David Purdy started smoking when he was 15 years old. He tried nicotine patches to kick his cigarette habit. Later, he tried Nicorette gum. But nothing worked.
Then a neighbor, who was also a heavy smoker, introduced him to an e-cigarette, a battery-operated device that mimics smoking a traditional cigarette. Unlike a tobacco cigarette, it emits vapor, not smoke.
E-cigarettes contain a liquid solution that usually contains a mix of nicotine, flavoring, and propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. The device heats up the solution to emit vapor that users inhale.
Within three months, Purdy said his neighbor was able to quit smoking with the help of e-cigarettes. Purdy, then 47, decided to give it a try.
“Within a month I started feeling the health benefits of it,” Purdy said. “I started tasting food again much better, started breathing much better. … I could feel my body responding to not smoking anymore.”
Purdy eventually quit smoking, and began researching the possibility of opening his own e-cigarette store.
“I saw the industry taking off and knowing the health benefits, found out it was a viable opportunity,” Purdy said, referring to using e-cigarettes as a tool to quit smoking.
“I threw everything I had at it,” said Purdy, referring to establishing his e-cigarette store, 2 Vapes, located in the Cape St. Claire shopping center in Annapolis. The storefront is about the size of a large living room, with three main display cases. Star Wars figurines and other small toys decorate the counter tops.
“Here I am, and I’m doing quite well,” said Purdy, now 50.
Other Maryland e-cigarette store owners have similar stories to Purdy.
Ronald Ward, owner of The Vapers’ Edge in Parkville, started his e-cigarette store shortly after kicking his 30-year smoking habit. So did Joshua Grapes and Jessica Seminerio, who own The Vapor Room in Frostburg.
The rise of e-cigarette stores, both online and physical shops, as well as the growing number of e-cigarette users, is increasing in Maryland and beyond.
As the popularity of e-cigarettes continues to rise, so does the concern over the health implications of e-cigarettes. There’s decades of research that concludes that tobacco smoke from traditional cigarettes is harmful.
For e-cigarettes, it’s just too early to tell.
The FDA does not currently regulate e-cigarettes, so it’s up to states and local governments to establish regulations.
Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington D.C., and most recently Los Angeles, ban the use of e-cigarettes in restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other public spaces. In Los Angeles, the use of e-cigarettes in ‘vapor lounges’ is permitted.
In Maryland, Harford and Anne Arundel Counties have restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes. Airlines prohibit e-cigarette usage, as well as MARC trains. It became illegal for minors to buy e-cigarettes in Maryland in 2012.
Only four states — New Jersey, Utah, Arkansas and North Dakota — have passed legislation banning the use of e-cigarettes in public places.
Now, Maryland lawmakers are weighing a measure that would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes wherever traditional cigarettes are banned.
The bill, sponsored by Delegate Aruna Miller, D-Montgomery, would place e-cigarettes under the definition of “smoking” in the Maryland Clean Indoor Air Act of 2007.
Smoking cigarettes is prohibited in virtually all indoor workplaces, according to the Maryland Clean Indoor Air Act. Currently, e-cigarettes can technically be used everywhere – in bars, offices and even school classrooms.
One of the goals of the Maryland Clean Indoor Air Act is to limit the exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoke contains chemicals that are harmful to both smokers and nonsmokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tobacco smoke contains 7,000 chemicals. About 250 of those chemicals, like carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, are known to be harmful, according to the CDC. Of those 250 chemicals, 69 of them can cause cancer. Secondhand smoke, smoke that is received by someone other than the smoker, is a known human carcinogen.
However, there is no conclusive evidence that the vapor produced from e-cigarettes is harmful.
A 2012 study published in science journal Inhalation Toxicology compared the effects of e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke on indoor air quality. The study concluded that electronic cigarettes produce very small exposures relative to tobacco cigarettes. The study also indicated that there is no apparent risk to human health from e-cigarette emissions based on the compounds analyzed.
There is no research on the long-term effects of e-cigarette use.
However, supporters of the proposed ban said they’d prefer to be on the safe side. They also believe that the glamorous portrayal of e-cigarettes in advertisements could be sending the wrong message to the youth. Many e-cigarette advertisements utilize sex appeal to sell their product, not unlike the tobacco and alcohol industries.
E-cigarette use more than doubled among U.S. middle and high school students from 2011 to 2012, according to data published by the CDC.
“E-cigarettes could be a gateway product to a lifelong addiction of nicotine,” Miller said. E-cigarette users can control the amount of nicotine, an addictive substance derived from tobacco, in the fluid of their e-cigarettes.
Some supporters of the proposed ban expressed concern that e-cigarettes and e-cigarette liquids are currently unregulated by the FDA or any other governmental organization.
“There is a lack of standards and quality control,” said Susan Glover, a smoking cessation counselor, in a recent legislative hearing. Glover said that the amount of nicotine on e-cigarette fluid labels could be inaccurate, and that there could be contaminates in containers.
E-cigarette store owners argue that Miller’s bill would be detrimental to their businesses because as the bill is currently written, it would ban the use of e-cigarettes even inside e-cigarette stores.
A row of small vials of e-cigarette flavoring sits atop a counter in 2 Vapes.
“Customers can come in and try different flavors,” said shop owner Purdy. “What are they going to do if they can’t test out a product in an e-cigarette store?”
Ward, owner of Vapers’ Edge in Parkville said the bill should be amended.
“What I propose is an amendment to the bill that would allow the use of e-cigarettes in e-cigarette stores, or businesses where children aren’t allowed,” said Ward told lawmakers during a hearing.
Some e-cigarette users said it’s reasonable to ban e-cigarette use from some public places, like restaurants. They said that that they try to be mindful of where they use e-cigarettes.
“It really depends on the setting,” said Dorrien Bell, who uses e-cigarettes socially without any nicotine. “Like, I don’t think people should blow lots of fumes [inside a restaurant.]”
Bell, 36, resides in Woodbridge, Va. and works at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. He said he didn’t use tobacco products before using e-cigarettes.
Bell said he’d never blow fumes around his eight-year-old son, or even teenagers. “I regard it as an adult activity,” he said.