Community Voices: Many see e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking

Kicking the tobacco habit is among the hardest things people ever do, I know because I did it in 1982.

That’s probably why it’s high on the list of so many smokers’ New Year’s resolutions. And I’d hazard a guess that it is also the reason we are seeing so-called e-cigarette shops popping up like mushrooms after a rain storm.

I visited a place called Victorious Vapors in Cumming, owned by Augusta resident Scott Wolkow who also owns shops in Augusta and Athens.

Wolkow says that e-cigarettes or vaping as it’s called helped his wife kick the tobacco habit 10 years ago so he tried it and also quit smoking. “I know what it’s (tobacco) done to people in my life” and he is convinced his products are a “healthier alternative.”

E-cigarettes use heat from a battery to vaporize liquid containing nicotine, the chemical which makes people dependent on tobacco. The difference according to Wolkow is that instead of getting the nicotine by burning tobacco in cigarettes, e-cigarettes avoid much of the poisonous byproducts of burning tobacco. It has turned Wolkow into an entrepreneur and an evangelist for ending tobacco smoking. He views his products as a healthier, if not totally healthy, alternative. He likens e-cigs to the nicotine patch that some people get from a doctor as their ticket to tobacco abstinence. In fact, he says he uses the same purity of nicotine that goes into the patch.

So, his shops and many of the other electronic cigarette stores see a spike in business as the New Year approaches and smokers resolve to quit. Wolkow says he has data to back up his claims of customer success saying “the rate is gigantic” and claims it is at around 90 percent. The parade of would-be quitters begins in December and grows as those who are really committed to a tobacco-free lifestyle make their way to his shop.

One of his success stories is John Mullennix of Cumming who says e-cigarettes have been a game-changer for him. “Absolutely,” was his answer about whether he is now done with the Marlboro Man. He follows up by declaring he couldn’t have done it cold turkey.

Wolkow knows there is widespread concern about young people using e-cigarettes, so under-18 sales are strictly prohibited.

As you sit with your coffee and AJC, understand that I am in no way promoting this idea or vouching for its safety, even scientists and doctors aren’t sure about that. It appears however, that e-cigarettes have definitely become a popular alternative to the cost, social pressure and health concerns associated with tobacco and one reason why these stores are appearing everywhere.

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