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Vaping advocates praise smoking alternative in lounges, stores

9Bobby Thompson and Stacy Harvey sat in the Iron City Vapor Lounge in Richland, chatting and exhaling white, billowy clouds of sweet-smelling vapor.

“I quit smoking five months ago,” said Thompson, 45, of Pensacola, Fla. “I feel so much better. I wake up in the morning and can breathe. I started smoking when I was 9.”

Vaping, or inhaling flavored vapors from a battery-powered electronic cigarette, has become popular nationwide.

Locally, it's spawned groups such as the Steel City Vapers' Club, which has 800 members, who hang out, vape and find new products. It's led to vaping lounges where customers can have a cup of coffee and test flavors.

Shops and lounges exist all over Western Pennsylvania, including Washington, McMurray, Houston, White Oak, West Mifflin, Grove City, Sharon, New Stanton, Manor and Johnstown.

Harvey, 21, of Warner Robins, Ga., said he quit smoking and started vaping because it was better for his health and on long road trips when others in the car might be non-smokers.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-powered and use propylene glycol- or vegetable glycerin-based liquids, called e-liquid or e-juice, which contain flavoring and sometimes nicotine. When someone inhales, a small atomizer vaporizes the liquid-producing flavored vapor — which proponents say contains no carcinogens — rather than smoke.

Some customers at Steel City Vapors, which has locations in Castle Shannon and Monroeville, are smokers looking for an alternative to cigarettes, employee Chazz Steinbrunn said.

“Some people are trying to quit; others are just interested. But we'll get people who have smoked for 25 or 30 years who come in and get a starter kit, and they'll come back six months later and haven't touched a cigarette,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, however, there's no evidence e-cigarettes can help smokers quit.

Sales of electronic cigarettes reached an estimated nearly $2 billion in 2013. Tobacco companies jumped into the business when e-cigarettes began eating into their sales.

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed prohibiting e-cigarette sales to minors and requiring health labels that warn users that nicotine is an addictive chemical. E-cigarette makers would not be allowed to claim their products are safer than other tobacco products.

Forty-one state attorneys general, including Kathleen Kane of Pennsylvania, called for the FDA to regulate the cigarettes.

There are two main kinds of e-cigarettes, said Smokefree Pennsylvania Executive Director Bill Godshall — “cig-a-likes,” which look and taste like a cigarette, and premium vaporizers, which use the flavored e-liquids. Neither produces smoke that contains carcinogens as cigarettes do, he said.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sounded a warning in September when it said, “Because e-cigarettes are largely unregulated, the agency does not have good information about them, such as the amounts and types of components and potentially harmful constituents.”

Godshall, who campaigned for more than 25 years to ban smoking in Pennsylvania workplaces, is a fan, though. He calls them “the most effective smoking cessation tool ever invented.”

Iron City Vapor Lounge Manager Brenda Huff said she quit smoking and started vaping. Four months ago, she smoked two or three packs a day. After her first day at the vape shop, she gave up smoke for vapor.

“I'm a success story,” she said. “And I feel so much better.”

Source: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/6313564-74/vaping-cigarettes-cigarette#axzz35Y0VCmSO

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