ST. PETERSBURG, FL -- Make no mistake, millions of Americans still smoke, but numbers are dropping. However, a new kind of cigarette is now lighting up interest.
You can find electronic or e-cigarettes at convenience stores and specialized shops like Lizard Juice. Gary Wilder has opened up several Lizard Juice locations in just the past year. The stores are bright and clean and there's no smoke.
"It's the anti-smoke shop," laughs Wilder. "We're the place you can bring your mother."
At Lizard Juice and similar stores, Vapers (as fans of e-cigs are called) can puff a wide variety of flavored nicotine-laced liquid.
"That is double coconut and a touch of chocolate," Wilder says as he offers Dawna Jikah a sample. "Ooh, that's very good," she says.
Jikah made the switch to e-cigarettes after smoking traditional cigarettes for 25 years.
"I used to wheeze when I lay down to go to sleep. I can run. I can do all sorts of things I couldn't do before," she says.
Every Lizard Juice customer 10 News spoke with made similar remarks. They were all smoking e-cigarettes instead of traditional tobacco, seeking the health benefits.
So are e-cigarettes really better for you?
With e-cigs, you've still got the dose of highly addictive nicotine, but users are not inhaling the harmful tars and cancer-causing chemicals that come with smoking regular cigarettes. And that's why Moffitt tobacco and smoking researcher Thomas Brandon is cautiously optimistic.
"Most researchers believe that it is very likely that e-cigarettes are far less dangerous than smoking," says Brandon. But he adds that since e-cigarettes are fairly new, there hasn't been a chance to do long-term studies. "It's still an open question."
Moffitt Cancer Center's Tobacco Research Center is now studying why people use e-cigarettes. To take an online survey click here.
And besides kicking the habit, Vapers also get a kick out of the savings. Once you purchase the e-cigarette device that heats the nicotine liquid, over time, vaping can save users a lot of money.
At Lizard Juice, one little vial of e-juice costs about $13 and it's supposed to be equivalent to about 14 packs of traditional cigarettes, which would run about $90.
E-cigarette sales in the U.S. are expected to top a billion dollars this year, and traditional cigarette companies are getting involved, so don't expect this trend to disappear like a puff of smoke.
WTSP/WFMY News 2