vapor instead of combustible tobacco.
Photos by Paul LaPann
Heather Long blows vapor using an e-cigarette at Freedom Vapor in Vienna.
Heather Long and Lisa Steele, employees of Naples Vapor in southwest Florida, helped Traugh establish and open the Wood County e-cigarette store last week. Traugh had visited earlier with the Naples Vapor representatives in Florida to view their operations.
Traugh considers her business to be a "sister store" of the four Naples Vapor stores in Cape Coral (two outlets), North Fort Myers and Naples.
Freedom Vapor purchases its supplies from Naples Vapor, but is not a franchise store, Traugh said.
Steele said Lee County, Fla., with the principal cities of Fort Myers and Cape Coral, has many vapor stores.
The four Naples Vapor stores are doing well, Long said.
Freedom Vapor is carrying several brands of battery-operated e-cigarettes and 30 flavors, including tobacco, fruit and dessert.
Traugh allows customers to try the flavors before making a purchase.
Long said she smoked about two packs of traditional cigarettes a day for 10 years before switching to e-cigarettes last December.
"I love smoking e-cigarettes," said Long, who likes the coffee flavor the best.
Steele said she smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for 30 years and has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a lung disease.
Steele switched to e-cigarettes on Aug. 29, 2012, at the recommendation of her pulmonologist, she said.
She had tried nicotine gum, patches, hypnosis and going cold turkey to quit smoking, but none of them worked.
"I have not used an inhaler (to help her breathing) since I began vaping," Steele said. "I feel better."
"I don't miss the taste of cigarettes," Steele said.
Rico Willis of Parkersburg was helping Traugh set up for Freedom Vapor's opening last week.
Willis said his breathing has improved since he gave up a pack-and-a-half to two-pack a day cigarette habit in favor of vaping a month ago. He smoked cigarettes for 27 years.
Willis said the blueberry flavor e-cigarette was his favorite. "The pina colada also tastes good," he said.
Some people vape without the nicotine added because they like the flavor, Steele said.
Traugh, who has never smoked tobacco cigarettes, said she has been vaping for about a month for the flavor.
For those addicted to nicotine, there are various amounts of nicotine in the e-cigarettes. Someone who smoked three packs of tobacco cigarettes a day will usually get a larger dose of nicotine in the e-cigarettes than the person who smoked one pack a day, Steele said.
There is no ash, no odor and no tar with e-cigarettes, supporters say. Water vapor replaces smoke in e-cigarettes and it tastes like the flavor.
The various flavors arrived at the Vienna store in large bottles. The flavored liquid is then poured into 10 ml bottles for sale.
None of the e-cigarette liquids are manufactured or mixed in the store, Steele said. Many of the products are made in China.
According to the Smoke Free Initiative of West Virginia, 15 West Virginia counties, including Wood, specifically mention a ban on vaping e-cigarettes in public places.
Other counties may group e-cigarettes with tobacco cigarettes in their smoke-free workplace and public place laws, said Jamie Jacobsen, regional tobacco prevention coordinator with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.
The decision whether to permit e-cigarettes in public places is up to the individual counties or regional health department, Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen believes not enough information is known about e-cigarettes and their ingredients for the local health department to approve of their use indoors.
Testing has shown some chemicals in the product, she said.
The local health department uses nicotine patches, lozenges and gum to wean people off tobacco, Jacobsen said.
"We know what's in them," she said. "We don't have knowledge on e-cigarettes."
Jacobsen said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may issue regulations on e-cigarettes this year.
According to the FDA's website, electronic cigarettes are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals to a person. They turn nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.
"As a respiratory therapist, I am not a supporter in the use of e-cigarettes," Susan Aufdenkampe, director of respiratory therapy at Camden Clark Medical Center, said in an email to the newspaper. "To my knowledge there has been no study on what is exactly in them and how much nicotine they are delivering.
"Cigarettes have been designed to be addictive. It stands to reason that although the e-cigarette is being marketed as a safe alternative to smoking, it has been designed in the same manner and still contains the nicotine, which is what makes smoking addictive," Aufdenkampe said.
Smoker Friendly based in Parkersburg began selling electronic cigarettes from one manufacturer in its stores five years ago. The company, with 39 locations in four states, has recently increased the products visibility and selection in the stores to meet the customers' demand, said Regan Bartley, marketing director for Smoker Friendly.
E-cigarettes are complementing the stores' tobacco sales, Bartley said.
"It is a lot of fun to market the e-cigarettes," Bartley said. "The customers like them. It's cool."
Customers who were buying electronic cigarettes online are now going to Smoker Friendly stores, she said.
Bartley said she quit smoking traditional cigarettes two years ago and started vaping three months ago.
E-cigarettes taste better than tobacco cigarettes, she said.