14 News Special Report: Vapor Trails - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

14 News Special Report: Vapor Trails

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It looks like smoke and packs a nicotine punch, but they aren't cigarettes. At least not the ones you're used to.

At Vapor Bank on Evansville's east side, the only smokes they are aren't really smokes at all. They're electronic cigarettes.

"It's just another nicotine delivery device, essentially," says John McCullough.

McCullough owns Vapor Bank and has been in the business since 2011, and has just opened this new larger store a few weeks ago.

"Sometimes it's just ridiculous how busy it is here," says Trey Duncan.

Many customers like Duncan go to Vapor Bank for one reason.

"Just to try to cut back on smoking," says Duncan.

"I probably have five or six folks in my circle that are doing this now," says Lisa Withrow who switched to electronic cigarettes about three months ago after smoking for 20-years. "It's almost like kind of learning a new gadget to get it to work the way you want it, and I really enjoyed it."

So how does this gadget work?

There are two parts: a battery and what's called a clearomizer.

First, you pick a liquid flavor. There's traditional tobacco, peach bellini, cotton candy, even snozzberry, and dozens more.

"You fill it up at an angle," says Withrow.

That liquid goes into the clearomizer, then attaches to the battery.

"When you hit the button on the battery, it vaporizes the liquid," says McCullough.

"Inhale, and exhale as if you would an actual cigarette," says Alex Jarvis, Vapor Bank's store manager.

But unlike an actual cigarette, there's no smoke; Just a cloud of water vapor.

"Plus you don't have the smell of the cigarette, your vehicle doesn't smell like cigarettes," says Duncan.

Inside the Vapor Bank, employees and customers puff away out in the open. What happens in other public places though?

"I've actually had several bar owners call me and question, ‘You know these are legal, can people use these in our facility?'" says Missy Mosby, Evansville City Council member.

The answer, for the most part, is yes.

 In Evansville, a smoking ban's been in effect for just over a year and even longer in Vanderburgh County. Both define smoking the same way.

"Smoking shall mean the carrying or holding of a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe or any other lighted smoking item," reads Missy Mosby from the ban.

But Mosby says it does not include e-cigarettes.

"It's not tobacco," says Mosby.

Around Evansville, Ri Ra, Bar Louie, Tin Man, and Lamasco's all allow e-cigarettes inside though they say they don't see too many people using them.

"The e-cigarettes have been pleasant," says Terri Carl, owner of Leroy's Tavern who is also a supporter. "A lot of times on Friday and Saturday evenings you can see the little lights flashing on them all over the place, but what's so nice about it is, it's water vapor."

You can vape inside Eastland Mall, but not at the Ford Center, where they tell 14 News, "our stance puts us in line with the current industry standard and the majority of similar venues across the country."

So while it's perfectly legal to use them in many places, some seem just fine keeping their vaping under wraps.

"I think part of it is you get kind of trained over time where you can smoke and where you can't," says Withrow. "So I'm not going to be in someone's restaurant blowing vapor on a small child, either."

Many choose e-cigarettes to help them drop their smoking habit, but since they are still relatively new there is not a clear picture yet about what health effects, if any they may have.

Dr. Bachar Malek practices internal medicine in Evansville and says he's seen at least 300 patients try e-cigarettes and estimates about 70%-80% of them were able to completely quit smoking. The remaining patients, he says, still use the e-cigarette.

Dr. Malek says he puts e-cigarettes in a category with chewing tobacco and cigars. While he does recommend them to patients, he says there are still question marks.

"I give them multiple alternatives, one of them is the electronic cigarette," says Dr. Malek. "But I explain to them the fact that there's no safety data, there's no FDA-approved research done on it, and that it's early to know. I always tell them that it could be a very good, effective way of quitting smoking."

On the FDA's website, they say because the safety of e-cigarettes haven't been fully studied, users can't know whether they are safe, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled, or if there are any benefits associated with the product.

For more information from the FDA about the safety of e-cigarettes, click here.


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