More and more people are turning to e-cigarettes, and vaping rather than smoking. In fact, a new store in Sioux Falls on Minnesota Avenue, called Blown Away Vaping, caters to the trend.
"I started smoking, probably, when I was about 16. That was the cool thing to do back in those days," James Luther, Co-Owner, said.
These days, however, James Luther vapes. The device looks like pen, which you can load with flavored cartridges. The cartridges contain varying amounts of nicotine and may be flavored. In this store, customers can choose from a variety of flavors, including: strawberry, root beer, cherry, and even Red Bull. Luther said they helped him stop smoking traditional cigarettes.
"It filled the need of picking something up and puffing away," Luther said.
Because you can pick what you load into vape pens, users can also choose the amount of nicotine they use. This is why supporters say it helps people give up smoking cigarettes. They can curb their nicotine intake, without just trying to go cold turkey.
"I love chocolate. Man, I'm a chocoholic. Well, I can sit down with a vape pen and put chocolate e-juice in there, and it kind of fills two needs at one time," Luther said.
"It something that is way healthier than smoking a cigarette, and I think as they progress and evolve, they're going to get even better and better," Sandra Williams-Luther, co-owner, said.
Not everyone agrees, and as a result, these devices are part of a big debate. Dr. William Spanos, a head and neck cancer specialist with Sanford Health, said he has had patients ask whether they should use vaping as a way to quit smoking.
"Out of the things we have available; if you can use some of the other nicotine products to help you quit smoking, such as the patches or gums, or whatever; that's better," Spanos said.
You can find research on both sides of the conversation. While some say this is a healthier alternative, others say there is not enough information yet. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has also weighed in on this topic.
The cartridges have far fewer chemicals than cigarettes-- and the Luthers said their products all contain FDA approved ingredients. However, FDA does not regulate e-cigarettes or vape pens, and without long-term studies, Spanos said we just do not know if this is indeed a safer alternative.
"Are we going to find out the hard way in 20, 30 years it has harmful effects? Maybe," Spanos said.