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Is vaping the new smoking and The Vapourtorium a tobacconist for the 21st century?

They’re all puffing away, creating white billowing clouds. But they don’t hang in the air, they vanish almost immediately. And they don’t smell.

Vapourtorium photo
Shop owners Michael, Terry and Anthony Phelps

And Terry Phelps and his sons Anthony and Michael don’t have hacking coughs, nicotined fingers or smelly clothes.

Welcome to The Vapourtorium – a tobacconist for the 21st century.

You puff on an electronic cigarette, burn a nicotine-carrying liquid which vaporises and instead of filling your lungs with tar and other nasty chemicals, you’re sucking in a vapour of nicotine and whatever flavouring you have added to it.

The gadgets are known as ‘pens’, ‘pipes’ and ‘magic sticks’ by users.

Terry used to be a 30-a-day man with a hacking cough.

“I’ve not had a cough since I’ve been on these for the past 18 months,” he says.

Cigarette smokers are converting in their thousands.

Some use them to help quit, others because they like to smoke but see them as a healthier option.

Pensioner Sheila Steele pops into the shop in Angel Lane, Penrith to get some advice on how to work her new gadget.

She bought one because she has high blood pressure and her doctor told her to quit smoking.

“My son has got one, and one or two other people said I should try them, I just feel as though this will help,” explains Mrs Steele, of Croft Avenue.

Terry moved to Penrith from Warrington after a friend who lives in the town told him there were no vapour shops in the area.

Business is so good that he has already applied to open another Vapourtorium in Carlisle and has sights on Workington and Whitehaven as well.

He says that pubs and restaurants in Penrith have been happy for him to ‘light up’ after he has asked permission because there is no smell and no passive side effects.

Kirsty Morrison, 28, calls in with her mum Shirley, for more nicotine liquid for what she calls her ‘pipe’.

“I’ve had one for a month, it is good yeah, the best thing I ever did,” says Kirsty, of Sockbridge.

“I was quite a heavy smoker when I gave up, 20-plus a day. I had patches and tried smoking the e-lite cigarettes, but I was going through one a day, then I heard about this place.

“With these, it doesn’t stain your teeth, your clothes don’t smell and your house doesn’t smell.

“I feel a lot better with these, I’m not trying to give up, just taking it as it comes.”

Shirley quit smoking more than four years ago and reckons it would have been much easier for her if she could have switched to the electronic cigarettes.

She explains: “I used a lot of nicotine gum and willpower. I honestly think these are the way forward, but you still have to have the willpower to stop.”

The downside is that these pens and products are not tested or regulated and health experts say users don’t know exactly what is involved.

There have been some concerns voiced about what exactly is contained in the fluids, which are vegetable glycerin with added flavours.

Sue Sear, senior health improvement specialist for Cumbria says using the electronic cigarettes is a “double-edged sword”.

“They are not licensed and we cannot use them as a smoking cessation aid,” she explains.

“There are two aspects to smoking: One is addiction to the drug nicotine; the other is addiction to the habit of smoking.

“An e-cigarette removes all the harmful ingredients in a cigarette such as tar, arsenic and rat poison, but nicotine is heavily addictive so you are still getting that and you are still carrying out the habit of smoking.

“We do not support them because they are not licensed and are not regulated, so we don’t have a clue what is really in them.

“But if they are licensed properly and regulated properly they are helpful in getting people to stop smoking, but that is not how they are being marketed.

“They are being promoted by tobacco companies as an alternative to smoking, not as an aid to quitting.

“They are not healthy. They might not be as bad as smoking real cigarettes, but they are not healthy.”

Some form of licensing for the electronic cigarettes and their liquid is expected in the summer.

The British Medical Association (BMA) fears that the more people start using e-cigarettes the more it will normalise something that looks like smoking and have called for the ban on smoking in public places to be extended to e-cigarettes.

There are concerns that the devices are being marketed at teenagers, with different colours of vapour becoming available.

Mrs Sear is worried that youngsters will see people ‘smoking’ the cigarettes and see it as a cool thing to do.

She also feels that they should be banned from public areas, just as cigarettes.

“In New Zealand they are licensed, but you are not allowed to smoke them where you are banned from smoking cigarettes and I would like to see that here.”

There are signs on the door and on the wall inside The Vapourtorium warning that only those aged 18 and over will be served.

Terry explains: “We don’t sell to teens. There is still a lot of trials and research being carried out on the pens because they are so new, but they have been cleared by health authorities in New Zealand and Canada.”

The pens have only been on the market for a few years, so it is too early to assess any long-term effects using them may have.

But for customers at The Vapourtorium in Angel Lane, Penrith, they are a positive and much cheaper alternative to cigarettes.

It costs about £8 for a packet of 20 cigarettes.

If you’re a 20-a-day person, that’s £240 a month or £2,900 a year.

Terry tots up that he has sold 600 kits since he opened in November and reckons it costs his customers £13.50 every three or four weeks to get the same effect as a 20-a-day smoker.

The kits cost £30 and include the ‘pen,’ a USB charger for the battery and some liquid nicotine which comes in small phials costing £8.50.

The liquid comes in a range of 250 flavours, including menthol, vanilla, fennel, cherry, cola, red energy – and four different tobacco tastes.

They can all be mixed and matched and they come in different strengths of nicotine dose.

“We get people who use them with no nicotine in the liquid,” says Terry. “They use them for the placebo effect – you get rid of the nicotine, but people still like the act of smoking.”

Have your say

i think im going to try it

Posted by john on 5 January 2014 at 12:02

After smoking since I was 14 I decided to quit and did it very succesfully in a short amount of timein april but temptation when drinking has got the better of me once or twice when drinking and having conversations outside with my smoking friends - will be getting some vape for my nights out especially for my holiday to blackpool where normally I come back with a wrecked voice from too much smoking (same after bike rallys) - good luck In the buisness guys hope you make it over to workington - let me know and I will send you my cv aswell :-)

Posted by ozzy horsfall on 23 September 2013 at 18:57

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