CITY ó Like many a hard-core smoker, Candi McCann found it a
bear to quit. Nothing worked. Not the patch. Not those blue
smoking cessation pills her doctor prescribed.
tried those electronic cigarettes that produce a steamy vapor
instead of smoke. Click, just like that, she went from more
than a pack of smokes a day to becoming the Kansas City areaís
leading vaping evangelist.
shed of her 21-year smoking habit, the 42-year-old McCann now
preaches about the latest vaping gear on her YouTube channel.
She helps organize "vape meets" of fellow
enthusiasts through the Fountain City Vapor Club. And more
recently she has turned her passion into a full-time job,
hiring on as manager at the Vapor World store near her home in
9, 2012, thatís my vape-versery," she said, taking a
drag from a mouthpiece sticking out of a boxy contraption in
her palm that was about the size of an eyeglass case.
not going to tell you this is healthy," said McCann.
"But I can tell you that it is 99 percent better for you
that stat is true or not, thatís one selling point that
keeps customers coming back to the more than three dozen vape
shops that have set up in the metro area since 2013. Before,
there were few or none.
thereís the social aspect that has seen some vaping stores,
like Waldo Vapes, becoming something akin to java-free coffee
shops, where people gather to shoot the breeze, play games and
challenge each other to see who can blow out the biggest cloud
of scented vapor.
becoming a community," Levi Fields, a 20-year-old student
at the culinary school at Johnson County Community College,
said as he took a toke in Waldo Vapesí living-room-like
setting. "Itís getting really, really big."
see e-cigarettes as a godsend for people trying to reduce or
quit smoking, which kills 480,000 Americans a year, according
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
trend concerns some health advocates. Scientists donít yet
know much about the health effects of electronic cigarettes,
which are largely unregulated and the subject of competing
also contend vaping is trading one form of addiction for
another and that the safer-than-cigarettes claims are
convincing teens to adopt a nicotine habit they might not have
is a way to get kids addicted to nicotine," said Sue
Matson, substance abuse prevention coordinator at the Johnson
County Mental Health Department. "Iím concerned about
the possibility of renormalizing behavior that we have spent a
long time getting away from."
federal Food and Drug Administration weighs those arguments in
advance of imposing greater regulatory control, there is no
debating this: Vaping has gone mainstream in the last couple
of years, spawning a more than $3 billion-a-year industry in
the United States. Two-thirds of sales are online, but
increasingly there are brick-and-mortar stores like the dozens
of outlets that have been cropping up across the nation.
seen them on street corners and in strip centers with names
like KC Vapes, Vape Up, Vape Room and CigaWatt.
recently, e-cigarettes were synonymous with the cigarette
look-a-likes sold alongside regular smokes in gas station
convenience stores ó "cig-a-likes," theyíre
called. Marketed by Big Tobacco, they are an acceptable
alternative to smoking for many smokers, while others dismiss
brands like Blu, Vuze and Njoy as unsatisfying substitutes for
the real thing.
is not the segment seeing the biggest growth and getting the
most buzz. Instead, itís the refillable "open
system" vaping product category that is driving an
industry that within a decade, one prominent Wall Street
analyst predicts, will see more Americans vaping than smoking
systems allow users to customize their vaping experience.
choose among a wide array of flavored liquids ó from
bubble-gum-flavored to hazelnut butter cream ó each of which
has various levels of nicotine to none at all. Drops of that
"e-juice" are dripped into battery-powered gadgets
that look nothing like cigarettes.
range from rechargeable vaping pens, called that because they
look like writing instruments and cost about $25 for a starter
kit, to so-called modified systems. Mods, for short, are built
from mix-and-match components that can cost as little as $40
to as much as a few hundred dollars. The price goes up along
with the wattage options. The more power, the more vapor.
range in motivation, too. Some stop in only when they need to
feed their nicotine habit.
buy their juice coils once a week and go about their
day," McCann said.
there is also a dedicated bunch who consider themselves
hobbyists. They enjoy sampling different flavors and buying
better and more expensive vaping equipment.
as big as vaping has become in a short amount of time, itís
far from being widely accepted outside the subculture that has
grown up around it.
why shop owners like Jonathan Brower, owner of Waldo Vapes,
are wary of and bracing for new rules that are sure to come
down the pike eventually.
have a hard time wrapping their head around the fact that weíre
not smoking anything," he said.
may not be smoke, but local, state and federal officials are
fired up about the need to regulate e-cigarettes.
Park and Columbia, for example, are among a number of local
communities that have extended prohibitions already imposed on
smoking to vaping. Itís not allowed in indoor public spaces,
confounding smokers who had been vaping in bars rather than
stepping outside to light up.
makes it hard sometimes for the 800-member Fountain City Vapor
Club to rent space for its occasional meets, McCann said.
meets we hold every few months are free to attend," she
said. "We invite local shops to set up tables. There are
usually raffle and door prizes."
both Missouri and Kansas are among the states that forbid the
sale of e-cigarettes and vaping gear to minors, a restriction
that local vaping store operators welcome.
main thing weíre fighting now is weíre getting a lot of
minors trying to buy," said Aaron Todd, who owns the
Vapur of KC store and is part owner of two other Vapur stores
in the area. "I even had one kid come in with his dad,
point out what he wanted and slide his dad a $20 bill, and I
wouldnít sell it to him."
than anything, itís that concern for minors that is driving
opposition locally and nationally.
study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found
that the use of e-cigarettes by teenagers had risen sharply,
with 13 percent of high schoolers reportedly using them in
same time, though, the number of high school smokers had
dropped from 16 percent in 2011 to 9 percent in 2014.
(teenagers) believe itís a safe alternative because thatís
what they are being told," said Kevin Kufeldt, who runs a
regional drug treatment center that serves adolescents from
dissuade teens and their parents from vaping, Tri-County
Mental Health Services in the Northland plans to begin sending
out public service announcements through social media this
theme, said Tri-Countyís Reshana Peterson, is "about
the fact that nicotine is nicotine."
adults, she said, believe they are doing their teens a favor
by allowing them to vape, rather than smoke, when the better
alternative is to do neither.
campaign, paid for by a grant from the Health Care Foundation
of Greater Kansas City, also includes an educational component
for teachers so they can recognize signs that kids are vaping
County has the same challenge, Matson said.
are doing it in their cars," she said. "Kids are
doing it in the hallways and the classroom if they think they
can get away with it."
school districts have changed their regulations recently to
prohibit all nicotine products, rather than just tobacco,
because of the trend, Peterson said.
area where regulation is coming involves the products
themselves. No quality control standards apply. While
manufacturers and shop owners say the industryís products
are safe, vaping juices are not tested or regulated. At least
one study found that some liquids said to contain no nicotine
did, in fact, have nicotine in them.
can put whatever you want on a label," Kufeldt said.
"It doesnít mean itís true."
the industry wouldnít mind the FDA getting involved for that
very reason. One of the biggest impediments to further growth
in the category is the loss of consumer confidence in the
vapor people are breathing in place of tobacco smoke.
believe itís imperative these factors are addressed
promptly," three analysts who follow the industry at
Wells Fargo Securities said in a January report. "If not,
weíre concerned that vapor category growth could continue to
would be sad if regulation damaged what she considers to be an
industry that has helped a lot of people like her cut back on
or quit cigarettes entirely.
meets my need," she said. "I donít smell like
smoke anymore. I donít get bronchitis anymore."
miss the folks sheís met at vape meets, where thereís
always a bit of horse trading amid the vapor rings and
billowing clouds of mist.
swap juices and show off our mods," she said.
surely, she said, thereís no harm in that.