Maine has been banned smoking tobacco products at restaurants and many other public places for years, but a new smoke-free alternative linked to the rise of e-cigarettes has now ignited a small but growing group of new businesses all over the state. These hand-held devices called personal vaporizers use a heating element called and atomizer to heat up a nicotine based solution with a lithium-ion battery to create the sensation of smoking but without the tobacco.
The wide range of flavors, from mojito inspired to coffee to the delicious desserts, enables a new type of entrepreneurs to set up shop. Like Baskin-Robbins’ umpteen flavors, there is something for everyone’s taste buds and state of the art vaporizers to test or buy.
One such establishment is ‘Old Port Vape Shop’ owned by Alex Russak and John Kreis has opened at the beginning of June. ‘We are not burning any tobacco,’ Kreis said, while exhaling from his futuristic personal vaporizer a mild strawberry vapor that barely counted as smoke.
The vibrant manager scene in Maine has just gained another business platform that is a mixture of both technology and biochemistry, paired with the never-ending human craving for new sensations. A typical supply of e-juice can cost anywhere from $9 to $27 for a 15 to 30-milliliters tank at establishments like this one and the demand is very high. ‘It’s significantly cheaper than smoking,’ said Russak, adding that a pack-a-day user could get by on these e-liquid bottles for up to three weeks.
On the other hand, vaporizer starter kits begin at $40 at Old Port Vape Shop, while a high-end device made of stainless steel and copper can go for as high as $200. Add a battery, charger and a rebuildable atomizer tank to go with the device, and these nicotine delivery systems can run close to $400. But, even though the high price tag, a recent study discovered that the sales of ordinary cig-a-like models has dropped significantly while vaper’s attention went to more advanced gizmos like Advanced Personal Vaporizers or Mechanical Mods.
White Cloud Vapor in Saco and Old Port Vape Shop in Portland are the newest businesses appealing to those who vape. They offer samples for customers to try before they buy, but these locations are not cigar bars, where lingering is encouraged. ‘It’s a retail store,’ said Kreis, who offers e-liquid without nicotine to give consumers an idea of the 50-plus flavors he sells. In Saco, customers can sample, purchase and vape in a lounge-like atmosphere.
Kreis, a South Portland resident, discovered e-cigarettes through a friend who worked in the industry. At first, he was skeptical. ‘I thought, what the heck is that? It looks like something from ‘Men in Black’ where you put the sunglasses on and you get vaporized. Or it’s the memory erasure?’ he remembers.
‘No carcinogens, no tar, no buildup in your lungs. It is just producing a water vapor. It appears far, far healthier than combustible tobacco,’ added Kreis, who quit smoking tobacco cigarettes about 20 years ago. ‘Over the years, I gradually was enjoying three to five cigars a week.’