Green Smart Living e-cigarette
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My friend Smokee Wilson ain’t so smoky anymore. She recently started “vaping,” as she calls it — getting her nicotine fix by way of an electronic cigarette. I’ve got some family members who smoke, so I thought I’d look into it.

Christine Gentry, chief of operations for Vapure in Mission Valley (888-261-0026; vapure.com) gave me an introduction to the product. “Electronic cigarettes produce vapor instead of smoke. There is no secondhand smoke and, overall, it’s more cost-effective. Plus, you get 4000 fewer chemicals than you do in cigarettes. An electronic cigarette is essentially a battery connected to an atomizer. The battery heats the liquid in the atomizer, and that creates a vapor. The vapor is what is inhaled. Our two most basic kits are sold under our own brand, the Ego-C [$64.95] and the Ego-S [$79.95]. The C is for a lighter smoker, someone who doesn’t smoke several packs a day or who doesn’t require a strong sensation. The S gives a stronger sensation — in industry lingo, it’s called a ‘throat hit.’ You actually feel the vapor in your throat, more like a strong cigarette. And the vapor itself is a little bit hotter.”

Both kits come with “two complete electronic cigarettes, a USB charger, a wall charger, and a user manual. You want two units so that you’re never caught without a charged battery — that’s the worst. And if you purchase it in our store, we’ll give you enough e-liquid to last as long as ten packs of cigarettes.”

Vapure also sells mods (modified electronic cigarettes). “Mods used to be something created by an individual. They would use an Altoid tin or a soda can, and they’d hook a battery up to it. The setup allowed them to change the voltage, make it super strong. We never recommend doing that because it’s dangerous. But now, ‘mod’ just means an electronic cigarette that is larger than what you usually see that also has variable voltage. The higher the voltage you get, the stronger the vapor and the stronger the sensation without having to up your nicotine level.”

Nicotine is delivered via the e-liquid. “We have a lab in South County where we produce the e-liquid. The main components are vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, food-grade flavoring, and pharmaceutical-grade nicotine. We sell over 120 flavors — our top five are the dry-blend tobacco, snickerdoodle, strawberry-mango freeze menthol, and manic melon. One milliliter is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes, and we sell in three sizes: 5 ml, $3.95; 10 ml, $6.95; and 30 ml, $16.95. Each flavor can be purchased with 0 milligrams of nicotine, 11 milligrams, or 24 milligrams.”

Gentry explained that, unlike other companies, Vapure doesn’t mix water with its e-liquid. “Water reduces the vapor and dilutes the product. Also, there are fewer regulations on overseas manufacturers, and they will sometimes add a dangerous chemical called diacytal. We’re extremely strict on the production end; if a flavor contains diacytal, we won’t use it.”

Finally, she suggested that prospective customers visit establishments that let customers try different models. “We’ll try to tailor the product to the user, get them the sensation they’re looking for. You can try out our hardware and our e-liquids with no obligation to buy at any of our four locations around San Diego.”

Mike Touma at the Smoking Section smoke shop in Mira Mesa (858-549-7777; sandiego-smokeshop.com) said, “People really like electronic cigarettes. You don’t light them up; you just push a button. The vapor looks like smoke, but it’s not smoke. You inhale your nicotine, but there’s no tar and no smell. We sell Vapure, which is the best product, but we also sell cardomizers [$20 starter kit from Green Smart Living]. Those give you a prefilled cartridge that you screw on. They look more like traditional cigarettes, and they’re cheaper and easier to use, but you don’t get nearly as much vapor as you do with e-liquid.”

John at Ciggy’s on the Beach in Pacific Beach (858-272-4554) told me that his best selling e-liquid was “strawberry mint [$5 for 10 ml or $9 for 20 ml], and the most popular model is the V-Max [$90]. It takes two lithium ion batteries, and it comes with a refillable atomizer. It will last you a lifetime and give you triple the hit of a regular e-cigarette.”

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