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Electronic cigarettes highly debated, still banned

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BROAD RIPPLE — Electronic cigarettes are getting more and more popular, but a ban in Indianapolis is one portion of the continued debate against them.

Shadi Khoury opened two stores, called Indy E-Cigs, in Broad Ripple and Westfield last year.

Khoury saw the rise in Hoosiers buying e-cigarettes and wanted to jump into the market.

“When we first opened we were doing three, maybe five customers a day, and now we’re helping in the upwards of hundreds a day,” Khoury said.

Still, a smoking ban that went into effect in Marion County in 2012 included electronic cigarettes. It was one of the first in the country to classify the electronic type with regular tobacco products.

“Wherever smoking cigarettes or tobacco products was prohibited, the use of e-cigarettes was also prohibited,” Lindsay Grace with the American Lung Association said.

Khoury argued most of his customers are using the e-cigarettes to quit smoking and products do exist that contain no nicotine.

“There’s no comparison. It’s apples and oranges, so to bunch them together, it’s unfair,” Khoury said.

The American Lung Association, though, said it does not know the long-term effects of electronic cigarettes and since many of them do contain nicotine and are not regulated by the FDA, it could still be harmful for smokers.

“We wouldn’t recommend them for someone to use to quit smoking because … they’re not safe and we don’t know what’s going to happen 10 years from now, 15 years from now, when a person has been using an e-cigarette for that long,” Grace said.

The two sides are part of a debate that is only growing stronger, as stores like Khoury’s pop up around central Indiana.

This week, in fact, Chicago followed Indianapolis’ lead in banning electronic cigarettes much like tobacco.

Khoury doesn’t see the drawbacks though, saying he sees the products helping people in his store.

“I feel better. I don’t smell terrible, I have more stamina, my head is always clear,” Khoury said.

“There is no (scientific) evidence … that shows that these products do help people quit smoking,” Grace said.