HARRISON, N.Y. -- Walk into any cigarette shop in America and you're likely to get hit with a cloud of smoke and the smell of tobacco.
At Honest Vapor in Harrison, you'll find clouds of water vapor and aromas such as honey and strawberry.
The new shop specializes in electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, a sleek-barrel, non-tobacco electronic gadget that processes nicotine and emits a vapor cloud instead of smoke. Across Westchester and the rest of the country, more and more smokers are easing their cravings with the devices. The Center for Disease Control reported earlier this year the number of American adults who use e-cigarettes rose from 10 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2011.
Luciano Manente, who owns Honest Vapor with Beth Nole, was a three-pack-a-day smoker for 27 years. After trying every method to try quitting, he tried e-cigarettes in 2010 and quickly kicked the habit. He said he constantly has customers come in telling him they have quit cigarettes within weeks of picking up the e-cigarettes.
"I honestly feel that this has extended my life, and increased the quality of my life," he said. His sister, Rosanna, works with him in the store, where they offer many different flavors. They design the flavors themselves and send them to a lab to be created. It's important for them to make sure the flavors are safe and that people know how to use the e-cigarettes.
"We take the time, we talk to people, we do whatever we have to do to help people not smoke," he said. Many users try out different devices and flavors, turning a habit into a hobby.
Many cities with public smoking bans are adding e-cigarettes to their smoking ban. The Foxborough-Norton-Mansfield area of Massachusetts modified its smoking ban to include e-cigarettes among the items that could not be smoked in schools and restaurants. King County in Washington added e-cigarettes to its smoking ban.
Opponents of e-cigarettes also express concern manufacturers may be targeting teenagers or even children, cultivating a new generation of users because they may be considered less harmful. This raises concerns that e-cigarettes may be particularly appealing to kids and may encourage nicotine addiction among young people.
"People try to say this is going to lead kids to smoke, but that's not what we're about. The goal is to help people quit smoking," Manente said. He hears opponents saying e-cigarettes contain hazardous chemicals and can be harmful to one's health, but he points them to studies that say the delivery system makes it healthier than traditional cigarettes. "Because smoking has been so villainized, people don't take the time to learn."
While manufacturers of the e-cigarette say that it's the cigarette you can "smoke" anywhere, regulatory agencies around the world are taking a close look at them and instituting a range of restrictions on their use.
Patrons at Honest Vapor, like Kenny McClure and Ethan Brill, say that since switching to e-cigarettes they've completely lost their desire to go back to regular cigarettes.
"I completely stopped," McClure said. "Once you get your taste buds back, regular cigarettes just taste nasty."
"You still get the same sensation, the same feeling as smoking a regular cigarette," Brill said. He smoked for about eight years, and says his body feels much better since he switch to e-cigarettes. He also doesn't smell like tobacco anymore. "My dad is so happy."
Smokers who wish to eliminate nicotine from their lives completely are using zero-nicotine products, which claim smokers can enjoy the "habit" without the harmful effects.
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