Lincolnton residents may be swapping out their packs of tobacco cigarettes for an alternative, thanks to a new downtown business.
Vape Envy, located at 107 Court Square, opened its doors on Saturday. The business, owned by Cherryville resident Mario Greene, specializes in the sales of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers, offering potential customers the chances to sample various e-juice flavors.
While cigarette users refer to the activity as smoking, the use of e-cigarettes and vaporizers is commonly referred to as “vaping.”
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do — to open my own business,” Greene said. “I had been looking for several years to open something…and the idea just sort of dawned on me one day. I thought, ‘What am I really passionate about? What are the things I enjoy?’ And I thought, ‘Well, I really enjoy vaping,’ so then I started looking into opening a vaping business.”
While Greene has enjoyed vaping for almost three years now, it was only six months ago that he experienced this epiphany and began moving forward with transforming his hobby into a business.
“Originally, I looked into opening a store in Gastonia, Shelby or Lincolnton,” he explained. “After researching, I found out that Gastonia already has four stores that currently sell e-cigarettes and vaporizers. So then, it was a toss-up between Shelby and Lincolnton.”
Ultimately, Greene felt there was more of a need in Lincolnton.
“There are no vape shops here, and while there is a store on Main Street that sells e-cigarettes, it’s more of a head shop,” he said. “There’s definitely a need for educating and teaching the public here the proper way to vape and to remove the stigma that vaping equates to smoking tobacco or marijuana.”
According to the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, there are three main ingredients in e-juice: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and artificial commercial-grade food flavoring.
“Propylene glycol is a food additive that is commonly used in many different products,” Greene explained. “It has a lower freeze point than water, so it’s used in a great many different types of applications…it has been deemed non-toxic and completely safe. There has been no evidence or history of it being dangerous or toxic in any way.”
He explained that the vegetable glycerin, which is also a food additive, is used in tooth paste and several other food products as a preservative.
While some e-juices have a small amount of alcohol, Greene has opted not to purchase any flavors containing alcohol. E-juice products are also offered with or without nicotine.
“You can get e-juice with or without nicotine, and you get them from different ranges, from zero, which is no nicotine at all, to 18 milligrams of nicotine,” he said.
According to Greene, 18 milligrams is about the amount of nicotine ingested by someone who smokes a pack of traditional cigarettes a day.
“So, if you’re trying to quit smoking and are smoking a pack a day, you would probably get a starter kit with 18 milligrams of nicotine and then taper it down as you go,” he said.
He said that for the occasional smoker, a lower level of nicotine could be utilized when vaping.
For Greene, vaping has helped him eliminate traditional smoking from his life.
“I started smoking when I was 15 years old, and I’m 43 (now),” he said. “And I smoked about a pack a day since I was 15 years old. Before that, I tried to quit with patches, with pills, cold turkey, and I could never do it. Vaping is the only thing that has helped me quit smoking. It helped me, and I want to help others.”
Vaping is also popular in assisting with curbing cravings.
“Some people like to get non-nicotine (e-juice), because another added side to vaping is that because it comes with so many different flavors — dessert flavors, fruity flavors — that a lot of people like to use it to curb their sweet tooth,” he said. “It can be very helpful in dieting, because you get the flavor of a banana pudding or cheesecake, but because you’re not actually eating it, you’re not getting the calories. It gives them that flavor and satisfies them.
“The cheapest starter kit that I carry runs about $15, which is roughly the equivalent of three packs of cigarettes,” he said. “With the starter kit, you get a battery, which gives you the power. You have your atomizer, which is what heats up the liquid and causes the vapor, and you have a charger for the battery.
“They’re very simple to fill, and they’re easy to carry with you,” Greene said. “You can put in your purse, your pocket, or you can purchase a case for it.”
Customers who purchase a starter kit also receive a free vial of e-juice. Vape Envy offers a diverse range of e-juice flavors, from the more traditional tobacco and menthol flavorings to sweet and fruity selections, such as Cotton Candy, Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Cheesecake.
For the more experienced vapors, Greene sells equipment pieces, such as the tank, battery, atomizer and charger, for users to make more advanced mechanical modifications.
“You sort of piece them together, and a lot of people piece them together and create their own custom look,” he said. “There’s a huge subculture for vaping, where people customize their own tanks. For people who are really into it, it’s a hobby.”
While the typical consumer ranges between 20-40 years of age, Greene has witnessed a need for the product among older age groups.
“I think there’s a need for it for people who are over 40,” he said. “I’ve had a few customers come in and buy starter kits for their parents, grandparents and other family members — for people who have smoked their entire life, and they want them to get into vaping.”
With the popularity of e-cigarettes and vaporizers continuing to rise, both states and the federal government have begun to realize the necessity in regulating the up-and-coming industry.
“Basically, there’s no hard-set rules for vaping yet,” Greene said. “The government is looking into it, and I’m sure that they will pass something at some point. I know in North Carolina, they’re going to start taxing e-juice starting in January. But, as far as where you can or can’t vape, right now, it’s up to individual places to allow it or disallow it. Some restaurants and bars allow it; some don’t.”
The rule of thumb Greene lives by, and advises potential customers to live by, is to extend the same courtesies a cigarette smoker should extend, such as asking permission to vape in another person’s vehicle, home, business or restaurant.
“Until the government passes regulation, it is up to individuals to police themselves with vaping etiquette,” he said. “And because vaping is still new, the rules have not been set in stone in regards to age restrictions.”
Despite the less-than-clear age regulations on purchasing vaporizers and e-juice, Vape Envy will not sell any products to anyone under the age of 18, regardless of whether the e-juice purchased contains nicotine.
“Everyone knows someone who smokes, needs to quit smoking or who has died of smoking,” Greene said. “Vaping is a healthy alternative to smoking. It’s healthier for your body, for the environment and for the people around you.”
For more information about Vape Envy, visit www.VapeEnvy.net or call (704) 735-4900.