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Vapor store opens steps away from school

Ausum Vapor now occupies the corner of 65th and 15th, a concern for parents and educators but not store managers

Vaporization+is+an+alternative+to+smoking+cigarettes%2C+evading+the+inhalation+of+toxic+by-products.+Electronic+cigarettes+vaporize+an+%E2%80%9Ce-liquid%E2%80%9D+consisting+of+flavoring%2C+vegetable+glycerin%2C+propylene+glycol%2C+and+nicotine.+It%E2%80%99s+the+idea+of+concealing+illegal+drugs+by+vaporization+that+worries+the+school.
Vaporization is an alternative to smoking cigarettes, evading the inhalation of toxic by-products. Electronic cigarettes vaporize an “e-liquid” consisting of flavoring, vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, and nicotine. It’s the idea of concealing illegal drugs by vaporization that worries the school.

Vaporization is an alternative to smoking cigarettes, evading the inhalation of toxic by-products. Electronic cigarettes vaporize an “e-liquid” consisting of flavoring, vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, and nicotine. It’s the idea of concealing illegal drugs by vaporization that worries the school.

Madison Ebbett

Madison Ebbett

Vaporization is an alternative to smoking cigarettes, evading the inhalation of toxic by-products. Electronic cigarettes vaporize an “e-liquid” consisting of flavoring, vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, and nicotine. It’s the idea of concealing illegal drugs by vaporization that worries the school.

Greta Rainbow, Managing Editor

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Ausum Vapor, a store carrying electronic cigarettes, officially opened its doors on Nov. 15 across from the school.

Its close proximity was an immediate concern for the administration and parents. “When I first saw the sign go up, I was fairly disappointed,” Principal Keven Wynkoop said. “At best, [vapor stores] promote a certain kind of drug.”

Vaporization is an alternative to smoking cigarettes, evading the inhalation of toxic by-products. Electronic cigarettes vaporize an “e-liquid” consisting of flavoring, vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, and nicotine (tobacco or natural extract). Vaporizers can also be used with cannabis, and it’s the idea of concealing illegal drugs by vaporization that worries the school.

“Vapes can be used for a wide variety of things… coming back from the summer, we were hearing that there had been a rise in heroin use,” Wynkoop said. “And then not long after that we learned that one of the reasons is because people had figured out to use heroin through [certain] vape pens.”

Tony May, manager of the Ballard Ausum Vapor location, describes the family-run store as “a vape shop for vape-ers.”

“We don’t sell any marijuana products, that’s not us,” May said. “We’re a vape shop, and we’re here to provide a healthy alternative to cigarettes.” May was a three-pack-a-day smoker and cigarettes destroyed his lungs. His personal opinion is that vaporization is healthier: “Vaping has literally saved my life.” He has not heard of the use of hard drugs through vapes.

Students also see the institution as a facet of smoking tobacco rather than other drugs. “It’s not weed, it’s just tobacco,” senior Nate Wiegman said.

Ausum Vapor started in Bremerton as a single shop, where every employee is a vape-er themselves. The business was able to expand, and spread to Seattle. “The owner of the company got a really great rate on [the location],” May said. May himself did not know there was a high school across the street.

When the store first took over the former Sahara Pizza location on the corner of 65th and 15th, Wynkoop looked into finding a way to limit Ausum Vapor’s ability to open there. State law provides that schools within 500 feet of the business applying for a liquor license must be notified and have the power to veto.

With El Camion, a deal was struck that the restaurant could sell alcohol but not during school hours. Such legislation does not apply to the vapor store and the City granted their permits.

Another concern was the vigilance of only selling to legal customers, as vapes cannot be purchased by minors. There are signs everywhere prohibiting customers under 18 and, according to May, when a customer walks in they are immediately carded.

I personally don’t want any kids picking up a vape. I also don’t want them picking up a cigarette,”

— store owner, Tony May

“We card our regulars,” May said. “We’re not about selling to minors. Aside from the whole legality purposes, ethically it’s just wrong.”

Whether or not students are able to buy their vapes close to school or not, there is an upward trend in their prevalence among youth. According to the CDC, more than a quarter of a million youths who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes in 2013.

One worry is that Ausum Vapor’s close proximity normalizes the practice, a concern because vapes still contain the highly addictive nicotine.

Ausum Vapor takes the position that they are doing something good for the adult community by providing a healthier alternative to cigarettes.  “I personally don’t want any kids picking up a vape. I also don’t want them picking up a cigarette,” May said. “But if you come in here and you’re already a smoker, I want you to start vaping… Cigarettes are going to kill you and they’re going to cause bodily harm.”

Parents and educators, however, are unhappy with the promotion of a drug close to school, and fear the use of vapes for illegal drugs.

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Vapor store opens steps away from school