BLOOMINGTON — After decades of smoking, 62-year-old Jerry Jonen gave up cigarettes about a 1½ years ago and now uses an electronic cigarette.
"And here I own a tobacco store, and prior to that I worked for Philip Morris (Tobacco Company) for 15 years," he said.
Now, two years after he added The Choice Vape Shop to his tobacco products store, e-cigarettes and "vaping" products make up 40 percent of his total sales.
"I just decided for health purposes that vaping was not as detrimental to my potential long-term health," said Jonen, owner of Smoker's Choice at 1212 Towanda Ave. "I'm not saying smoking e-cigarettes is 100 percent risk free, but I firmly do believe it's not as detrimental as the tar and other stuff you're getting from tobacco smoke."
Jonen admits that because the use of liquid vaping products is fairly new, there is no track record that any regulatory agency can use to determine what the risks are.
Jonen agreed with a proposed ban of the devices at city-owned facilities.
"If it's limited to those kinds of places, it would have a minimal effect on our sales," he said, but if the devices are prohibited at all public and private places, "obviously it lowers consumption and ultimately lowers sales."
Jonen already witnessed that scenario when the state enacted in 2008 the Smoke Free Illinois Act.
"Vaping is not meant to be done when there is a mass group of people who have no desire for that to go on," said Jonen. "That's no different than smoking was in that sense."
The devices can produce varied amounts of vapor so "it's not a one-size-fits-all product," he said.
"There are hundreds of flavors of liquids and various nicotine levels — anywhere from zero on up to whatever. We as a store do not carry the real high nicotine levels."
The vapor products are cheaper because they aren't taxed like regular cigarettes, Jonen noted.
Jonen pointed to a carton of cigarettes costing $53. "$30 of that is taxes. There's a $10 federal tax and a $20 state tax," he said.
A 10-milliliter bottle of e-juice is equivalent to about five packs of cigarettes "and it usually lasts a week for $7, compared to the $50 to $80 for a carton of cigarettes," added Zach Magon, Jonen's assistant manager.
Magon also uses vaping products.
"I quit smoking cigarettes. That's my No. 1 reason," he said.