Pro: E-cigarettes help users quit smoking with alternative
• SCS Vape
8743 Highway 87, Suite E, Victoria
• Southern 7 Vapors
1909 E. Red River St., Victoria
Adequate research is not available for medical professionals to determine the safety of electronic cigarettes, but people who have picked up the vaping habit seem sold.
"I have asthma, and I needed to quit smoking," said Megan Sosa, 22, of Victoria, who switched from smoking traditional cigarettes to vaping. "Now, I can walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for air."
Sosa, who smoked cigarettes for about four years, has been vaping for about three months.
The coughing and phlegm in Sosa's throat have lessened since she changed to electronic cigarettes, and she breathes better.
Sosa had tried unsuccessfully to quit smoking cold turkey and with patches. She had also tried disposable e-cigarettes, which did not satisfy her nicotine craving. The longest she went without smoking was a month and a half.
Britnee Proctor, 22, of Victoria, introduced Sosa to vaping.
She began vaping to kick her six-year smoking habit when she became pregnant.
Proctor had tried everything to quit, but the longest she had managed to stop her 11/2 to 2-pack-per-day habit was a week.
She has been cigarette-free for about five months now.
"Exercise is a lot easier since I quit smoking," Proctor said. "I'm not out of breath."
Vaping has become a hobby for Proctor with a variety of ways to personalize the experience. Options range from hundreds of juice flavors and four nicotine levels to an array of personal vaping device styles and colorful lanyards.
Proctor started using e-cigarettes to wean herself off nicotine entirely, but she changed her mind.
"Nicotine helps everything, like caffeine, and I'm sticking with it," Proctor said.
From 24 milligrams of nicotine, she has worked her way down to six, the lowest dosage offered.
Kevin Gray, 35, and his wife, Krystal Gray, 28, both of Victoria, began vaping in December when her neurologist instructed her to quit smoking.
Gray has smoked more than a pack a day since he was 18, while his wife has smoked a pack a day for at least a decade.
"My willpower is not as strong as my wife's," Gray said. "She has been cigarette-free for six or seven days now."
Gray is not smoking as much since he started vaping, but he still craves a smoke at certain times during the day.
"I still have that first cigarette of the day, and I smoke after meals," he said.
Gray is not worried about speculation that e-cigarettes could be dangerous. He believes smoking is worse.
"My wife's doctor said we'll need 20 to 25 years of data to draw conclusions," Gray said. "But, he told my wife he was all for electronic cigarettes if it helped her stop smoking."
Gray purchases his e-cigarette supplies at SCS Vape in Victoria, which is co-owned by Michelle Howarton and Jerry Krogsgaard Jr.
Howarton, who smoked two packs a day for 20 years, began vaping in 2012 when her work environment became smoke-free overnight.
She ordered her supplies online or drove to San Antonio or Austin to peruse vape shops.
"We're already entrepreneurs, so we began researching the electronic cigarette market," Howarton said. "This is a mission for us to raise awareness about a healthier alternative to smoking."
Howarton converts 10 to 30 smokers into vapers per day in her shop. Electronic cigarettes satisfy the nicotine craving, as well as the hand-to-mouth habit.
"We find the right nicotine levels for our customers, so they don't need or want to go back to cigarettes," she said. "A heavy smoker needs a stronger throat hit."
Reports that toxins and carcinogens exist in electronic cigarettes are likely the result of testing inferior juices, Howarton said.
"I know the difference between quality juices and those that taste like chemicals," she said. "I encourage the FDA to get involved because restrictions need to be there on the manufacturing side."
SCS Vape only sells to adults, and the owners plan to open another location on Navarro the first quarter of 2014.
Howarton has three children, and she believes smoking and vaping are not for them.
"It is the job of parents to educate their children," she said. "My children know I don't smoke anymore, that I don't smell like cigarettes anymore and that cigarettes are why Grandpa went to heaven."