Vaping; nicotine gadget craze reaches Southern Utah

Cloud 9 Vapor, in Washington, Utah, Sept. 30, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY – A huge demand for nicotine vaporizers in Southern Utah has motivated a group of friends to open the first local shop exclusively selling nicotine vaporizers, or “vapes,” and their products. The business, Cloud 9 Vapor, opened last week in Washington at 293 East Telegraph Street, Unit 205.

L-R: Owners Tysen Johnsen and Brendon Gunn helping customer at Cloud 9 Vapor in Washington City, Utah, Sept. 30, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George New
L-R: Owners Tysen Johnsen and Brendon Gunn helping customer at Cloud 9 Vapor in Washington City, Utah, Sept. 30, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News | Click to enlarge

Cloud 9 Vapor jumps into an industry that sells what many deem an invention-of-the-century for people trying to quit smoking – a public health godsend. But, according to anti-tobacco organizations, however beneficial these devices might be to smokers, they’re really just the newest thing aimed at enslaving more people to the throes of nicotine addiction.

The overall sales of tobacco products in the U.S. has trended downward since the 1960s, but the vape market is growing so fast some analysts predict it will overcome cigarette sales in the coming years. This explosive growth has insured that, so far, vapes have been virtually unregulated – at least, they are not regulated like cigarettes.

Although the most recent Utah vape analysis, done by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, isn’t yet making a value judgement on vapes, they are suggesting that the Food and Drug Administration quickly standardize and regulate the manufacturing and sale of them.

Anti-tobacco groups are claiming that more standard regulations would protect the public, especially kids, from the unregulated doses of nicotine in these products. More research is being done, but favorable proof of the benefits of vapes seems to be mostly anecdotal.

Are you smoking? No, I’m vaping.

Nicotine vaporizers, also known as “vapes” or e-cigarettes or e-cigs, give the sensation of smoking to a user, without smoke. The term “vaporizer” and “e-cigarette” are often used interchangeably, although e-cigs are typically smaller in size than vaporizers. Instead of smoke entering the lungs, like a cigarette, a liquid mixture containing the stimulant nicotine is vaporized and inhaled through the vaporizing device. It is like inhaling off of a miniature boiling teapot filled with a liquid nicotine blend. No smoke, only vapor.

A handful of the vaporizers sold at Cloud 9 Vapor in Washington City, Utah, Sept. 30, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News
A handful of the vaporizers sold at Cloud 9 Vapor in Washington City, Utah, Sept. 30, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News | Click to enlarge

The liquid nicotine, known as “juice,” is heated inside a cartridge using a miniature battery powered heater coil inside the device. These juice mixtures typically contain three things: nicotine, a flavor, and what Brendon Gunn, founder of Cloud 9 Vapor, calls “base.”

Base is either propylene glycol – or PEG – the stuff smoke machines use to fabricate fake smoke, or vegetable glycerin, a vegetable oil-like compound widely used in foods and medications. The base creates a smoke-like exhaling sensation. Without this, nothing visible would be exhaled, and the user would only get the inhaling effect of smoking.

“There is no smoke involved in vaping,” Gunn said over and over again.

In fact, none of the employees at Cloud 9 use the term smoke in the shop.

An overwhelming demand for vapes in Southern Utah

The actual devices that vaporize the juice come in all different shapes and sizes depending on the manufacturer of the device. Invented in 2004, vaporizers resembled a quasi-cigarette. Now, countless companies are manufacturing their own style of vaporizers with an additional herd of localized companies manufacturing and selling their own varieties of juice.

One website, Utah Vapers, offers an incomplete list of over 25 retail vaping outlets throughout northern and central Utah but none thus far in Southern Utah.

This is where Gunn and Cloud 9 come in. Gunn discovered vaping in 2011. This strange device created a buzz in his circle of friends, which seemed to expand throughout the St. George area. Gunn, already a business owner, started to manufacture and sell his different flavored juices. There came a time for Gunn, a year ago, when he was so overwhelmed with the constant demand for vape juice that he had no time to work his regular job. This local demand convinced him to quit his old job, recruit a few friends, and open a shop.

Gunn views his shop as a benefit to the local public health. Other’s definitely don’t.

How safe are they?

At the heart of the controversy lies a dilemma. Does the public benefit more from vapes’ ability to help smokers quit cigarettes? Or, does the public suffer as more nonsmokers, specifically kids, are being introduced to nicotine? Nicotine is an extremely addictive substance known to be toxic when consumed in high doses. Nicotine has also been shown to cause heart disease and other health problems when consumed long term. On the other hand, vaporizers do not include tar, carbon monoxide, charcoal, or any of the other hundreds of destructive chemicals found in cigarettes.

Even though tobacco use has continued to trend down in the United States, 45 million Americans, or 1 in 5 adults, are addicted to tobacco products. This is why most anti-tobacco organizations are staying open-minded about the idea that vaporizers could be a benefit – once they are standardized and regulated.

Some of the different flavored nicotine “juice” manufactured at Cloud 9 Vapor. Washington City, Utah, Sept. 30, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News
Some of the different flavored nicotine “juice” manufactured at Cloud 9 Vapor. Washington City, Utah, Sept. 30, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News | Click to enlarge

Underage vaping – on the rise

One person working toward legislation to standardize and regulate vaping devices is Adam Bramwell, who worked with the anti-tobacco truth campaign for five years before taking a position as the marketing director for the Utah Department of Health, Tobacco Prevention and Control.

The preliminary results of a survey done by the Utah Department of Health are showing that the number of high school kids who have tried nicotine vaporizers have doubled in two years, Bramwell said. Mirroring that study, a senior analyst at Wells Fargo has recently announced that sales from nicotine vaporizers across the United States are expected to double this year. This would make e-cigs a $1.7 billion industry.

This quick growth hasn’t allowed most government organizations time to study and regulate these products. As a result, they don’t fall under strict marketing regulations like traditional cigarettes.

Glamorized vaping commercials – eerily similar to old tobacco ads

Traditional cigarette companies cannot advertise like any other American product.

“The only place the tobacco industry can advertise is in magazines,” Bramwell said, “no TV ads, no radio adds, no web banners.”

Because nicotine vaporizers don’t fall under that same regulation, they can advertise anywhere they want. Consequently, vape ads are proliferating across all platforms – especially the internet.

These advertisements have an eerie resemblance to old cigarette ads. Ads like the internet ad linked here (from one of the most successful e-cigarette companies, Blu eCigs, glamorize vaping-using celebrities like Jenny McCarthy. This and many other commercials use celebrities to tout vaporizers as a guilt-free version of cigarettes – claiming that vaporizers ultimately give their users more freedom.

Is that an iPod? No, it’s a vaporizer

These ads aren’t the only way vapes are appealing to kids, Bramwell said. They come in a multitude of tasty flavors, and are designed to appeal to younger generations. Many vapes have a sheer, modern, electronic look. Some of the newer editions even have a suspicious resemblance to iPods and come with a port to charge the user’s cell phone and iPod using the vaporizer’s battery.

The marketers know that most people start smoking as kids.

“These things just look like so much fun if you’re a teenager,” Bramwell said. “They even smell interesting.”

At Cloud 9, Gunn said in clarification that customers may not vape indoors unless they are testing a product. But, when one walks into the shop, the product testing positively smells delicious. A customer was there testing flavors from what is to become Cloud 9’s “flavor bar.” The most popular flavors are pineapple, blueberry, coffee, and cappuccino.

One of the newest vaporizers at the shop looks similar to an MP3 player, and charges a user's cell phone and MP3 player off it’s port. Washington City, Utah, Sept. 30, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News
One of the newest vaporizers at the shop looks similar to an MP3 player, and charges a user’s cell phone and MP3 player off its port. Washington City, Utah, Sept. 30, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News | Click to enlarge

Can “anyone” make and sell this stuff?

The flavors and design aren’t the only concern for Bramwell and the Health Department. There are currently very few regulations about who can make them, and who can sell them. Although he’s all for small business, Bramwell said, consumers need to realize that the juice ingredients vary widely depending on the manufacturer. He said he is concerned that most of the manufacturers aren’t trained chemists, and are “just buying the juice, downloading instructions online, and then mixing it up.”

Gunn, although not claiming to be a chemist, said that he has studied chemistry, especially relating to vaporizing and its components. Also, Gunn requires his employees to follow a strict protocol when making juice. Cloud 9 uses hospital grade ingredients, Gunn said, and handles the ingredients as if they were in a laboratory. His juices and flavors are made of only the best products, he said.

“The flavors are designed for vaporizing by companies who make flavorings for large food distributors, candy companies, and even hospitals nationwide,” Gunn said.

Besides the manufacturing of juice, another concern of Bramwell’s is that vape shops are not taxed or regulated like other tobacco products. In Utah, companies who sell tobacco products have to apply for a permit and go through training on how to prevent underage sales. If local companies are found to be selling tobacco products to minors, the state can take away their tobacco license. Local authorities even do yearly sting operations on companies suspected of selling tobacco to underage kids.

In Utah, because vaporizers contain nicotine, they cannot legally be sold to minors. But, they still don’t fall under the same strict regulations traditional tobacco products do.

“E-cigarettes are just in this grey area right now because they’re so new,” Bramwell said. “They can be sold anywhere people want to sale them.”

But, they can’t be vaped anywhere you want to vape them. The state of Utah was able to include vaporizing devices in its Clean Air Act legislation. So despite what some people think, vaporizing indoors, in parks, or anywhere within 25 feet of a public building is illegal in Utah.

Could vaping take down Big Tobacco?

Vaporizers aren’t only giving government officials stress. This exploding market might be threatening Big Tobacco. And Big Tobacco, Gunn said, is stirring the pot. If the vape market continues to grow, he said, big tobacco could lose it’s stanglehold on smokers.

“If I were the tobacco industry right now I would be trying to create as much controversy over this as possible,” Gunn said. “They do not want this product to exist.”

Big Tobacco has a game plan, and Gunn is urging regulators to be aware of it; he said: “I believe that the way (Big Tobacco) will eventually capitalize in this market is to lobby to create as much regulation as absolutely possible.”

While more regulation to come could affect small vape companies like Cloud 9, unfortunately for Gunn, Big Tobacco has already seized some of the vape market. All three of the major U.S. tobacco companies – Altria/Philip Morris, Reynolds American and Lorillard – are currently selling vape products nationally. In fact, Lorillard recently purchased Blu eCigs, one of the top selling vape product companies in the U.S. Cloud 9 proudly displays Blu eCigs on their “wall of shame” along with other vaporizer products they do not recommend.

Protecting the public health

Gunn said he believes that nicotine vaporizers are giving smokers an alternative to traditional cigarettes and that alone is a godsend. To Gunn, vapes are a simple option that allow consumers to control the amount of nicotine they’re consuming.

Our main goal is to provide the smokers of this community an option,” Gunn said. “And our biggest concern is public safety.”

That sounds very similar to the Health Department’s top concern: “Our goal is to help the public stay healthy and safe,” Bramwell said.

While Gunn and Bramwell continue to put great effort into their own respective concepts of public health, one thing’s for certain, the nicotine industry is still alive and well, even in Southern Utah.

Vaporizers have been used to vape drugs besides nicotine. Gunn said that absolutely none of the vaporizers he sells have the capabilities of vaporizing illicit drugs. Liquified forms of other drugs vaporize at uniquely different temperatures requiring a stronger heater and battery.

Possible unintended uses of the vaporizers with illicit drugs is beyond the scope of this report.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Cloud 9 Vapor, in Washington, Utah, Sept. 30, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News
Cloud 9 Vapor, in Washington, Utah, Sept. 30, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News


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  • Kristin October 7, 2013 at 7:41 am

    My Mom actually vapes and her doctor recommended it. She was a pack a day smoker and when she started vapin she was on a high dose of nicotine and now she is at 3mg. in a bit she will be just using the juice without nicotine. I think that it’s about time that there is now a place in the area. I love the smell of some of the juice’s that my mom uses and I sure rather smell that then someone smoking a cigarette!

  • No More Analogs October 7, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Great Article! I have been Vaping for over 2 years. Not a single puff off an Analog cigarette at all. These Ecigs were the only thing that helped me to quit. I tried everything else…. Patches, gum, lozengers, etc.

    I love them!

    Keep up the good postings! Go Vape!

  • Doesn't Have To Have Nicotine October 7, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    This article makes it appear that there is nicotine in all the juices which is the not the case. There are varied degrees of how much nicotine is in certain juices and as a previous comment said, you can taper down the nicotine until you are only vaping juice with no nicotine. Most bars must not be aware of the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act because all that I have been inside in Utah allow vaping.

  • Heather October 8, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Thanks to vaping it has been over a year since I have smoked a cigarette. The gum and patches never worked for me longer than two weeks. I can work out without losing my breathe and don’t have to worry about an offensive odor! Thanks cloud nine!

  • Betty October 9, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Stupid. How ridiculous one must look sucking on a contraption that replaces a cigarette. If you want to quit smoking, quit! Trading one addiction for another is stupid. And yes, I can say this because I smoked for 20-years before quitting. And no, I didn’t slap on some patch or chew gum. I did it the old fashion way, cold turkey. Its been 5626-days (or 15 years, 4 months, and 24 days) since my last cigarette and the fear of hitting 0-days is what keeps me on track. Sure, I still get the urge to smoke but its a choice I get to make. And I choose never to be controlled by a cigarette (or any other contraption) again. Be a role model for your family, your children and grandchildren. Next thing you know, someone is going to “juice” a marijuana plant or some other drug and try to justify that its ok, its only “juice.”

  • Atty Mizor October 9, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Judgmental much, Betty?

  • Bretticus October 10, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Sounds like a positive to me. Addiction comes in many forms. Some more harmful than others. There’s pros and cons to almost every situation. New non-smokers may get addicted to nicotine because they are told vaping is safer where they may have shunned cigarettes. On the other hand, people who are already addicted to nicotine have a safer way to feed their addiction (and hopefully quit because they can control the “dosage” apparently.) Surely even nicotine vapor in the lungs can’t be good for you in the long run, but it’s common sense it has to be much better than tar and CO2.

  • Neal October 14, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Hey Betty they made “Juice” out of the marijuana plant a long time ago and its been helping people dealing with things like cancer and aids for a long time. just because you dont like something doesnt mean that its a good thing for a lot of people. I didnt really want to quit smoking but noticed the effects it was having on me a long time ago, so i started vaping, and in the year that i have been i have havent felt this good since before i started smoking at 13. the FDA needs to butt out, even tho nicotine is highly addictive its about as harmful to you as caffeine, the actual smoke from the cigarette is the real killer. like the article said, this is a billion $ industry, that is why the FDA wants in on it, not to protect you, they have been trying to get there greedy hands in the industry for years even trying to kick some back to big pharma by trying to have it classified as a medication dispenser device.

  • ECR December 15, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Nice detailed article. I’m a vaper as well and I couldn’t imagine life without e-cigs any more. Feeling so much better after making the switch to e-cigarettes.

  • MarkJaye January 13, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    “favorable proof seems mostly anecdotal…” While I generally like this article – there are reputable peer-reviewed studies that have been done on e-cigarettes and the liquid they vaporize. Those studies have been done and reported on regarding second-hand vapor, e-cigarette liquid (e-liquid) ingredients, carcinogens, toxins and so on. The long-term effects of vaping may not fully be understood yet – but compared to the well known, usually devastating effects of long-term smoking tobacco, the e-cig alternative IS well documented as a far better, and far healthier choice. That would be a more accurate statement vs. loosely referrring to evidence as nothing more than anecdotal. – or – for starters –

  • MarkJaye January 13, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Betty, I respect your opinion – I just think you’re misinformed. Really. I don’t smoke nor have I ever. I do have many friends that both smoke traditional cigarettes and the new e-cigarettes. The before and after for those that now use e-cigarettes is markedly different and improved. If you cared about health, you’d realize that while not for everyone, e-cigarettes are an answer for many that have wanted to quit smoking, tried, and tried again, but in many cases without help could not kick the habit. You’d realize that nearly 98% of what is in e-cigarettes (USP PG, USP VG, FDA approved flavoring) are in your home being used by your family right now. And the other 2% is nicotine – usually, which is in tomatoes, egg plant, and is a non-carcinogenic alkaloid. Nicotine while addictive, is not the devil. With your logic Betty, we’d stop drinking water… after all – water is in anti-freeze, so it must be bad.

  • K k April 3, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Kids who never smoked are doing these juices because they think it’s cool I think this is absolutely ridiculous . Just another ridiculous thing to make money . I quit smoking cold turkey . It was the hardest thing i ever did but I did it so my child would not pick up a cigarette now these ridiculous things are out there and my son who would never have touched a cigarette tried this because of his friend tried it and talk about how cool it is . This really makes me angry we have always had a smoke free home my son had asthma until he was 14 . Now he is puffing on these stupid things because people don’t care what they do to kids as long as they make money. You really make me sick.

    • Rachel Sweeney August 24, 2018 at 8:39 am

      Yea they act like vaping was introduced to help people quit smoking but I can’t help but think it was introduced to get people addicted to something else while smoking is decreasing in popularity.

  • Click January 2, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Site that collects each of the cheap gadgets in just one site!

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