Users report 75 percent savings from smoking.
By Paula Christine Schuler
Friendly conversation floated around the tobacco-free lounge. Display cases showed sleek devices in regular, cigar and pipe styles. Nine customers — all but one former smokers — made for good weekday business midmorning Sept. 27 at Thanks for Vaping, 7303 San Pedro Ave.
Human resources sophomore Mary Cole of this college said she used to spend $240 a month. Today, she spends about a tenth of that since switching to vaping, or inhaling vapor from an electronic cigarette.
Cole, manager of Thanks for Vaping, said she had asthma so severe her husband had to wake her at night for breathing treatments. “My left lung collapsed a few years ago, but I still kept smoking,” she said.
Cole was able to quit smoking tobacco one year ago. She said she rarely uses an inhaler now.
Customer Sue Seesholtz tried flavors while she and a family member talked with other customers.
She reported her doctor was thrilled with her improvements since switching to vaping about a year ago. Her doctor was so pleased with her chest X-ray, he told her husband to supply whatever vaping paraphernalia she wanted.
“I am more productive at work,” she said she eliminated smoke breaks. She stays at her desk, takes a few “puffs” of an e-cigarette and gets back to work.
Owner Randy Sterling said 90 percent of his customers are successful at quitting tobacco. “I know because they come back,” Sterling said.
He said some smokers come in wanting an alternative to tobacco in restaurants, the office or other public places. Sterling calls this “cigarettiquette,” consideration of nonsmokers.
Sterling said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the e-cigarette chemicals, or juice, for use in food. The juice generally uses two substances, vegetable or propylene glycol. Food grade glycerin is used in making candy because of its consistency, sweetness and ability to keep candy soft by pulling moisture from the air, but it also is used in cosmetics, lotions and personal care products.
Vegetable glycerin that is not food-grade specifically includes regular vegetable glycerin and glycerin USP, the kind used by pharmacists for compounding medication formulas. Online chat forums show that e-cigarette users are experimenting with various kinds of glycerin.
Propylene glycol also is widely used and found in food and personal care products because of its moisturizing qualities. Health advocates decry it, after stating propylene glycol “is antifreeze.”
CVS pharmacist Prachi Patel said lung cells change structure to respond to toxic substances and tar in cigarettes. Despite the changes, she said, “They feel better, but they never get that (lung) function back.”
Patel said vaping is probably safer than smoking because of the lack of tar and chemicals in tobacco, but people should still quit vaping, too.
Cole said there is an initial startup cost for a kit of $55-$85. Tiny vials of fluid, about the size of an eye dropper, can contain no nicotine up to as much as 36 milligrams of nicotine. The 30-milliliter vials are available in dozens of flavors priced at $14-$22 each. Cole said each vial is equal to 20-30 packs of tobacco cigarettes.
Customers lingered at a flavor bar, sampling dozens: pineapple, cinnamon, Red Bull, chocolate, varieties of coffee, fruits, and even flavors that taste like tobacco to duplicate the smoking experience.
Sterling said it is common for a customer to come in with questions, leave with the device, then return with a friend or two or three.
Seesholtz returned with Sharie Seesholtz, who was looking for a flavor like Marlboro 100 or Virginia Slims. Sharie Seesholtz said she had not quit tobacco completely and nicotine patches leave welts that scar her arm, so she was trying to replace all the physicality of smoking, such as having something in her hand or mouth. She said she intends to quit the stinky smoke completely with the help of an e-cigarette.
Open since March, Sterling’s shop has added a “take-a-number” dispenser, allowing customers to move about, relax, try flavors and make friends while they wait for service.
Sterling said vaping allows the user to control nicotine levels and then to gradually wean themselves from it.
In this way, they can still have the cigarette-like tool in their hands while they focus on withdrawing from nicotine specifically. After they are weaned off nicotine, they can continue to vape with nicotine-free liquids.
If they want to go another step further in habit reformation, they can reduce the physical habit of using the electronic cigarette.
All but one of the customers that day reported success quitting tobacco and satisfaction with vaping.
Cole said she has noticed that using e-cigarettes to quit smoking is a more supported and social experience than trying to just quit with a patch or pill or willpower.
She said people will respond to a person quitting tobacco using those tools as, “Cool, good luck with that.”
Recounting his own experience trying to quit tobacco, Sterling said nicotine patches hurt his arm, so he tried vaping.
“My dentist wants to pass my card out because it doesn’t yellow my teeth,” Sterling said. “My doctor vapes.”
Smokers: tobacco users
Smoking: inhaling from a tobacco cigarette
Vapers: people who vape
Vaping: inhaling vapors from an e-cigarette