Amid a national debate over whether the Federal Government should ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, an e-cigarette shop in Columbia opened its doors with the promise to only sell their product to adults. However, children are still allowed inside the store as long as their accompanied by an adult.
Inside the store, e-cigarettes can be smoked openly. Although children are not allowed in many places were adult products are sold, e-cigarette stores remain a gray area. Among those celebrating the grand opening of Aqueous Vapor in Columbia were a seven year-old boy and a five year-old girl.
Their mother Mindy Shaw said she thinks bringing her children inside the store is harmless. "They're not getting secondhand smoke," Shaw said. "What they're getting is vapor. It's just water, glycerin, things like that. So, there's nothing harmful for their lungs and that's probably the most important thing to me."
Shaw said she hopes by exposing her young children to e-cigarettes, that they'll learn there is an alternative to smoking real cigarettes.
"You look at the TVs and movies and things they're watching now, and you see the cigarettes. Plus, you see all the other things that people are doing, so I wanted for them to be able to see that there's an alternative," Shaw said.
Blake Wilson attended Aqueous Vapor's grand opening Saturday. He said with so many unknowns about the health effects of e-cigarettes, he doesn't think the FDA should ban sales to everyone under 18.
"As someone who started off on tobacco at a young age, I believe that anyone over the age of 16 should be allowed to buy it," Wilson said.
But as e-cigarette shops spring up around mid-Missouri, the debate continues as well. Aqueous Vapor co-owner James Yeager said he is okay with having children inside his store as long as they are accompanied by an adult.
"We certainly aren't selling them these products," Yeager said. "I think if their parents want to come here and they make the decision, I think that's within the scope of how they should choose to run their family."
For now, the effects of e-cigarettes on children and adults remain unknown.