He tried patches, gum and doctor visits, but it wasn’t until last September the 20-year smoker said he found something that finally did the trick.
“I was at a conference in Las Vegas and a friend of mine told me about electronic cigarettes,” McElroy said. “I haven’t smoked a regular cigarette since.”
McElroy would like to share his smoking cure with the community, and next month he plans to open E-Cig South in Weaver on Alabama 21.
“It’s really taking off, but there’s no place around here to go for it,” said McElroy, who used to go to Atlanta or Birmingham to find stores dedicated to selling the electronic cigarettes. “I’m going to have something for everyone, from the starters to more advanced products.”
Electronic cigarettes typically consist of a tank or chamber, into which the user can put vaporizing liquids that come in a variety of flavors and usually contain nicotine. The products come in all different shapes and sizes, some mimicking the look of traditional cigarettes or cigars, and others with elaborate designs. McElroy said a basic starter kit costs about $15, but specialty items can range in the hundreds of dollars.
“It’s a lifestyle,” McElroy said. “Most smokers like smoking, they just don’t like the 4,000 carcinogens.”
But health experts aren’t so sure there are no dangers associated with smoking electronic cigarettes. The World Health Organization advises against using the products, citing lack of any significant studies or research on the health risks for users or into the claims by some products that they help users quit smoking. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate electronic cigarettes, meaning what exactly goes into electronic cigarettes can vary by company and product.
“There’s been some research, but we really don’t know what’s going into these products,” said Peter Fisher, the vice president of state affairs with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington D.C. “They’re marketed like tobacco products, and we know they contain nicotine, which is a harmful substance, and we feel they should be regulated like tobacco products.”
Fisher said there’s concern about how the products are marketed, and said slick advertisements, celebrity endorsements and flavors that resemble the names of candy and other products aimed at kids mean some companies are targeting minors. A 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nearly 10 percent of high school students in 2012 said they used electronic cigarettes. That number was up from about 5 percent in the previous year.
McElroy said he’s aware of some people’s aversion to the products, and said he has no intention of selling to minors or promoting the products’ use in public.
“Legitimate electronic cigarette companies aren’t interested in selling to kids,” McElroy said. “This is for smokers, people who want to try and quit.”
Several cities in the United States have banned smoking electronic cigarettes in public, including New York, and more recently, Chicago. Last year, when Anniston banned smoking in restaurants, electronic cigarettes were included.
Weaver doesn’t have a city-wide smoking ban, but Mayor Wayne Willis said smoking traditional cigarettes is banned at City Hall and city-owned property. That law doesn’t include electronic cigarettes.
“From everything I’ve read there are no second-hand effects from the electronic cigarettes,” Willis said. “Unless someone shows me something otherwise, I don’t think we’d ban them.”
McElroy said he hopes to have his store and website open for business by the end of February.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.