The e-cigarette industry is expected to reach $1 billion within the next few years, far surpassing its current estimated $300 million in retail revenue, according to Wells Fargo's Tobacco Talk research.
With Marlboro's maker Altria also launching its first electronic cigarette in August, the industry is growing — not just nationwide, but especially in Oklahoma.
OKC Vapes owners Stephanie and John Durst estimate at least 40 retail locations operate in Oklahoma, a vast difference compared to other states that typically have just two or three of these stores, John Durst said.
The Dursts said they're seeing electronic cigarette retailers, or “vape shops,” popping up all over the city.
“You look at our business and see how well we do, a lot of people right now are trying to get in on that,” Stephanie Durst said.
In addition to retail stores growing in the city, there's also the Oklahoma Vapers Club, which gathers once a month as a community of store owners and users. People get enthusiastic about switching to the devices and attending conventions, the owners said.
The electronic cigarette business has also spawned other service businesses, like Community Bar and Vape Lounge, positioned as a place for vape users to go for a refill when the regular shops are closed.
Co-owner King Keely also noticed a boom in similar businesses around the metro, but isn't worried about the competition.
“The proliferation is also making everyone have to come down on price,” he said.
Community imports their juice in from a mixologist and friend in California, where Keely says the vaping trend is much more prominent.
Perhaps the No. 1 draw for smokers is the ability to choose, according to John Durst. Electronic cigarette users can choose from not only a range of flavors — from spearmint to butterscotch — but also a range in nicotine levels.