Local restaurateur Dimitris Agrafiotis, a vaping advocate who has started a nonprofit to educate people about the benefits of e-cigarettes, said that businesses might benefit if employees switched from traditional cigarettes to the electronic version.
"If people are getting off cigarettes and not getting cancer, [they are] not going to be overloading the health system," he said.
But not all local company leaders are convinced.
Agrafiotis conceded that e-cigs aren't 100 percent healthy. He just thinks they are healthier than traditional cigarettes, although that is up for debate. Click here to read more about that debate.
Vaping is a term for the use of e-cigarettes. It identifies the vapor that emits from the e-cigarettes.
And he also said that the e-cigarette business can have a positive effect on the economy.
According to Bloomberg, global e-cigarette sales may reach $7.5 billion next year, compared to $3.5 billion last year.
And six e-cigarette companies spent $59 million in 2013 to market their products, also according to Bloomberg. That's double what they spent the year before.
By Agrafiotis' count, there are more than 140 vapor shops in Tennessee and close to a dozen local stores.
For example, Ben Connally opened a vapor shop on Vine Street last year, and some local tobacco shops have started selling e-cigarettes.
Agrafiotis said that if each shop in the state has six or seven employees, that adds up to nearly 1,000 jobs. The shops also bring in tax revenues, he said.
Although there may be some positive business benefits, some local companies aren't ready to embrace e-cigarette use as part of their corporate culture or health plans.
Some area restaurants, such as Portofino's (which Agrafiotis owns) and Pickle Barrel, allow e-cigarette use.
But other area businesses have prohibited the use of e-cigarettes. Some consider them equivalent to tobacco products. Others just aren't sure about the products.
Although some local advocates said there is no tobacco in the products, the nicotine burned in an e-cigarette may be extracted from a tobacco plant, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Spokesman for EPB John Pless said via email:
There is still plenty of debate as to whether e-cigarettes are safe alternatives to traditional cigarettes for smokers and people who may come into contact with the secondhand smoke, or vapor. Until research proves e-cigarettes are a safe alternative for smokers and people around them, we’re not comfortable with allowing their use [in] our buildings.
Volkswagen spokesman Scott Wilson said via email:
Our campus is tobacco product-free, and that applies to e-cigarettes as well. The policy's intention relates to health, not delivery system. Nicotine is an addictive substance, and health is at the heart of our policy.
Spokeswoman for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Mary Danielson said:
We’ve had a tobacco-free policy in place since we moved into our new headquarters back in 2009. We recently updated that policy to include e-cigarettes.
In addition, BCBST leaders sent information to employees that explained the e-cigarette ban.
In part, the company's explanation said, "There is simply not enough research to determine whether e-cigarette products are safe or can even help smokers quit. BlueCross is exercising caution by banning the use of e-cigarettes on company premises."
Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series on e-cigarette use.