LINCOLNTON, N.C. -- A recent study by the state health department shows 19.5 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes compared to 16.9 statewide and 11.7 nationwide.

Mario Greene has owned Vape Envy in Lincoln County for almost four years. He is one of two vape store owners in the small town of Lincolnton, but he says the clientele is growing.

“People are looking for an alternative to smoking,” he said. “It smells better, it doesn't get in your clothes, it doesn't affect your lungs, you can still run, jog, that you can't do when you're smoking.”

What's also growing is the number of youth smoking e-cigarettes in this part of the state.

“I think its more of a cool factor, its kinda the 'in' thing. A lot of the younger kids are already smoking or dipping, and they're looking for an alternative as well.”

The numbers of teens smoking as increased up by almost five percent in the last year, despite the law being 18 years old to buy a vape.

Greene says parents use it as an alternative.

“Actually I do have parents that buy them for their kids,” he said. “What they will do is they will say 'I don't mind you vaping, but it has to be no nicotine.' They're just doing it for the flavor. They'd rather them do that than smoking cigarettes or dipping.”

But with a vape in their hands, youth can easily access a tobacco filled juice. Something Green says he discourages.

“if you've never smoked, don't start,” he said. “Be a leader not a follower, and I'm saying that as a business owner.”

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