At noon today, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley is set to offer a commendation to Castro Valley business Ready Set Vape – a store that sells electronic cigarettes, vaporizers, the “juices” that are used in the devices, and other accessories.
The commendation will be accompanied by a ceremony conducted by the Castro Valley/ Eden Area Chamber of Commerce and a reception that’s open to the public.
Ready Set Vape opened over a year ago and has been successful at its location at 3024 Castro Valley Boulevard. Yelp reviews are nearly all “five stars” and boast people from all over the Bay Area lauding the store and its products and talking about coming to Castro Valley from miles away just to visit the shop.
Ready Set Vape owner Ben Jewell says that electronic cigarettes are a great help to people trying to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. Miley says that he agrees and that the business is an asset to the community.
But critics say that e-cigarettes are potentially just as dangerous as traditional tobacco products and need to be more closely regulated.
Miley, however, takes issue with equating e-cigarettes with regular smoking.
“It’s an erroneous road to travel, to lump (e-cigarettes) with tobacco,” said Miley. “I don’t want to demonize vaporizing because what they are trying to do is admirable. We need to reevaluate these shops on their own merits, not the same way we regulate tobacco. My position is, let’s not categorize this as a tobacco product.”
Miley’s proclamation for Ready Set Vape comes just a few weeks after the California Department of Public Health issued a warning about the toxicity of electronic cigarettes. And the American Lung Association says that e-cigarettes and vaporizing are too untested to support as smoking cessation aides.
Serena Chen, policy director for the American Lung Association, says she personally knows people who have stopped smoking with the help of electronic cigarettes, but she also says so much is unknown about them that she cannot stand by them as a way to kick the habit.
“There is just not enough independent research out there,” said Chen.
Chen said she’s seen studies funded by e-cig advocates that say they help quitting. But she’s also seen opposing studies by other groups that say the electronic cigarettes could encourage kids to pick up smoking under the guise of being less harmful than regular cigarettes and because they come in kid-friendly flavors like lemonade, vanilla, and strawberry.
“There is the troubling thought that they could make smoking glamorous again,” said Chen. “I do believe it has helped some people quit, but there is the major problem that e-cigarettes are totally unregulated.
“Besides the smoking issue, the ‘juices’ that are used (vaporized) in the devices are unregulated. Should people be inhaling these substances we know so little about? It’s Supervisor Miley’s business if he wants to praise a business that is doing well, we just have our concerns. It’s unfortunate.”
Chen went on to say that many cities in Alameda County have started establishing ordinances restricting e-cigarettes and the businesses that sell them, but that unincorporated areas like Castro Valley have less regulation.
Miley acknowledged that his lauding of Ready Set Vape could be controversial, but said that vaporizing and e-cigarettes will be an area where a lot of discussion is happening in the future, and that he supports Ready Set Vape as a successful local business.
“This is a national debate,” said Miley. “Let’s look at it cautiously and meticulously because I don’t think there is enough evidence on either side at the moment to make a final decision.”
Ready Set Vape owner Jewell says that he has had a tremendous amount of positive feedback from the community and that his product helps a lot of people.
The state Public Health Department warning against e-cigarettes was issued in January by Dr. Ronald Chapman, who stepped down from his position as director just days later amidst a controversy for failing to regulate nursing home complaints.
Jewell said that Chapman’s final shot at e-cigarettes could have been his way of diverting controversy and saving face even as he quit.
Regardless of Chapman’s intent with the warning, Jewell maintains he has only well-meaning intent for his business.
“There is a lot of fear-mongering about e-cigarettes, but if you look at the data and science, people are being helped,” said Jewell. “We don’t market as being health-based, but yes, we do play a part in harm reduction. From dealing with the public, I know for a fact I help people quit.”