The Free Press, Mankato, MN


February 20, 2014

Business brisk at Mankato's first e-cig store


Meschke said they will be building a “vaping hut” outside with heaters to take the chill off for customers.

Flavors include cigar- and tobacco-based flavors, applewood and Kentucky bourbon flavors, as well as a variety of herb-based flavors. And there is a wide variety of more exotic and sweet tastes with names such as snickerdoodle cookie, ambrosia and strawberry hill.

The sweet-flavored juices have led critics of e-cigarettes to accuse the industry of trying to attract children to use the products. Critics also say that too little is known about the health effects of e-cigarettes and the nicotine they contain.

Meschke said the store only sells to those age 18 or older and checks IDs.

“People get a little shot of nicotine without all the chemicals and second-hand smoke.” And, he said, many customers say that having the device in hand and puffing on it — even if they are down to little or no nicotine content in the juice — fulfills the psychological pleasure associated with smoking.

Overwhelmingly, he said, customers tell him they want to try the e-cigarettes because they want to quit tobacco.

Still, the store does not market e-cigarettes as devices to quit smoking. That's because the rules surrounding e-cigarettes are still unclear and being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and others.   

As for the sweet flavors, Meschke said customers like the variety and finding flavors they enjoy. “It’s just as likely a guy will get watermelon (flavor) as a woman. There’s no gender difference.”

And Meschke said the cost savings of e-cigarettes compared to tobacco are staggering. The store’s 30-milliliter bottle (about 1 ounce) of juice sells for $17.95. “That’ equals 2 1/2 cartons of cigarettes. It’s a tenth the cost of smoking.”

While many cities have been moving to treat e-cigarettes the same as tobacco and with Congress and states asking for the Food and Drug Administration to quickly restrict the sale of e-cigarettes, the potential risks versus possible benefits remains an open question.

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