Amid health concerns, e-cig ban proposed with potential to derail shop owners

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Vaping helped Local Legends Vape Shop owner Kevin Collins kick his smoking habit, but concerns are arising after six vaping-related deaths in the Lower 48.

“I was up to three packs a day at the time, and I was able to quit smoking, and go into vaping," Collins said.

He said a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, as proposed by President Donald Trump this week, would leave his shop up in smoke.

“It'd kill the business,” Collins said, " thousands upon thousands of businesses."

The smoking gun behind the recent vaping-related illnesses is reportedly unregulated THC pods.

In a recent report, the Centers for Disease Control said of the victims that “many, but not all, reported recent use of THC-containing products... a smaller group reported using nicotine only."

The State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, however, maintains e-cigs are dangerous with or without THC.

“There's a high level of nicotine that can be varying," said State Tobacco Control and Prevention Manager Cheley Grigsby. "That is harmful to the developing brain, and attacks memory, learning and attention."

Still, e-cigs are now more popular than cigarettes in schools.

“We have more Alaska high school students currently using e-cigarettes," Grigsby said, "about 16 percent - than those who traditionally smoke cigarettes, 10 percent."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has chimed in too, saying "we must do all we can to prevent youth from using and becoming addicted to these harmful products."

As for Collins, he said he doesn't want a full-on ban, but agrees kids have no place using vapes.

“Alaska's taken the right step,” he said. “We've gone up to 21. You know, if you're not born 1998 or before, you're not even allowed in my shop."

There are approximately 20 businesses in Anchorage that sell flavored e-cigarettes. For many, it's a main selling product.

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