E-Cigarette Stores Expanding Across Oklahoma

Monday, April 28th 2014, 6:43 pm

They have been popping up on just about every corner around the metro. Vaping shops have become big in Oklahoma, bigger than just about everywhere else in the nation.

Vaping stores sell e-cigarettes and the flavored liquid that goes inside them. Right now, there about 300 stores open in the state.

When Jim Durst was laid off from Chesapeake last year, he decided on a fresh start by opening a vaping store.

"I was getting ready to turn 40, and it was either buy a sports car or buy a business," Durst joked.

His Yukon store became the fourth OKC Vapes location to open up in just the past two years. When Jim's younger brother, John, opened the first location at 50th and Portland, there was only one other vaping store in the entire city.

"Did I expect it to be this way in two years? No not really," John said.

1/24/2014 Related Story: Are E-Cigarettes The New Addiction?

Across the parking lot from Jim's store, another vaping store opened up within a day. Oklahoma now has six percent of the vaping stores in the entire nation, even though we only make up one percent of the entire population.

"Grand Rapids, Mich. has seven, New York City doesn't have hardly any at all, Buffalo, N.Y. hardly has 15," John, who travels frequently on vaping business, said.

Some experts speculate vaping has become so popular in Oklahoma because of the large number of smokers who want to quit.

"I would say 98 percent of the people who walk in want to quit smoking," John said.

Theodore Wagener, PhD with Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center,  just finished two studies that say about 63 percent of vape shop customers completely quit cigarettes.

Jim is one of those who said it worked for him.

"It took me about two months, but I made it and it was successful."

Jim thinks it's the success of the product that may be leading the success of the business.

All this has led to concerns, because the industry is largely unregulated. The FDA is considering requiring producers to register with them and disclose their manufacturing processes.

This year Oklahoma legislators made it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors.