Store selling e-cigarettes to open in downtown Fargo
Bill Boldenow said he plans to open his Infinite Vapor store at 68 Broadway by Friday, but if that doesn’t happen, it will open “at the very latest the second week of December.”
Boldenow said the store will sell e-cigarettes and the e-juice that goes into them. E-cigarettes are pen-like devices that use a small battery and heating element to vaporize the e-juice, mimicking a cigarette.
While proponents such as Boldenow say e-cigarettes are safer than smoking, some anti-smoking advocates are concerned the increasingly popular product isn’t regulated and has not been extensively tested.
E-juice typically contains nicotine along with some type of flavoring. When vaporized, e-juice is inhaled similar to the way smoke from a cigarette is inhaled, but without the carcinogens found in tobacco.
“We feel it’s a much safer alternative than tobacco, which we know is unsafe,” Boldenow said, adding that the e-juice Infinite Vapor sells is made in Minnesota and tested for consistency at a lab at St. Cloud State University.
“Infinite Vapor is a premium electronic cigarette shop that carries really high-quality products,” Boldenow said.
“A lot of the stuff you see out there these days – in gas stations and whatnot – are kind of a knockoff version,” he added.
Boldenow said e-juice nicotine levels can be adjusted to personal tastes, and he said many people who use e-cigarettes do so as a way to quit smoking.
“I want to promote people getting off of smoking,” he said. “I truly in my heart believe it is (a way to do that).”
Heather Nelson, part owner of the SnG Vapor store in Grand Forks, said more than a few of her customers kicked their smoking habit by turning to e-cigarettes.
“I’ve got a lot of people that (say), ‘I was smoking two packs a day for 30-plus years’ and in just a couple months they’ve gotten to a point where they are nicotine-free,” said Nelson, whose business has been operating in Grand Forks for about three years.
Nelson said the shop makes its own e-juice using a combination of four ingredients: nicotine; vegetable gelatin; coffee/tea flavorings; and pharmaceutical-grade propylene glycol.
Though propylene glycol is a chemical found in antifreeze, Nelson said it is a safe ingredient.
But because e-juice is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is difficult to say just how safe or unsafe a particular batch may be, said Robyn Litke Sall, a tobacco prevention coordinator at Fargo Cass Public Health.
“We don’t yet know what all is contained in e-cigarettes. We don’t know if the vapor is harmful or not,” Sall said, adding that because of the lack of information, many health officials are concerned about statistics that indicate use of e-cigarettes among young people has doubled in recent years. In 2011, the market for e-cigs was $2 billion worldwide, according to an estimate by an industry group.
Because e-cigarettes look much like regular smokes, some wonder if they could be a gateway to smoking, said Sall, who added that scientific evidence is lacking when it comes to claims e-cigarettes help people stop smoking.
“Until there might be such evidence, we certainly can’t endorse it, or use it as a cessation device,” Sall said.
Both Boldenow and Nelson said they will not sell products to people under 18, assertions that don’t quell Sell’s concerns. She said a store may have a policy against selling to people under 18, but there is no law that prevents a business from doing so.
If a business decides to change their policy due to factors like competition, “there’s no penalty there,” Sall said.
E-cigarettes were included in North Dakota’s recently passed ban on indoor smoking in public places, meaning anyplace that is smoke-free by law must also be vapor-free.
Minnesota’s state law banning smoking in workplaces, bars and restaurants does not include e-cigarettes, but some communities in the state have their own ordinances regulating such products.
Moorhead is a city with no e-cigarette regulations, and that might give businesses an edge over their competition on the North Dakota side of the Red River, said Jake Bruns, owner of Mick’s Office, a downtown Moorhead bar.
Bruns said few of his customers use e-cigarettes, which are already widely available at convenience stores in the area. But he said that might change with a store opening that is devoted to the devices.
“There could be some marketing opportunities there,” he said.