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Store owner, health officials note importance of research behind vaping

Brad Coleman, owner of Vapes in Dickinson, does extensive research on his products and what their effects could be on a person. (Sydney Mook / The Dickinson Press)

Some people claim vaping has helped them stop smoking, but health care officials are not quite sold on the idea without more research being done.

Brad Coleman, owner of Vapes in Dickinson, has been in the vaping business for about eight years now, two of those in his own store. He said although stress reasons have brought him back to cigarettes, vaping has actually helped.

"As a smoker since I was a kid, it's the only way I've ever been able to quit smoking," he said.

Coleman said he originally got into the vaping business after he saw a kiosk at the Mall of America. Around that time, one of his best friends had also been getting into vaping and told him it had helped him break his smoking habit. He added his friend was able to run on a treadmill "exponentially" longer since quitting. He has also had a self-proclaimed three-pack-a-day smoker tell him that because of vaping he was able to run five miles a day within a year.

Customers have also told Coleman that doctors have recommended that people vape to help with lung damage caused by smoking. Coleman claims there are far less chemicals in vaping products, mostly contained to flavorings and nicotine, than there are in a traditional cigarette.

He said he has found no formal study that states vaping is actually bad for someone's health, other than having the presence of nicotine or if a product contains something someone is allergic to.

Coleman does extensive research on his products and what their effects could be on a person.

"I don't want to put out a bad product," he said. "I don't want to be harming people in any way, that's not at all what I'm in the business for. I think it's a great way for people to get off of traditional tobacco products. It's also a great diet aid."

Coleman said he had a client who quit consuming cases of soda every day by finding a similar flavor and vaping it instead.

The flavors of vaping products can be rather extensive, Coleman added. One flavor he has sold in his store is "creamy glazed donut filled with juicy blueberry bits, topped with vanilla bean ice cream sprinkled with crunchberries."

Coleman often hears the products are geared toward kids because the various flavors, which frustrates him because he said he enjoys the flavors as an adult who also enjoys sweets. In the city of Dickinson, a person has to be at least 18 before they can purchase vaping products. There is no national vaping age.

Zachary Keller, a customer at Vapes, said vaping has helped him to kick other bad habits.

"I like vaping because it's helped me to stop chewing," Keller said.

Bridger Claycomb, another Vapes customer, said it helps her relax.

"It's a really good stress reliever, kind of like a deterrent from cigarettes," she said.

Not enough research

Rajean Backman, a tobacco treatment specialist at CHI St. Alexius in Bismarck, said there are many studies about the short-term and long-term effects of smoking a cigarette, however, she said there are currently not many studies focusing on the long-term effects of vaping. Backman added the industry is constantly changing, which can sometimes make research outdated.

The U.S. Department of Health has guidelines set forth to help someone quit smoking, Backman said. Vaping is not an FDA-approved way to quit smoking because of the unknown amount of nicotine in the products, among other reasons. However, she said that could change one day.

Backman said studies have shown that while a product may be labeled as having 0 milligrams or 18 milligrams of nicotine, it may not be the actual levels of nicotine in the product.

"We know that it's probably safer than a regular cigarette, but we know that some of the other things in there like diethylene glycol, which is in anti-freeze and how do we know if you're inhaling antifreeze what that does to your lungs?" she said.

Backman said, in all her years of counseling people to quit smoking, she has only had one client who successfully quit smoking through vaping alone.

"What usually ends up happening is they do both a regular cigarette and the e-cigarette, so they end up smoking more than what they did originally," Backman said.

Jennifer Schaeffer, Southwestern District Health Unit tobacco treatment coordinator, echoed many of Backman's thoughts and said she would not recommend that someone uses vaping instead of smoking because of the lack of research behind it.

"In five to 10 years down the road we will see the effects that are negative from people using e-cigarettes and vaping," Schaeffer said.

Schaeffer added she does not want those under the age of 18 to get ahold of the devices because of the many unknown factors behind them. She also noted the Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows 22 percent of people under the age of 18 in North Dakota are using e-cigarettes versus conventional tobacco.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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