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Wallingford ‘vape’ shop owners say product helps quit smoking, while studies cite health risks

Time: 2017-04-24

By Eric Vo – December 15, 2015

The business, 16 Center St., opened in September and is owned by Ryan Harsch, of Southington, along with Josh Smith and Dave Graves, both of Cheshire. The three men worked as mechanics before they opened All The Vapors and have been “vaping” for years, Harsch said.

Vaping consists of using a device that electronically delivers nicotine to the user. A cartridge is filled with liquid, which usually contains nicotine, and is vaporized by a heating component. The aerosol is inhaled by the user and then exhaled.

According to a May 2015 fact sheet from the state Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Control program, 12 percent of adults have tried some form of electronic cigarettes at least once and 4 percent currently use it.

Harsch and Smith said they consider vaping a hobby and are often modifying equipment or creating new parts. The back of the space is considered a workshop, where the owners can talk about various parts and give customers an opportunity to create their own.

“We like to tinker with things,” Smith said.

Smith said the “ultimate goal” of the business is to help people quit smoking cigarettes.

“I’d rather get people out there smoking to be vaping,” Smith said, “rather than sit there and kill themselves smoking cigarettes.”

Although electronic nicotine delivery systems aren’t proven to stop smoking, the owners consider themselves success stories and credit vaping for helping them give up the addiction.

“I’ve been smoking cigarettes since I was 12 years old,” Harsch said. “I started vaping two years ago.”

Since he stopped smoking cigarettes, Smith said he started to feel healthier — a notion Harsch agreed with. Smith reflected back to when he would get tired from walking up the stairs and how he is now able to go on hikes.

“I can tell you firsthand that it does help and it does work,” Smith said.

Graves added he was able to regain his sense of smell and taste and is now able to run with his dog.

The vaping industry has been criticized for creating flavors that are aimed to appeal to young people, but Smith disagreed.

“That’s not true at all. We’re out there trying to get people off of cigarettes,” he said, adding the store does not allow anyone younger than 18 to enter.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said he had no concerns about the business being in town.

“If there are harmful effects from it, I’d assume they have to disclose it to who is looking to purchase a product,” Dickinson said. “As long as everyone is meeting the requirements of law, that’s as far as my official concern would be.”

While they wanted to create their own business, the owners also said they wanted to help educate the public on the vaping industry.

A recent study of flavored e-cigarettes by researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found diacetyl was present in 76 percent of the 51 tested flavors. Diacetyl can lead to severe lung disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study also found 2,3-pentanedione was detected in 23 of the 51 flavors tested and acetoin was detected in 46 flavors. A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found 2,3-pentanedione can cause damage to the airways, similar to diacetyl.

Despite this, the owners said they believed vaping is healthier than smoking cigarettes.

“The information out there references things that have been found in some of the products, but a lot of that stuff is already known,” Graves said. “They never really put a comparison versus traditional cigarettes — that’s what a lot of us have a problem with.”

Smith added diacetyl is present in cigarettes, but at greater quantities.

Smith also addressed stories of the batteries in e-cigarettes exploding. It’s something he credits to a product that was built cheaply.

“Don’t jump on the anti-vaping bandwagon without looking into it,” Smith said. 

“There’s a lot to say about it.”

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