POINT PLEASANT — One of Mason County’s newest businesses is looking for a little breathing room when it comes to the new county clean air regulation which goes into effect July 1.
Huff N Puff is a vape shop which opened in June on Cape Lane next to the new home of the Moose Lodge along W.Va. 62 north of Point Pleasant.
Owned by Josh Huffman of Point Pleasant, Huff N Puff offers supplies for those who “vape.” The act of “vaping” can be described as inhaling vapor through a personal vaporizer and is considered by some as an alternative to smoking. Though some vaping e-liquids have levels of nicotine in them, some do not and the e-liquids come in a variety of flavors, made with a base of vegetable glycerin, according to Huffman.
In regards to vaping, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes, but most have a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold a liquid. The liquid typically contains nicotine—which is the addictive drug in regular cigarettes—as well as chemicals like propylene glycol or glycerin and flavorings such as fruit and chocolate. E-cigarettes are a type of electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS). Other ENDS products include e-hookahs, e-cigars, e-pipes, vape pens, and many more.
These devices warm the liquid and produce an aerosol that commonly contains a variety of chemicals. Users breathe this chemical solution directly from the mouthpiece. Puffing on an e-cigarette is sometimes called ‘vaping.’ Bystanders can breathe in this aerosol, too, which is exhaled into the air.”
One of the ways vape shops operate is to allow customers to sample these flavored e-liquids in the store, but as of July 1, sampling or even vaping within Huffman’s vape business will be prohibited.
Earlier this spring, the Mason County Board of Health approved a new clean air regulation which eliminates smoking in all public places and private places of employment as of July 1. The previous 2001 regulation only partially limited smoking in areas. In addition, smoking cannot occur within 20 feet of an entrance to those public places or private places of employment. This includes smoking cigarettes as well as e-cigarettes, e-cigars, e-pipes or “vaping” pens.
Huffman said he understands the need for a clean air regulation in public places, such as parks or at festivals, but he added “98 percent” of people who come into his private business, do so to vape in an enclosed, ventilated area. He said not allowing his customers to sample the e-liquids is like going to a car lot and buying a car you can’t test drive first. Sampling is part of the “vaping culture” he said.
Huffman said he spoke to officials with the Mason County Health Department this week about receiving a waiver to allow vaping in his shop but the Mason County Board of Health will have to review that waiver. The board’s next regular meeting is in August with Huffman saying he hopes to attend, if he’s still in business by the next meeting.
In his waiver request, Huffman wrote “the vapor released from e-cigs has been found to be harmless…and in the only peer-reviewed study to date, have been determined to be fully 95 percent less harmful than traditional combustible tobacco cigarettes.”
Huffman said he used “vaping” to stop smoking, as did his customer Tommy Reed of Point Pleasant. Reed, now 44, said he began smoking at 14 and he’d more recently had health issues after smoking multiple packs of cigarettes a day. He switched to “vaping” and no longer smokes cigarettes, recently getting “cleared” by his doctor in terms of his health, he said. Another customer of Huffman’s on Thursday said it had been 16 days since he smoked a cigarette and had started vaping.
Reed said he treats his vaping like a cigarette in public places and only vapes where there are designated smoking areas or not at all if it’s prohibited. Both Reed and Huffman said it’s a matter of courtesy to show respect to nonsmokers. But, both men disagreed with being unable to vape inside a vape shop. Huffman considers that an “overreach” and wrong to label it as “smoking.”
“We’re not enabling tobacco use,” he said.
He added, he felt there is a lot of misinformation about vaping, saying people think it’s an “alternative drug” but he doesn’t, reiterating not all e-liquids have nicotine and he doesn’t sell tobacco.
“I do it to not smoke cigarettes,” Huffman said.
Ultimately, Huffman hopes to simply stay in business by receiving a waiver or he’ll be forced to close. He also hopes to open a hookah lounge within his store which allows vaping customers to vape the e-liquids in a communal atmosphere through a hookah.
Vape shops are popular businesses and can be found in Gallipolis, Ohio, Ravenswood, Athens, Ohio, Charleston, Huntington and Ripley, to name a few places.
One of the issues with “vaping” in regards to the clean air regulation, is the large “cloud” of vapor the vape pens can emit with critics calling it a nuisance at best, and unhealthy at worst.
Prior to passing the regulation, the board of health held three meetings and a public comment period in which one letter of opposition was received. Huffman said he didn’t know the regulation was being considered until it had passed but hopes for consideration in regards to the waiver, and hopes to be heard in terms of what he considers misinformation about vaping.
Huff N Puff is open from noon to 6 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday and can reached at 304-593-6176, or on Facebook.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.