In advance of the state’s smoking ban on July 5, the Brown County Tavern League is selling electronic cigarettes, battery-powered devices that use liquid nicotine to imitate a cigarette’s taste and effects.
The league began selling the devices in March, and the demand from bars and taverns around the state has been “crazy,” said Brown County Tavern League President Sue Robinson.
Made to look like cigarettes, electronic cigarettes do not use tobacco. The battery heats the nicotine when the user inhales, creating a vapor that gives the appearance of smoke.
“We’re hoping that it’ll keep our smoking customers comfortable and coming to our business,” said Robinson, who sells the devices through her tavern, Bourbon Street, at 821 S. Broadway.
When the ban takes effect, smoking in public indoor spaces will be prohibited, making it illegal to smoke any tobacco product, such as a cigar, cigarette or pipe. The electronic cigarettes would allow bar patrons to have a sense of smoking in a tavern without breaking the law, Robinson said.
Units can cost more than $100, but the league charges $60 each because Robinson said the organization buys directly from a distributor called AirE8. The league also sells 10 refills of nicotine for $15. One refill of nicotine can equal one-and-a-half packs of normal cigarettes, which is less expensive than a pack of cigarettes, the cheapest being $5.59, without tax.
Robinson said she does not think the devices will replace cigarettes. In her experience, smokers have used the devices to help quit smoking.
Electronic cigarettes are advertised as being healthier than regular cigarettes because they allow the user to add the amount of nicotine, possibly choosing not to have any at all.
However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it does not have scientific proof that e-cigarettes are safe or effective as a smoking cessation tool. The agency has tried to stop the devices from being imported into the country. The devices have been banned in Canada and Australia.
While not worse than regular cigarettes, the inconsistent amount of nicotine and lack of quality control make e-cigarettes dangerous, said Connie Olson, executive director of Community Action for Healthy Living, which promotes smoke-free lifestyles.
“They pose different risks,” she said. “But … they haven’t been studied.”
Someone who smokes a pack a day, for example, may take four to five doses a day, she said. Without a way of monitoring how much they add, it is possible to overdose, which can kill a user.
The group also is concerned that making nicotine available in different flavors has a higher potential of attracting younger people, Olson said. Robinson, however, said the league is not concerned about health effects because the e-cigarettes have fewer carcinogens.
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