Do You Smoke? Or Vape? E-Cigarettes Pick Up Steam in Vermont

Dec 27, 2013

The Northeast Kingdom is about to get its first electronic cigarette store.  Lyndonville will follow a trail blazed in Castleton, where there is a business that sells the vaporizers, and makes the liquid ingredients. E-cigs are also being sold in convenience stores. But even as businesses latch onto the trend, the state is calling for more regulation.

People who use e-cigarettes don’t smoke—they “vape.” They put an electronic device resembling a cigarette in their mouth. With the flick of a switch the liquid heats to vapor, which they inhale. The level of nicotine varies according to preference. Unlikely flavors can be added, such as the ones that Christine Clarenbach sells at the Undun' store in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

“We got maple syrup and we got pancake and we got waffle, we got so many different flavors, it’s crazy, and you can mix ‘em, we enjoy mixing them as well so if someone’s looking for something different we can create something for them,” Clarenbach said, displaying goods on a counter.

In fact, Clarenbach designs her own brand of e-cigarettes, which are manufactured in China. American tobacco corporations are jumping onto the bandwagon, too.  And e-cigarette liquids are being made by a Castleton-based company called Vermont Vapor.  Founder Adam Tredwell, who also retails e-cigarettes, says he tried his first one about eight years ago.

“Yeah, back in 2007, when I’d started law school and they told me I was going to have these huge five hour exams and I thought, “Oh God, I’m never going to survive that without a cigarette,” Tredwell said.

But he was allowed to vape. Tredwell says he wanted to avoid the thousands of chemicals contained in tobacco products. Despite the nicotine, he claims his liquids are safer than many you get from larger companies.  He says good vapors contain just four ingredients: vegetable glycerine or propylene glycol, both FDA approved, nicotine, and flavorings. No carcinogens.

That’s also why Dennis Steele likes e-cigs. He’s  opening a store in Lyndonville for others who share his habit.

“One of the reasons is it gives people alternatives to smoking cigarettes. Also, it’s a business opportunity because it’s a trend that’s moving across America and there are a growing number of people who are moving from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes and there wasn’t one on the Northeast Kingdom. So I decided, well, it seems cool,” he said after getting approval from the Lyndonville Review Board.

While Steele likes to vape nicotine, he says a lot of people successfully kick the nicotine habit by lowering its levels gradually in their  e-cigarettes.

But not everyone sees vaping  as a healthy alternative to smoking. Some worry that kicky  flavors will attract kids—even though Vermont, like many states, forbid selling them to minors, and requires that they be displayed behind the counter like other tobacco products.  Vermont’s Attorney General has joined 38 others in calling on the FDA to regulate these devices just like cigarettes. And Vermont’s Health Department has posted a fact sheet on its website that reads, in part,  “the health consequences of the use of e-cigarettes and the vapors they give off are unknown.”