Mississippi is ranked sixth for tobacco use and second for smoking-related cancer deaths. Vaporized owner Tanner Scaggs aims to decrease that number.
Scaggs, owner of the largest vape shop in Mississippi, came to Oxford several years ago as a jazz musician and now works to help Oxford residents stop smoking.
Walking in the doors of Vaporized, one notices Scagg’s artistic and musical interests. Walls are covered in art from the Oxford community, and music plays. The business helps people stop smoking, and it is an art resource. Vaporized once hosted The Wall concert venue.
Scaggs, a Dallas native, attended the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg majoring in jazz studies. He was a musician before opening his own vape shop.
His family moved to Oxford for its great school district because of his son. He eventually opened the vape shop after struggling to make money as a musician.
In college, Scaggs managed a vape shop and fell in love with “helping people to get off something (smoking) that has been a part of their lives for 30, 40 or 50 years.”
Scaggs is a former smoker who believes vaping is a “necessary evil for many.” He thinks “smoking is one of the worst things to happen to man,” and his goal is to help anyone who wants to end their addiction.
According to the Center for Disease Control, in Mississippi, 22.7 percent of adults ages 18 and over – over 493,000 individuals – are current cigarette smokers. Mississippi’s smoking-attributable mortality rate ranks 48th among the states.
Scaggs wants to decrease those numbers. He believes smoking is a horrible addiction. For years, the public has known the dangers of smoking, and some measures have been taken, but now there are smoking alternatives. Scaggs views vaping as a solution.
“I’ve seen many people – parents, grandparents, and children – many who have been smoking for years, drop their habit with the help of vaping,” Scaggs said.
Maggie Turnall, 43, was a Vaporized customer who is on the path to quitting cigarettes. “Vaporized is my favorite vape shop in town,” she said. “The guys have really helped out, and they’re really informative.”
Turnall, who has been smoking since high school, said she’s finally quitting. “It’s been two months since I’ve touched a cigarette,” she said.
Scaggs said owning and operating a small business can be challenging. Although his business keeps him away from his family more than he would like, he loves his job.
The back corner of Vaporized has a stage that once featured The Wall concert venue. Vaporized hosted more than 75 shows in their current location, but Scaggs recently discontinued hosting concerts after receiving a cease and desist order due to noise complaints.
This marked and end of around 100 people who often gathered for The Wall. The store hosted many Mississippi artists and others who earned 100 percent of the earnings from their shows.
Scaggs said he’s not sure where he will be in five years. “Hopefully still in Oxford, because we have such a great spot now,” he said. “Every year, it gets better. It gets easier. It’s a lot of fun, but sometimes it’s hard.”
He is also unsure about the future of vaping. New Federal Drug Administration regulations threaten the businesses of many like Scaggs, but he supports them. “Anyone who runs a shop is lying if they say they don’t think this stuff should be regulated, and it always has been in a way.”
According to the FDA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently finalized a rule that enables it to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, and hookah and pipe tobacco.
“Before this final rule, these products could be sold without any review of their ingredients, how they were made, and their potential dangers,” Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said on the FDA website. “Under this new rule, we’re taking steps to protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco products, ensure these tobacco products have health warnings, and restrict sales to minors.”
You can read more about those regulations here.
Vaping is a relatively new industry. “I know that at the end of every day, I get to know that I helped someone to quit smoking that day,” he said. “I go home excited every single day. At the end of the day, I know that I’m helping people. I don’t know what the future of vaping is, but I’m happy to be able to help people right now.”