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E-cigarette shops pop up throughout McHenry County

CRYSTAL LAKE – In opening a new electronic cigarette and hookah lounge, a Crystal Lake man said he was joining what he calls “a revolution.”

Vapor Place, 119 N. Main St., Crystal Lake, opened its doors July 1.

For those 18 and older, the new business offers a bar and lounge for e-cigarette and e-hookah smokers.

For Justin Dickson and wife, Sarah, the process to open up shop moved quickly – the lease was signed just two weeks before opening day. However, the act that prompted the endeavor came in February after a personal discovery by Justin Dickson.

“I smoked for 20-some years,” he said, “then I picked up an electronic cigarette and never touched a [traditional] cigarette again.”

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices in which a coil heats up a liquid solution – e-liquid – to produce a water vapor. There are e-liquids of many flavors, some that contain nicotine, and some that don’t.

“Zero-nicotine [options] account for about half our sales,” Justin Dickson said, standing in front of the various e-liquid flavors.

The act of smoking e-cigarettes is referred to by many as “vaping,” he and Sarah Dickson said, adding it’s a fad that has been growing since the early- to mid-2000s.

As of 2011, about 6 percent of all adults in the U.S. had tried e-cigarettes, according to a 2013 report by the Center for Disease Control.

Justin Dickson said he noticed local interest as other places began opening in recent years – VapeTech Inc. opened about a year ago in the Huntley Outlet Center, and Vapor Hut opened in February, to name a few.

Owner of Vapor Hut Frank Angiulo said demand has been high enough for him to start planning more locations.

He has stores in Crystal Lake and Algonquin so far, but plans to open several more in Schaumburg, Elmwood Park and Chicago. The electronic smoking business, he said, is booming.

“The customer reception has just been amazing,” Angiulo said, adding he’s seen customers reduce their nicotine-intake to zero, in time.

For Sarah Dickson, that was the purpose of opening Vapor Place.

“I don’t smoke, and I never have,” she said. “I wanted to see people stop smoking, and I saw this as a way to do that.”

“It’s like a revolution against tobacco,” Justin Dickson added.

Medical experts across the country have debated the effects of e-cigarettes, which, as an industry, is still largely unregulated.

The Federal Drug Administration is spending $270 million on research projects to determine the effects and possible risks related to the devices, according to a July Reuters report.

Damion Clai, owner of VapeTech Inc., opened his store after smoking the electronic devices for five years.

It won’t always stop people from smoking traditional cigarettes, which have long been proven bad for the body, he said, but as far as crossing people over, he considers it a step in the right direction.

“I was smoking about a pack a day,” Clai said. “So it definitely doesn’t solve a problem completely, but if you can cut down, that’s still something.”

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