Posted October 14, 2015
Two new stores have opened on Main Street that cater to the e-cigarette crowd, and both seem to have found their niche, although health officials at UW-River Falls are not so delighted about their appearance.
The shops, known as Big Top Vape and Vape+, opened earlier this year and both offer e-cigarette vaporizers, liquids for them, and accessories. Big Top Vape is downtown at 123 S. Main St., while Vape+ is at 703 N. Main St.
Both stores report they are doing quite well.
“Everybody who walks in the door comes back,” said Taylor Gargulak, manager of Vape+. “It’s definitely been picking up.”
Though both stores opened at about the same time, neither sees the other as an outright challenger in the ring of business. Don Golightly, co-owner of Big Top Vape, said the competition with Vape+ is neutral.
“They are our competition, but it is a free market economy,” he said. “We chose our business model on what we wanted to do and they on theirs. We’ve enjoyed the steady increase in business and hope to continue.”
Gargulak also commented on Big Top Vape, saying that “I like to think that we are more of a community than competition. We all have similar interests and goals, and it’s cool if we can help each other out.”
Despite the businesses doing well so far, health officials at UW-River Falls are concerned.
Alice Reilly-Myklebust, director of Counseling and Health Services, and Keven Syverson, health education coordinator, said they are worried about an increased presence of vaporizers and e-cigarettes.
“There is a concern in normalizing e-cigarettes and what that means to the younger people coming up,” Syverson said. “It’s shown that when they use e-cigarettes or see them, they are more likely to want to smoke.”
Syverson elaborated that because vaping is so new, conclusive evidence is hard to find about e-cigarettes, though what isn’t disputed is the nicotine found in many of the liquids used in e-cigarettes, which adds to the addictiveness.
“When you are younger and establish habits like tobacco, it is difficult to quit,” said Myklebust. She referenced research done on campus that linked tobacco usage to lower GPAs and how tobacco usage can exacerbate mental health issues that students might have.
“Those are some of the reasons why we care about this subject as a health and counseling service,” she said.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that because e-cigarettes are often marketed for their therapeutic use and often don’t include tobacco, they are not regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
The same research also found that other toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde can be found in the vapors the vaporizers produce.
Schools are especially a big concern for many opponents of e-cigarettes. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that from 2011 to 2013, the number of middle and high school students in the U.S. who used e-cigarettes went from 79,000 to 263,000, with 43.9 percent saying they had an intention to smoke conventional cigarettes.
At UWRF, the Tobacco-Free Policy prohibits the use of tobacco products anywhere on campus. The policy, in effect since July 2013, also bans the use of e-cigarettes. A 2015 survey showed that about 83.4 percent of students on campus have never used an e-cigarette.