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Jason Clark

Jason Clark with some of the 225 liquids and flavors he uses to create solutions for vaporizing in electronic cigarettes.

Nicotine-based fluid used in electronic cigarettes will be mixed in a downtown Mauston business.

But unless someone goes in the back room of Smokes on State II, no one will probably ever notice, said Jason Clark, the store’s owner.

After hearing mixed public opinion at a previous meeting, the Mauston Plan Commission decided to accept Clark’s request for a conditional use permit for the store at 333 State St., Mauston. Clark said he’s aware some people in Mauston have objected to his store since it opened earlier this year.

The cigarettes vaporize a form of nicotine that is mixed with other chemicals such as propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. Clark already uses his Madison store to make the fluid used in electronic cigarettes. The fluid mixed in the back room of the Mauston store will be sold at wholesale to other e-cigarette retailers.

Clark’s proposal was opposed by some Mauston residents to whom e-cigarettes were uncomfortably close to conventional tobacco products, which are not to be sold to minors. Smokes on State already sells e-cigarettes and fluid, but minors can’t buy them in the store because minors are not allowed inside. But the proximity of the store to St. Patrick’s School, one block away, worried some people.

That didn’t prevent the plan commission from approving Clark’s application. “Vaping,” as it’s called, has become an increasingly popular alternative to smoking. In most cases, the consumption of nicotine-based fluid though e-cigarettes is smoke free, and can be allowed in places where smoking is disallowed.

Clark feels he and Claude “Asher” McClennahan, his partner in the endeavor, need to move quickly to start the operation because the e-cigarette business has an uncertain future. E-cigarettes, which do not use tobacco leaf or powder, are currently unregulated. Where those devices resemble other method of consuming tobacco is in using nicotine, tobacco’s most prominent active ingredient. However, since nicotine is a part of the typical e-cigarette mix, there’s talk of regulating the devices as if they used tobacco in the more familiar method such as smoking, chewing or dipping.

The Food and Drug Administration already has begun considering expanding tobacco-like regulations to e-cigarettes. When or if that will occur is unknown. The administration has started accepting comments on the proposal, but even the length of that comment period is uncertain. No one can be sure if a decision will be made this year, or what form that decision will take.

In the meantime, Clark is free to start his manufacturing operation, subject to some self-imposed limits.

“What we’re trying to do is to get lab-grade certification, and when the FDA comes out with regulations, we’ll be compliant,” Clark said.