MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota's new $1.60-per-pack sales tax increase on cigarettes begins next week. Meanwhile, retailers are betting smokers will try to switch to a tobacco product not subject to the state's tobacco taxes: electronic cigarettes.
Electronic cigarette, also known as e-cigarettes or e-cigs, have been around for 10 years. Some manufacturers of e-cigarettes are pushing them as a safe alternative or even a way to quit.
The problem is there have been no comprehensive studies on e-cigarettes, which do contain nicotine.
While health officials are urging caution, e-cigarette makers claim the battery-powered devices that use liquid nicotine are a healthier choice.
Whether or not it is, the e-cigarette is gaining in popularity.
Smokedale, a tobacco shop in Oakdale, needs to expand their e-cigarette space due to increased demand.
"Right now, we sell triple what we used to," employee Ziad Abdul Husseen said.
Dan Trudeau smoked regular cigarettes for 15 years, spending $12 a day on his two-pack-a-day habit. Now he spends $12 a month on e-cigarettes – for the same nicotine fix.
"It's much cheaper, much cheaper," Trudeau said.
The batteries of e-cigarettes can be charged through a USB port on your computer. The liquid nicotine, which is poured into the cartridge of the cigarette, has flavor ranging from cotton candy to chocolate to various fruits.
Health experts worry those flavors could be used to market to kid, who might start on e-cigarettes and end up switching to the real thing.
As for the smoke, it's really vapor. But E-cigarettes do contain nicotine, which is addictive and has been shown to have negative effects on heart and lung health, increase blood pressure and heart rates, and put a strain on the circulatory system.
As for e-cigarettes helping smokers quit, Chris Tholkes of the Minnesota Department of Health says they are not approved as a stop smoking aide.
"The verdict is still out on whether these cigarettes are safe. We need to do a little more research on the product," Tholkes said. "I would say proceed with caution we don't know a lot about these products."
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