Scott Stone opened the first vape shop in Mississippi in 2014, and he’s been busy talking to customers and others about the “vaping epidemic” that has topped headlines in recent week.

“It’s the black market that’s selling stuff that’s causing problems all over north Mississippi and across the country,” said Stone, owner of Amaza Vapors on Traceland Drive.

“Dank” is that product, although it’s not an official brand or company. Yet it’s the cause for much of the trouble that the vaping industry is experiencing, Stone said.

“Nobody knows what they’re putting in it,” he said. “The juices we sell here, everyone of them we know the ingredients in. There are no chemical flavorings, no vitamin E … it’s all FDA regulated and approved.”

Vaping has been marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes. Users use electronic, or E-cigarettes, or some other vaping device. A battery is used to power cartridges filled with a liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings and chemicals. The liquid is heated into a vapor, which the person inhales.

“Vaping has been around for 12 years, and we’ve been open for nearly six,” Stone said. “There have been zero deaths that people can say was due to this.”

E-cigarette maker Juul has been warned by the federal government for marketing its vape pen to minors, and Stone said he agrees with the decision. He doesn’t sell Juul in his store, and advices people who come into his store to throw them away. In fact, he’ll buy their Juuls and throw them away himself.

“I agree with regulations – I want regulations,” he said.

Stone also said that talk of vape flavorings is a little unfair, pointing to liquor stores that sell flavored alcohol.

“Nobody is talking about banning flavored alcohol, and there are far more alcohol-relatated deaths from that.”

Stone said tobacco smoking causes thousands of deaths, while vaping has been used as a step-down from those high nicotine levels.

“I want people to be completely off nicotine, and this will help you do that,” he said. “Now if you want to keep vaping after that, it’s on you.”

The regulated juices and flavorings aren’t what’s causing the problems, Stone said. Rather, is the THC cartridges and black market products doing the damage.

“In the last few days, all the news has affected our business,” Stone added. “We’ve had a lot of people coming in wanting to talk to us, wanting to know if they’re going to die from it.”

Stone said the banning of the flavors as proposed by President Trump is a bad idea, however.

“All that’s going to do is open a can of worms and people will mix their juice at home and making stuff they don’t know what’s in it,” he said. “And you’ll also put people who quit smoking back smoking. And you’ll also open up that black market even more and then you have even more problems.