When you walk into a Sioux Falls business along 41st Street, you will notice containers of flavors. Strawberry, chocolate, soda flavors -- you name it.
"Sour apple. Couldn't be happier," Cody Wirkus, a customer, said.
This business is not a candy or ice cream shoppe. Vape Connexion is a business that sells vape pens and e-cigarettes, which people use as alternatives to smoking traditional tobacco products.
"I don't really like the taste of cigarettes, but it's the nicotine that gets me, right?"
Three years ago, 22-year-old Wirkus started smoking cigarettes. The habit left him with a sore throat, that he says went away when he switched to vaping. Typically, e-cigarettes come pre-loaded with cartridges, containing what is essentially a nicotine juice. Some devices allow you to put in your own cartridges, some of which are flavored. Supporters say they are safer than regular cigarettes, and cheaper.
"What is it? $12.99 for a little jug of it? That will last me, like, two weeks. Compared to a pack of cigarettes. That'll last me a day or two," Wirkus said.
Vaping is not a new trend, but it is certainly expanding in the Sioux Falls area. You can buy these devices at gas stations, and other places where you can purchase cigarettes. Within the last year, businesses, catering specifically to the trend, have popped up in Sioux Falls.
"There's one or two, probably, that I know of, that are coming from Minneapolis. That want to open up shop here. I mean, the vaping community is growing. They definitely want to get in on some of the same profits," Karn Elofson, Vape Connexion manager, said.
It is legal, but remains unregulated by the FDA. Though many bars, restaurants, and other public places ban smoking, there is still ambiguity about vaping in these same establishments. At the moment, it is widely accepted. Some companies in America have reportedly allowed employees to vape at their desks. Vaping is getting the attention of lawmakers all over the country. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has also been vocal with concerns about the devices. Just recently in South Dakota, Governor Dennis Daugaard signed a bill into law, barring businesses from selling to minors.
"I am very pleased how our state legislature and Governor have placed restrictions on vapor devices such as e-cigarettes to protect minors under the age 18, and that the FDA is proposing similar limitations for minors. While I still have some safety concerns on the practice of using some of these delivery devices for the facilitation of illegal drug ingestion, the industry through self-regulation and the market appears to be addressing the concerns by selling the closed over the open system devices," Jackley said in a statement to KELOLAND News.
Even before this legislation, Elofson said it has been the policy at this shop not to sell to anyone under 18.
"If they think these are targeting kids, then I would say, why are vodka-makers making fruity flavored vodkas? Like birthday cake, strawberry?" Elofson said.
As for Wirkus, he says he likes the fact these devices let him control how much nicotine he takes in.
"Eventually quit smoking. Work my way down the ladder and hopefully just not crave it," Wirkus said.