HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) - Cigarettes still satisfy a lot of smokers, but after years of doctors' warnings and countless dollars spent on packs or cartons, there's something new that has smokers lighting up.
Pull up to the VaporStop store in Hot Springs, and one of the first things you notice is the prominent, no smoking symbol within the shop's logo. It's a touch of irony, considering store manager Mark Wilson said most of VaporStop's customers are almost all current or former cigarette smokers who have all turned to an alternative.
"Gives you the same satisfaction, gives you something hold, something to do, something to draw on," he explained.
Wilson said the devices are designed to mimic the experience of a cigarette minus the harmful chemicals in tobacco. There's a mechanism that heats up liquid nicotine, which turns into a vapor that smokers inhale and exhale.
"It's basically the same concept as theatrical fog, so when you combine the two together with low voltage, you get what appears like to be cigarette smoke," he described.
Open for close to 4 months now, Wilson confirmed that VaporStop sees new customers daily.
"Probably 100 and then existing customers coming back to get supplies, and we see them stepping down off of their nicotine," he added.
Business may get even better said Wilson, when the FDA puts regulations on e-cig internet sales in the near future.
"It could actually help the brick and mortars. Yes, it could slow down the internet sales, which is where it's so easy just to check that box that says I'm 18," he said.
No one under the age of 18 is allowed to buy products at his store, but it's not illegal for minors to purchase electronic cigarettes if they don't contain nicotine. So far the FDA hasn't approved vaping as a smoking cessation therapy, but Wilson is a firm believer in the alternative. As a smoker for 30 years, he's now turned to vaporizing.
"It wasn't long ago that I had to have oxygen at lunch time to make it through my day, and I can drag my trash can up the hill without stopping now."
The FDA is still looking into the safety of e-cigarettes and warns they may lead young people to use regular cigarettes. Sales of e-cigs in the U.S. topped a billion dollars last year, and are expected to reach $2 billion this year.