A man walks in through the front glass door of the Long Island Vapor Emporium in Franklin Square, N.Y. –soon to be named Square Vape –, which is one of the newer vapor shops that have popped up on Long Island. He’s wearing blue jeans that appear beaten and battered by the atmosphere in which he works and a t-shirt with a design that resembles a red Chinese lion. A silver chain that goes down to a silver cross is around his neck.
Standing a mere five-foot-five, Anthony Napolitano isn’t tall by any imagination, but his chest pushes forward like that of a British bulldog.
He lifts a four-inch tall, rectangular copper-colored metallic device with a plastic tip to his mouth, closes eyes and inhales.
As he exhales, the white smoke-like vapor flows out of his mouth and up into the air. “You know what that is? That’s vapor. It’s not smoke, it’s just vapor,” Napolitano says.
Napolitano is the owner of the shop and he sells vaporizers. He also owns a construction business.
Vaping has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a way to quit smoking, but this is not stopping people from turning to vaporizers as an alternative method to the patch and gum.
The glass cabinets in the front of Napolitano’s store house items with colors that fill the spectrum. Pink drip tips, purple flasks, chrome bodies and blue batteries.
Atomizer, cartomizer, mod and vaporizer are a few of the terms people hear when they walk into the shop. The jargon will confuse newbies. Not to worry, there are starter kits for people who are beginning to dabble in the world of vapor, and a staff that can help guide them down the path.
There’s a dry erase board on the wall with flavors that would make adults drool with thoughts of childhood. Cotton candy, candy apple and apple spice. Next to the board is a rack of small bottles, that holds the flavored fluids, or what some people call e-fluid.
Black couches line the walls of the long and narrow lounge/shop, each one sectioning off an area for friends to congregate and vape. Almost like booths in a restaurant, two couches face a table and on top of the table is a stand where people can rest their vaporizers.
Napolitano explains the name of his shop, “If you take the first letter of each word, you get LIVE. That’s what we want people do…stop smoking and live.”
At the age of 13, Napolitano started smoking cigarettes, and he continued for about 10 years. He stopped smoking cigarettes for a couple of years, but then he decided to try cigars one time while he was on vacation, to help him feel relaxed. He continued smoking cigars for about 10 more years, and says that they weren’t that bad.
About five years ago, Napolitano went through a stressful period in his life. There was a day, during this period that he went up to his secretary and asked her for a cigarette. “I went ahead and tried the cigarette, and didn’t really like it. But the next day, I went back and tried it again and was hooked.” At that moment, Napolitano was hooked for another four years.
“I was smoking just as much as I was the first 10 years.”
After about four years of smoking, Napolitano could not breathe, and would huff and puff at the top of stair cases, and realized that he had to stop.
Napolitano says that tried nicotine gum and patches, but none of those devices actually helped him quit smoking. One day his friend showed him an electronic device that looked like a cigarette. The device allowed Napolitano to add flavored fluids that made him want to get away from smoking. He was sold on the concept and decided to go into the e-cigarette business.
Napolitano opened the Long Island Vapor Emporium 6 months ago, along with a friend. After a number of head-to-head confrontations, Napolitano decided to buy his partner out.
“I think that he was jealous of me or something. I was learning how to create all of these different vapor fluids and experimented with them, while he just wanted to buy the juice from third party vendors.”
Napolitano makes his own vapor fluid in the back of his store. One day he hopes to be able to get a customer base that is based on his fluid, not just the devices he sells.
“The thing is, when you go to a deli, you expect to get the same thing as Joe Schmo’s deli down the street. But once you go to a deli that has something different, you find yourself going to that deli more often.”
Tim Schuellein works at the Long Island Vapor Emporium.
Out of Schuellein’s mouth comes a billow of mocha-scented vapor.
Wearing a green shirt and jeans, he’s a heavy set man who sits in the back corner of the shop making electronic coils from scratch, on this slow day.
He blows out again and explains how he hasn’t smoked cigarettes since committing himself to vaping.
Schuellein explains how the smell would be all over his clothes and hands, and how it would turn people away from him quickly. When he found vaping, he found a way to get away from the smell and grab his health back.
There is a white, full size coffin by his work area. Schuellein says, “Eventually we want to make an oversized cigarette looking tube that we can put inside with a fog machine. Then, we’ll put the coffin in front of the store, with a sign that says something along the lines of, “Stop smoking and L.I.V.E.”.”
James Lloyd, the Field Marketing Manager at Sartorius in Bohemia, N.Y., sits on a box in the warehouse and takes a drag off of his black rectangular-shaped vaporizer with a clear tank on top of it.
As the vapor flows out of his mouth, it goes up into the air and leaves a scent that smells like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
Lloyd began experimenting with cigarettes when he was 16-years old, and then picked up the habit full time as soon as he graduated from high school. The habit lasted for a little more than 15 years.
With a cost of about $70, his vaporizer –the iTaste MVP 2.0 equipped with an Aspire Nautilus tank –was something that Lloyd felt would help him commit to vaping. “This is something that I purchased after vaping for about two months,” Lloyd says. “I wanted to make sure that it was something that
I would stick with and would be a good transition away from smoking cigarettes.”
The flavors have come under scrutiny because they come in flavors that children would like, but Lloyd feels that these flavors help adults break away from their habit of smoking cigarettes.
“I think that a big part of the e-cigarette market is the smoker trying to transition away from cigarettes so that they can eventually quit,” Lloyd says.
“When I chose to give vaping a chance, I didn’t want a tobacco flavor because that was what I was trying to get away from.” Lloyd continues by saying, “I find it a great alternative to them saying, “Try to stop smoking, but this is going to taste like a cigarette.” How is that going to help me transition away from cigarettes?”
Lloyd says if you want to quit smoking, you should give vaping a try. “From my own experience when I quit smoking, I was able to stay on the treadmill longer –while running –without gasping for air. It also helped with some of my sinus issues and I don’t use my inhaler anymore. So for me, it helped and everything cleared up.”
But, vaping hasn’t just helped Lloyd quit smoking. It’s also helped his father quit as well.
“My father, who’s 69 years old, smoked his last cigarette on his birthday this year, and now he’s vaping. He likes the tobacco flavor.”
Many people oppose the use of e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, including Kathleen Valerio.
Valerio is a health educator at Stony Brook University’s Center for Prevention and Outreach, and she helps people overcome their addiction to substances, including cigarettes.
As an ex-smoker, Valerio tried to quit smoking at least 10 times before having success. Valerio knows that breaking the habit of smoking is one of the most difficult challenges, from a personal and health educational point of view.
“It’s one of the more difficult things that a person can do, or has to do, in order to maintain lifelong health,” Valerio says. “People that are quitting, fail. It’s not that they are setting themselves up for failure, but very few quit after committing and quitting cold turkey. What astonishes me as a health educator is that people believe this bologna that is out there that these e-cigarettes are not harmful because they are vapor.”
Hookahs are used to smoke a sweet tobacco mixture. When smoked, the water inside of the hookah supposedly cleans the smoke of any toxins. Making a comparison between hookahs and vaporizers, Valerio feels that e-cigarettes are just another way for companies to take one’s money.
“I, in no way, shape or form endorse e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking.”
According to Valerio, there are methods that are made available to Stony Brook students that will help people overcome their addiction to cigarettes. The Center for Prevention and Outreach offers patches and gum to help students to break the habit. If the students need more help, Valerio recommends that the students plug into one of their support groups.
“That’s a legitimate way to stop. A legitimate way is to stop. Not spend more money on a product that will affect the health of those around them,” says Valerio.
Napolitano takes an opposite view. He plans to eventually start a program in his shop that will help people break their habit of smoking.
E-Vapor typically comes with five different strengths of nicotine. According to Napolitano, the program he would like to offer would wean smokers from whatever level of nicotine they want to start at, and take them down to a nicotine level of zero.
“Patches and gum did not work for me. They didn’t satisfy the habit of pulling a device up to my mouth, inhaling and blowing out the smoke. Instead of trying those methods, give me three months, where I can take you down through the different levels of nicotine, and I’ll try to get you to quit smoking, just like those other devices.”