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E-cigs a booming business in Tulsa and across the nation
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E-cigs a booming business in Tulsa and across the nation

E-cigs a booming business in Tulsa and across the nation
Photo Credit: Russell Mills

E-cigs a booming business in Tulsa and across the nation

For some, it's a way to save money; others say it's a high-tech way to quit smoking, still others simply don't want their clothes and hair to stink from cigarettes any more.

Whatever the reason, "vaping," the use of e-cigarettes, has mushroomed in the last year.

Sales in the U.S. topped a billion dollars last year, and will top $2 billion this year, with no end in sight to the growth of the industry.

Tulsa's a great example. In the last year, the metro area has gone from roughly 10 e-cig stores to about 30.

At Vapor Station, E. 71st and S. Memorial, the owners tell KRMG they were inspired by a woman who came into a shop in their hometown of Meeker."

Rachel San Pedro, who owns the shop with her husband, Pete San Pedro and brother-in-law, Mike San Pedro, tells KRMG the very first e-cig kit she sold was to a woman who had just been diagnosed with COPD, and had been ordered by her doctor to quit smoking and take up vaping.

"Two months after vaping she comes in the door, and she's crying and smiling at the same time and waving this piece of paper," Rachel told KRMG. "She shows me with this piece of paper that she'd just left her doctor's office and her lungs were 20 percent more clear than her last doctor's visit."

She also spoke of a man who initially had to have an oxygen tank at all times, but after four months, was able to get around without one for as much as a half hour at a time.

The FDA has not approved vaping as a smoking cessation therapy, but as Zach and Chris of E-Smoke Boutique, 91st and Memorial, tell KRMG, "every one who comes in has a story."

"There's so many people getting off smoking, and getting on the e-cigarette," Chris said.

They point out that there is an abundance of flavors, literally hundreds of them, and there are also a wide range of products for prospective e-cig users to choose from at a growing variety of stores.

Dr. Joel Nitzkin, M.D., a nationally known health expert, is quoted one on of the walls of the E-Smoke Boutique.

He wrote "If we get all the tobacco users to switch from conventional cigarettes to electronic cigarettes we would eventually reduce the smoking related death toll from 400,000 per year to less than 4,000, maybe even as low as 400."

E-cig juice comes in a variety of nicotine levels, including zero, so those who want can wean themselves off of nicotine gradually.

Chris and Zach's boutique focuses on higher-end products. Vapor Station has several e-cig solutions, but also custom mixes the "juice" used in the devices to users' specifications, something not available at most vaping establishments.

Others in town provide a lounge-like atmosphere, and encourage e-cig users to congregate and enjoy the smoke-free environment.

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