Tulsa Business Provides Alternative To Tobacco Cigarettes

Wednesday, September 18th 2013, 10:36 am
By: News On 6

Do you smoke or do you know someone who does? Do you want to quit? There is a new alternative, called "Vaping."

"We've been open since March 4th. Eight have opened since we've been opened," said Kyla Baker.

Baker is the co-owner of Master Vapor at 41st and Garnett. It is one of several new stores specializing in a new kind of nicotine delivery system.

"This is your battery, your battery is like a lithium ion battery inside of here, it's rechargeable, it sends a current up through this heating element right here, which causes the vapor," said Kyla Baker.

Baker lists the ingredients in the vapor cigarettes.

"There are four basic ingredients in all of our juice. We do a blend of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine and flavor concentrate," said Kyla Baker.

And the flavors.

"We have 154 and counting," said Kyla Baker.

That is a lot of flavors and I am intrigued reading some of them. Juicy Fruit, Sissy the Poo, Blueberry, Grape lean and how about Mellow Ape.

"You want to try Mellow Ape, it has no nicotine in that one so you should be good to go," said Kyla Baker.

Mellow, yes, but is it good for you?

"What you're seeing is the water vapor and everything, you're getting the oral fix and you're getting the nicotine, you're not getting the heat and you're not getting the tar," said Dr. Scott Cyrus.  

And bystanders are not getting any second hand smoke.

"Anything that will help that, I'm all for, especially with protecting our children from the effects of secondary smoke," said Dr. Scott Cyrus.

The oils or juices at Master Vapor come in four strengths of nicotine. Zero, six, 12 or 24 milligrams per container with 24 roughly the equivalent of smoking unfiltered cigarettes. Theoretically, the different levels of nicotine allow smokers to first quit puffing and then step themselves down to lower levels of what remains an addictive stimulant.

"I started vaping and within two days, after I bought my first Kit, I actually gave half a pack of cigarettes away to a friend, I didn't even want them anymore," said Robin Ramerez.

Sounds all good, right? So, what are the drawbacks? For one, the tasty flavors might cause some reformed smokers to actually increase their nicotine intake.

"I do worry about that because I do vape way more than I did smoke," said Kyla Baker.

And what about teenagers, attracted to fruity, flavored nicotine.

"We do not sell to minors. We card, simply because we do not promote underage vaping," said Kyla Baker.

Beyond that, this remains a very unregulated new industry. The FDA has yet to rule on exactly what "vaping" is, so there are no laws or mandates on the contents of these oils, many of them imported from China.

"A lot of companies in town were getting their things seized by Customs and that's because Customs was like, whew, we don't know, we don't know what's in here," said Kyla Baker.

Baker says she makes all her oils on site, but she fears if the FDA equates nicotine vaping with cigarettes, a product designed to discourage smoking may be get priced out of business.

Vapor cigarettes are taxed at about 8.7 cents on the dollar. For a pack of regular tobacco cigarettes it's a $1.03 in sales taxes in Oklahoma.

Now, if the Oklahoma Legislature has its way, vapor cigarettes might get taxed like tobacco cigarettes.

"I feel if they start taxing us like tobacco, people will go back to smoking," said Kyla Baker.

There's a very good chance the Oklahoma Legislature will consider changing the taxation rates on vapor cigarettes during their regular session in 2014.