Electronic cigarettes are becoming more prevalent in Aiken as people are switching from smoke to water vapor.
Most recently, Chris Harden and Ric Castagna started Shooting Star Vapors in June. Harden has set up a display at Aiken's Finest Auto Care and Exhaust, which he also owns.
A recent study shows that approximately 8 percent of smokers tried electronic cigarettes in 2012, Harden said. After he successfully dropped tobacco products with this reusable form of nicotine delivery device, he decided to get into the business himself.
Harden said that he started smoking when he was 14 years old and struggled to quit. He was introduced to e-cigarettes at a car show, and said that since he quit smoking regular cigarettes, he feels a lot healthier.
“It's a miracle worker,” he said. “I tried so many methods to quit but couldn't. This was a life saver.”
The liquid that goes into the electronic cigarettes are made of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, flavoring and nicotine, Harden said. He added that cigarettes emit more than 4,000 different chemicals.
Harden said these products will not be sold to anyone under 18, and he does not recommend e-cigarettes to people who do not smoke.
Harden said e-cigarettes are for people who are looking for a healthier alternative to tobacco products and that the nicotine levels vary in the liquid. Over time, someone using an e-cigarette can ween themselves off of nicotine by slowly decreasing the amount that they take in.
He said, at this time, there have been no long-term studies conducted to confirm if e-cigarettes are healthier but the short-term conclusion is that they're better than using tobacco products. He added that the FDA hasn't made a decision on how it will regulate the industry, and that the state shouldn't make any decisions on the matter before the federal government weighs in.
One other benefit of e-cigarettes is the variety of flavored liquids, Harden said. He said that he can order 267 different flavors ranging from salty to sweet. He quipped that it also works as an air freshener. With e-cigarettes, there are no more smoky smells in his car, home or clothing but rather the scent of strawberries or whatever flavor he's using at the time.
Lastly, they do not make their own liquid, which, he said, means there's consistency in his product.
Harden is hoping the business will expand with time. Shooting Star Vapors is located at Aiken's Finest Auto Care And Exhaust, 1696 Richland Ave. E. It is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Amy Banton is the County reporter with the Aiken Standard.