Marysville Tobacco Joe's offers 'Vaporland' to sample e-cigarettes

Michael Thorn, owner of Marysville Tobacco Joe
Michael Thorn, owner of Marysville Tobacco Joe's, credits electronic cigarettes with helping to reduce even his own smoking habit.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — Marysville Tobacco Joe's has had a tumultuous history since it first opened its doors in 2011.

Barely a year after Michael Thorn began the business as a roll-your-own tobacco establishment, state and federal legislation governing the roll-your-own tobacco machines compelled him to close last summer, until he found a new market to cater to and reopened the store near the start of this year.

On April 15, Thorn added a new department to Marysville Tobacco Joe's, called "Vaporland," to offer a sampling bar for electronic cigarette consumers, whom he sees as even more of a growing consumer base than roll-your-own tobacco enthusiasts were, but he's again anxious about how federal legislation might impact his business.

"Last time, it was Big Tobacco, lobbying to tie up the use of the roll-your-own machines," Thorn said. "This time, the sleeping giant is Big Pharmaceutical, because their preference would be that e-cigarettes be prescribed by doctors, so that they can charge more money for it."

Thorn proudly touted Vaporland's sample selection of more than 25 flavors, in nicotine strengths of 24, 18, 12, 6 and even zero milligrams, made by Marysville Tobacco Joe's sister company Twilight.

"In less than the first two months of having our vapor bar open, our sales had grown to almost the same as they were a year ago, prior to losing the roll-your-own machines," Thorn said. "Almost all of our customers have credited e-cigarettes with helping them to cut back substantially on their smoking habits, or even to quit altogether."

While Thorn cited the absence of tar and secondhand smoke as among e-cigarettes' health benefits relative to regular cigarettes, Dr. Gary Goldbaum of the Snohomish Health District emphasized that certain risks do remain with e-cigarettes, which may possess health hazards that have yet to be discovered.

"They've only been around for a few years, so we're still waiting on a lot of the science," Goldbaum said. "We don't have any local regulations specific to e-cigarettes because we need to give them a careful review. It's likely that they'll prove to be far safer than regular cigarettes, but we still don't want to promote them, because we're medical professionals and our goal is to reduce harm, so we don't want to encourage people to take up any kind of smoking. Whether it's an e-cigarette or a regular cigarette, it's designed to be a nicotine delivery system, and nicotine is a poison."

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