Will Minn. tobacco tax help e-cigs catch fire?

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In a week, Minnesota smokers will see their habit get more expensive, as a cigarette tax goes into effect, raising the cost by $1.60 a pack.

While some may go cold turkey, others likely will make the switch to the electronic cigarette.

Minnesota Public Radio reports that Twin Cities shop owners are seeing an increase in demand for e-cigarettes, and some attribute it directly to the new smoke tax.

MPR talks to Sina War, proprietor of the Uptown Vapor Shoppe in south Minneapolis that opened two months ago. She's already opened a second location in Maplewood.

"It's not just replacing cigarettes," War tells the station of e-cigarettes. "It becomes more of a hobby because you can really customize your experience when using electronic cigarettes."

WCCO-TV reports on a smoke shop in Oakdale that is seeing triple the business for e-cigs.

Is it safe? Is it even better than the real thing? Well, it's cheaper, anyway.

The TV station talks to an actual smoker, Dan Trudeau, who says he smoked regular cigarettes for 15 years, spending $12 a day on his two-pack-a-day habit. Now he spends $12 a month on e-cigarettes.

There's controversy about the product, of course, with some worrying that kids will be lured by the vapor of candy and chocolate flavors. The FDA is wondering how to regulate them. And health officials warn that e-cigs are not aides in quitting smoking.

For now, though, there's clearly a burgeoning market. MPR notes that Angie Griffith, who co-owns Smokeless Smoking, helped start the operation in 2009 at a mall kiosk in Burnsville. It's now opened four outlets, including a Bloomington location six months ago.

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