×

Future of vaping under a cloud

Locals on both sides of issue weigh in

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM
Marshall Tobacco & Vape Outlet employee Scott Conklin blows out a cloud of vapor from his e-cig while in the store on Tuesday. Conklin said he is a “cloud chaser,” which is someone who tries to produce the biggest and thickest vaping cloud.

As a rash of vaping-related illnesses – 450 – and deaths – six – sweep the nation people are panicking over the usage of electronic cigarettes.

Also known as e-cigs, nicotine-containing fluid is placed in electronic cigarettes and then the person using it inhales, blowing out a cloud of vapor. The fluids are available in a wide variety of flavors such as fruits, baked goods and cigarettes.

On Wednesday President Donald Trump announced a plan to ban the majority of flavored e-cigarettes. The Food and Drug Administration – FDA – is finalizing the plan to remove all non-tobacco flavored products within 90 days. However, vaping companies can introduce flavors into the market at a later date as long as those flavors and products receive FDA approval.

Scott Conklin and Joshua Brown, employees of Marshall Tobacco & Vape Outlet in downtown Marshalltown, are not surprised over the latest round of vaping concern. The industry has faced and overcome others since products were introduced in 2003.

“We expected it. We were waiting for it,” Conklin, 32, said. “Big tobacco has money and whoever pays the most wins. Vaping is an infant industry. There are no big merges, no big money. We are looking at companies that bring in $40 to $60 million a year.”

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM
Not only does Marshall Tobacco & Vape Outlet provide people with e-cigs and fluid but they also sell flavored cigars - something employee Joshua Brown pointed out is not under attack for providing desirable flavors that might entice youth.

Conklin is referring to the theory that major tobacco companies are trying to destroy the vaping industry because tobacco is losing too much money as a result of smokers switching to e-cigs.

Conklin is one of those former smokers. He said he vapes because it helps with his stress level and it is better than constantly smoking. Marshall Tobacco & Vape Outlet receives numerous people each week who have the same story as Conklin.

“We get 20 people in here every day who have told us they no longer smoke,” Brown said.

However Alyssa DePhillips, specialist for the American Lung Association in Iowa, said the majority of adult vapers also use traditional forms of tobacco.

“We see a lot of dual use,” DePhillips said.

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM
On Tuesday, Marshall Tobacco & Vape Outlet employee Joshua Brown inhales from an e-cig device inside the Marshalltown Main Street store. Youth are not allowed to purchase from the business.

No official cause

The wave of illnesses and deaths linked to vaping products have not been officially pinpointed.

“No one device, product or substance has been linked to this outbreak,” DePhillips said. “There has been no determination made by CDC as to whether the chemicals causing this cluster of illness was caused by vaping nicotine, specific flavors, CBD, THC or vitamin E and at this time it is premature to speculate.”

However, speculation is out there.

Conklin said the products that have caused the illnesses are not from reputable companies or they contain vitamin E acetate which is a thickener used in cannabis oils. Those products, he said, have drawn users because of cheaper prices.

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM
Marshall Tobacco & Vape Outlet employee Scott Conklin shows one of the popular flavors of juices at the store. He said it sort of tastes like a lemon drop candy.

Conklin and Brown said the Marshall Tobacco & Vape Outlet does not sell cannabis oils or fluids containing vitamin E acetate. Not only do they personally test each fluid before selling it on the store floor, they also read the ingredients.

The outlet employees do believe that the products causing the illnesses need to be taken off the market but that is no reason to broadly ban everything.

Use among youth

Another large concern surrounding e-cigs is the increased usage among youth.

DePhillips said from a national standpoint there has been a 78 percent increase in high school students vaping and a 48 percent increase among middle school students.

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM
Marshall Tobacco & Vape Outlet employee Scott Conklin blows out a cloud of vapor from his e-cig while in the store on Tuesday. Conklin said he is a “cloud chaser,” which is someone who tries to produce the biggest and thickest vaping cloud.

“Therefore overall one in four U.S. kids have tried vaping,” DePhillips said.

The yearly Iowa Youth Survey given to sixth, eighth and eleventh-grade students in every school in Iowa reflected the increase. DePhillips said based on the results they know 19 percent of all students in grade 6-12 have tried e-cigs and 9 percent claim to be current users.

The 2018 Marshall County results indicate 9 percent of students surveyed reported using e-cigs one or more days in a 30-day period. The largest percentage in a certain demographic was 17 percent among eleventh-grade boys who have used e-cigs one or more days in a 30-day period.

Conklin and Brown are against youth using e-cigs and keep an eye out for anyone underage who try to buy from the store.

“You are not allowed to kick it in here unless you have an ID,” Conklin said.

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM
Marshall Tobacco & Vape Outlet employee Scott Conklin blows rings from his electronic cigarette

Alternative to smoking

E-cigarettes have been touted by the vaping industry as a way to quit smoking.

Brown said when smokers come in to buy cigarettes they talk to the customer and see if there is an interest in vaping. If there is, they are happy to help them out.

“We are pro getting people off smoking,” Brown said.

Conklin does not recommend pregnant women use vaping products because he heard it can make nausea worse.

If the ban moves forward and flavored products are taken away there is a concern in the vaping industry that people who primarily vape will revert back to smoking.

“I personally feel vaping is safer and the main goal of it is to quit smoking cigarettes,” Conklin said. “Stay strong and stay off the stinkies.”

Marshall County Public Health Nurse Pat Thompson said while she has not seen nor heard of any vaping-related illnesses in Marshalltown or in the county, neither vaping nor smoking is a good idea.

“We just want people to be healthy here in Marshall County,” she said. “Any tobacco or drug use that is not recommended by your doctor people should not do. Vaping is not the way to help you be healthy.”

Thompson and DePhillips recommended people call Quitline Iowa at 1-800-QUITNOW to get help with smoking cessation. For vapers looking to quit, DePhillips recommends texting 855-891-9989.

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM
Marshall Tobacco & Vape Outlet employee Scott Conklin shows some of the more popular flavors customers of the business prefer. There is a variety of brands and flavors to choose from and they are displayed on a back wall.

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM
A wide variety of brands and flavors are on display in the Marshall Tobacco & Vape Outlet. Those flavors are facing a possible ban from the federal government after a wave of vaping-related illnesses and deaths swept across the county.