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Some of the products available at Vape Lab located at 11 W State St, in Athens, Ohio, on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. 

New e-cig shop hopes to help smokers quit, create a sense of community

A new retailer in uptown Athens is hoping to save lives, its co-owner said.

For a little more than three weeks Vape Lab by Mission Vapor, 11 W. State St., has been selling e-cigarette kits, parts and accessories to Athens residents looking to kick a cigarette habit.

“My main thing is tobacco harm reduction,” said Greg Sullivan, owner of Vape Lab. “People smoke for the nicotine, but all of the cancers and all the bad side-effects are from the tar and combustion. E-cigarettes eliminate that whole problem.”

All of the store’s 60-plus e-liquids — the nicotine-infused syrup that creates vapor for users — are made in U.S. cleanrooms that align with the federal Food and Drug Administration’s standards, said Ned Yost, the store’s manager.

E-liquids don’t contain tobacco.

Most e-liquids are typically made with four ingredients:

  • vegetable glycerin
  • propylene glycol
  • flavoring
  • nicotine

The shop offers beginner e-cigarette kits for $40, but higher-end products can cost up to $350.

“There is no other place like it in Athens,” said Jon Steiner, a freshman studying information and telecommunication at Ohio University who “vapes” daily. “They have everything you need for setting up your first build or if you’re an experienced (e-cigarette user).”

The store also sports a lounge where vape-users can congregate and puff on their mechanical cigarettes. The lounge is part of Vape Lab’s effort to create a sense of community for vapers in Athens, Sullivan said.

“I think community is important for people who are quitting smoking,” Sullivan said. “It’s almost like a support group. Everyone can become friends through this.”

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The shop’s opening comes just six months before OU’s ban of the use of e-cigarettes on campus, which Sullivan said seems unfortunate.

“I hate for e-cigarettes to be banned when it is a healthy alternative,” Sullivan said. “It seems like a misguided attempt.”

He added he understands why a smoking ban would be put in place, but thinks banning e-cigarettes is the wrong move, considering they don’t impact the health of the general population the way cigarettes might.

“E-cigarettes save lives, in my opinion,” Sullivan said.

Both Yost and Sullivan believe vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking, despite the bad press the devices have received.

“I’ll will never tell someone it’s healthy,” said Yost, who smoked two packs of cigarettes per day for eight years before switching to e-cigarettes. “Inhaling anything heavier than air is inherently unhealthy. But it’s nowhere near as bad as smoking.”

Yost explained that much of the concern surrounding e-cigarettes stems from the ingredients in e-liquid, which he thinks are misplaced. Similar chemicals are found in everyday products, Yost said.

Another concern surrounding the smoking alternative is exploding batteries; something Yost said is often “sensationalized” by the media.

While he acknowledged some e-cigarette batteries could be dangerous, he said most reports of injuries could be pinned on low-quality batteries being overpowered by uninformed consumers.

“As long as you learn some of the basics, it’s not very dangerous at all,” Yost said, adding that Vape Lab “puts an emphasis on teaching people how to do things properly.”

The store’s owner said he thinks e-cigarettes have received a lot bad press in part because anti-tobacco lobbyists fear e-cigs could become a “gateway” to smoking cigarettes.

“I think that’s the wrong way of looking at it,” Sullivan said, adding that he doesn’t think many people switch from e-cigarettes to traditional cigarettes. “You have to look at it as getting people off of smoking instead of getting new people started.”

The store is open, but will have its grand opening sometime in the next month.



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