ROCHESTER, MN — As of July 1, Minnesota’s cigarette tax went up nearly $3 a pack and that has some smokers seeking alternatives like quitting or finding something else, like electronic cigarettes.
They give off water vapor instead of smoke and you cannot smell them, but some are questioning if they are really a safer alternative.
Those in the business of selling electronic cigarettes are staying busy.
“Some folks are just sick of paying too much money, other folks are just sick of the smell of smoke and everything else,” said Tony Keefe, owner of Vapin Midwest in Rochester.
His company lets customers sample the 60 different varieties he has available and if you walked in, he says you would not even notice.
“These things are smoked in here eight hours a day since February 20th; it’s vapor. It’s vapor and a little flavor, so the smoke’s in the air, there is no smell, there’s nothing for your clothes, your teeth aren’t turning green,” Keefe said.
The relatively new world of electronic cigarettes is leaving some with second thoughts. Those at the Mayo Clinic are not so sure that it is a safer alternative.
“We really don’t know what the health impact is from electronic cigarettes. Cigarettes we certainly know, it’s the only consumer product that kills 60 percent of the people who use it as recommended. The electronic cigarettes, there are over 170 different brands, manufactured in all different places and they’re not regulated yet,” said Dr. Michael Burke, Coordinator of the Nicotine Dependence Center for Mayo.
In the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada they are regulated as “drug delivery devices.” Burke and those at Mayo would be much happier to see that in the U.S. as well.
“While they may be a good idea, until there is some consistent testing and some standards, we don’t recommend them,” Burke said.
Instead they recommend a different alternative. Burke said there are products out there that are safe and proven to help smokers quit.
Keefe said he is sticking to what he sees at his business.
“We have no clinical evidence, ever of course, that it does any good or help you quit, but I’ve got 100 people minimum that I could show you that tried to quit smoking for 30 years and now they’re not smoking a cigarette at all,” Keefe said.
There is talk that the FDA could regulate the electronic cigarettes in the future. Sales of the product are expected to hit the $1 billion mark this year.