— By TODD GLASSCOCK
Matt West is learning to kick the habit. “I quit smoking cigarettes about three months ago.”
The 29-year-old Mineral Wells resident smoked for years, starting about age 14, but has since quit with the help of electronic cigarettes and other electronic vaping devices. He took up vaping about the time he quit smoking.
“I don’t crave it [smoking],” he said as he selected flavored e-liquid cartridges at The Baker Vapor on N.E. 1st Avenue downtown across from the Baker Hotel. “I can tell the difference. I can taste.”
Similar stories are told by Chett Witt, 30, and Frank Rollins, 46, customers Friday afternoon at KSD E-vapes on North Oak Avenue downtown.
Witt smoked off and on for about 10 years, but stopped eight months ago after he tried vaping. “I haven’t touched any cigarette in eight months. Now I can’t stand the taste or smell of cigarettes or tobacco products at all.”
Rollins, 46, is trying to cut down on smoking, but finds vaping pleasurable for the flavors.
“I started doing it for the flavors.” He has noticed a side benefit, however, of not craving cigarettes as much.
Although not regulated nationally or endorsed by health officials, the use of e-cigarettes and vaping has recently become popular and relatively accepted forms for quitting or cutting back on smoking, and have become a multi-million dollar industry, according to Forbes magazine.
The City of Mineral Wells currently has no regulations on smoking or vaping in public, however on city council’s agenda Tuesday night is a request from resident Charles Thompson concerning regulation of e-cigarettes.
Weatherford City Council recently adopted a public smoking policy aimed at the city’s food establishments, and use of e-cigarettes was included along with tobacco products as banned in establishments where food is sold, prepared or consumed unless in a separated or enclosed area.
The devices deliver to users nicotine or other substances such as flavored juices through vapor, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s website. They are usually made of a battery-operated, rechargeable heating element with a replaceable cartridge and atomizer that when heated converts the contents of the cartridge to vapor, which is then inhaled by the user.
Some e-cigarettes resemble actual tobacco cigarettes, others are reminiscent of classic long-stem cigarette holders, like those used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s and ‘40s. Usually the devices are about the length of a fountain pen, and some people wear them attached to lanyards like a necklace.
The e-cigarettes require no combustion, said Micah Saldana, who co-owns Baker Vapes with her husband Mark.
“The vapor,” she said, “is the same used for breathing treatments for asthma.”
E-liquids come in a variety of flavors like strawberry and mocha, she said. The premium liquids their shop sells are all made in a clean lab from natural ingredients and come in pharmaceutical-grade glass. They have varying amounts of nicotine in them, including none, 8 milligrams, 12 milligrams, 18 milligrams and 24 milligrams, and cost $9.95 each for a 15 milliliter bottle. The e-cigarettes they sell run about $32.95.
A tobacco cigarette can deliver nicotine in doses as high as 100 milligrams, reports say.
Although currently no age restrictions exist to use the products, the e-cigarettes are meant for those 18 and over, she said. They do not sell to minors and follow tobacco sales laws, she said. They don’t even allow their daughter Daisey, 17, who runs the next-door high-end clothes resell shop to operate the vape shop.
Their shop and their daughter’s shop have been open four weeks and held its official grand opening Saturday, March 29, she said.
Currently, no national policies exist regarding regulation of e-cigarettes, and the FDA has yet to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the devices for consumers. While the FDA has yet to make a decision on e-cigarettes, some local businesses as well as organizations like schools have developed policies restricting or prohibiting their use.
Mineral Wells ISD’s school board revisited its vaping policy at its March 25 meeting, approving a proposal to revise the policy on e-cigarettes on school premises. The policy “prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes or any other electronic vaporizing device on district property at all times.”
Some adults, unaware of the district’s vaping policy, had been using the devices on campus, so the board’s revision of the policy is meant to address public awareness of the policy, as a reminder to those visiting MWISD campuses,
Superintendent Gail Haterius said. This policy is similar to those on alcohol and tobacco use on campuses and is meant for the safety and security of students.
School stadiums do have signs that convey the policy, she said.
Those who have used the devices on campus have been happy to comply with the policy when asked not to use them, she said.
Area restaurants have varied policies on e-cigarette use, usually restricting the devices to smoking sections.
“We’re pretty much against them as corporate policy,” Aaron Lockstedt, Chili’s general manager said, “but, you can still use them in the smoking section.”
Other restaurants, such as Chicken Express in Mineral Wells, haven’t developed policies regarding e-cigarettes, according to local employees.
“None of the employees smoke and it hasn’t been brought up [for employees or customers],” Keith Burks, manager of Chicken Express said. “I haven’t seen anybody [restaurant customers] using them.”
In Mineral Wells vaping enthusiasts tend to respect policies and preferences, Saldana said.
“We respect what other people think,” she said.