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Vaping: A KOAM Special Two Part Report On Electronic Cigarettes - KOAM TV 7

Vaping: A KOAM Special Two Part Report On Electronic Cigarettes

Updated:

Part One: 

This time last year an "electronic cigarette," or vapor shop didn't exist in Joplin. Now at least seven stores exist in the Joplin area, with more scheduled to open up soon. But without studies on long-term health effects many worry it might be too soon to tell how safe the product really is.
 
"Right now I'm vaping vanilla swirl..it made whenever I smoked a cigarette it made me feel like I was licking an ashtray,"  said owner of Metro Vapor Elissa Davis. 

Davis is a former pack a day smoker who stopped smoking thanks to electronic cigarettes. She was so happy with the success, Davis opened  Metro Vapor in Joplin with her mother. That was last May, and at the time it was the only 'vapor shop' in town.

"We didn't know how other people would feel about it, so knowing that Joplin has really grabbed hold of the vapors, you know we're a community," Davis said.

At least seven stores are now in the Joplin area, with more on the way. The stores sell re-usable electronic cigarettes, which use liquid 'juices'; a mix of synthetic flavors ranging from red bull, butterscotch or even cotton candy with various amounts of synthetic nicotine. 

"You have the option to be able to just slow down on your nicotine levels and decline," Davis said. 

Which appeals to smokers like Sharon Lindsey and Derek Johnson. Both were smoking about a pack and a half a day before they discovered e-cigs.

"I had surgery on my lungs and so I can really feel it in the morning, and with the e-cigarettes, it's like I quit smoking cigarettes," Johnson said.

"There's no coughing, you just wake up and you breathe so much easier, the smell, cigarettes just smell awful, even as a smoker you just put on your coat and you can smell that cigarette smell and it's just not pleasant," Lindsey said.

And even though electronic cigarettes are not yet approved or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most users we spoke with say they'll choose vaping over normal cigarettes every time.

"This is such a better, safer alternative than smoking a cigarette, it's awesome because before there was what? Nicorette gum? Or a patch or something?," Johnson said.

But Freeman Cardiologist Ryan Longnecker isn't convinced.

"The people who sell electronic cigarettes try and say it's a safer alternative, but the fact of the matter is that they were invented in 2004 and we don't have any data in long term use of what happens," Dr. Longnecker said.

Longnecker says ingesting any form of nicotine is dangerous, and can increase blood pressure, heart rates and anxiety in patients.

"It is still ingestion of a substance that has shown to be highly addictive, and do numerous things from a cardiovascular stand point," Dr. Longnecker said.

But for heavy smokers like Johnson and Lindsey, not knowing long term effects doesn't deter them from e-cigs, especially when they say it is helping them cut back on nicotine.

"It's slowly been decreasing though in the last couple months and we're looking forward to not buying cigarettes at all," Lindsey said.
 
Davis says she always tells customers to do their own research before deciding to try.

"Look online check it out, talk to other people who have been vaping, speak to your doctor about it," Davis said.

In addition to eliminating the smell of cigarette smoke, Johnson and Lindsey say 'vaping' costs them one tenth the cost of their normal smoking habit. But doctors like Longnecker still worry that sweet flavors, may encourage users to smoke more in the long run.

 
Part two: 

Electronic Cigarettes are produced as a "smoke free" way of consuming nicotine, but that is not the only thing people are consuming from them. Without state regulation on age restrictions, it is up to the individual store not to sell electronic cigarette devices to minors. Not only are the devices ending up in the hands of kids, but people are now finding ways to smoke marijuana out of them as well.

Electronic cigarettes. They take out carcinogens and chemicals from normal cigarettes and replace them with a liquid mixture of synthetic nicotine and flavoring, but people are quickly finding alterative uses for the product.

"Basically it's just the same, you just substitute one for the other, from liquid tobacco to hash oil or any other liquid form of canibinoids."

This Four Stater didn't want to reveal his identity, but manufactures his own hash oil in his home. He says it can be put into electronic cigarette devices to get a more concentrated high.

"it's just it's cleaner, if you don't have to use it as much."

And according to Show Me Canibus volunteer Kelly Maddy, the method of smoking hash oil isn't new, but using it in smaller portable devices like e-cigs is.

"More professionals are using these smaller vaporizers pens and herbal vaporizers for the raw plant material to more inconspicuously use without having loose leaf all over the place," Maddy said.
 
Something the manager of Vapor Kings in Joplin says he's noticed.
 
"You'd be amazed how many people of all age groups as well  will flat out ' do you have anything I can put weed in?' and we say no we don't. We don't carry anything like that at all, it's not what we are," said Phill Emigh, manager of Vapor Kings in Joplin.
 
Joplin Police say they haven't arrested anyone for smoking marijuana out of e-cigs, but they say police from other states have warned them of the growing trend.
 
"We now have criminals that can create different chemicals that can ingest into our bodies that are to have or possess it's a more technologically advanced society for criminals and for general citizenry," said Lt. Charla Geller of the Joplin Police Department.   
 
If adults are doing it, so are minors, and with vapor flavors like cotton candy, carmel, butterscotch, even chocolate, area schools are worried that it won't be too long before kids get through vapor shop doors, and figure out how to use the product to get high. 

"I guess my first reaction is what's next?"

Kerry Sanchetta is the principal at Joplin High School. He says he's already had two incidents of students trying to use electronic cigarettes on campus, and that if kids are in fact using it to get high they will treat it like anything else.
 
 "Whether a person has an electronic cigarette, or candy cigarette, or real cigarette that's just not what we're about at school. we're about healthy choices," Sanchetta said.
 
And though we won't tell you how he does it, this Four Stater says that the ability to make his own hash oil allows him to cut back on marijuana usage and smell. And as electronic cigarettes grow in popularity, he guesses smoking hash oil will as well.

"I think most people would probably use a vaporizer system."

According to Joplin Police, the topic of marijuana and e-cigarettes was brought up at the last Jasper County Drug Task force meeting. They say officers will soon be trained on how to recognize people using electronic cigarettes for something other than synthetic tobacco.


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