Saturday , June 21, 2014 - 10:50 PM
OGDEN — John Furse's mother introduced him to electronic cigarettes six years ago in an effort to help him stop smoking.
"She said, 'there's these new cigarettes, what do you know about them?'" Furse said.
Furse was uncertain at first. But six years later, Furse swears by e-cigarettes, having quit regular cigarettes. Several months ago, he and his wife decided to launch Vapor Fest, the state's first ever vapor festival, held at the Golden Spike Event Center.
"We figured hey we're passionate vapors ourselves ... we should do it," Furse said.
Furse and his wife, Crystal Jojola, run Grant Events Utah, which puts together several community get-togethers, including the upcoming VIP**** Family Extravaganza in August. But Vapor Fest was especially challenging logistically because of the county's health concerns.
"We went through a lot of steps with the health department and zoning," Jojola said, noting concessions were separate from the "vaping" area and a strict age limit of 19 was set.
"We have a very, very strict policy on ID checks," she said.
Furse and Jojola said a large number of people in attendance aren't "vapors" and were there to learn more about the industry, which they say is often misunderstood.
"For people who don't know what vaping is, it's something I feel strongly about," said Jojola, who quit old-fashioned cigarettes five years ago. "I can't run a mile with a cigaratte. I can do that vaping."
She said the vapors' motivation for a healthier alternative is evidenced by various wellness booths that were mixed in with dozens of e-cigarette sellers. Attendees numbered in the hundreds and were treated Saturday to a DJ, comedian hypnotist and a live performance from The Rockaholics, a Tooele band. Competitions determining contestants' largest and most creative vapor clouds were slated for Saturday evening.
Michelle, a distributor for Blue Moon Vapors in North Ogden who declined to give her last name, said people are learning more about the industry, dispelling unfavorable rumors.
"People say they make the (sweet) tastes in e-cigs so it appeals to children," Michelle said, but the flavors helped her quit smoking after more than 30 years of trying. "The thing is, if I stopped with the cigarette taste, I might have been (tempted) to go back. "
Blue Moon Vapors was at the festival Saturday selling a wide variety of flavors, including favorites such as caramel coconut creme, limeade, mango and gummy bear. For $299, attendees could purchase an e-cigarette mounted conveniently on a PlayStation controller and manipulated at the push of a specially installed button.
Business is booming since Blue Moon set up shop in October, owner Dana Jones said.
"Our customer base has grown like crazy. It's amazing, we've been so surprised," Jones said. "The vaping mecca from across the country is in Ogden."
Steve Mitchell, of Roy, has been vaping for more than two years.
"I switched immediately to bubble gum and strawberry" after starting vaping, Mitchell said, but he came to the festival looking for new flavors to try.
Mitchell was also thinking of buying a new e-cigarette, which can cost anywhere from $20 to $350. The devices vary widely depending on several factors, he said, including the amount of airflow it allows, the size of the cloud it creates and the life of the battery.
The extra initial cost is worth it, according to Mitchell, because flavor cartridges cost roughly the same as a pack of cigarettes but last longer.
"When you can use it in the car and in your bedroom and you can use it around your family, why would you ever use cigarettes again?" Mitchell asked.
Grand Events Utah plans to host Vapor Fest annually, depending on the festival's inaugural success.
Contact reporter Ben Lockhart at 801-625-4221 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Lockhart.
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