SPRING HILL — Steve Fingerman smoked for nearly 23 years.
"I tried the patch, about everything there was, to quit," said the 42-year-old businessman. "I stumbled on e-cigarettes, high end. I found out it worked."
Thus the E-Vape Co., a sample-and-buy emporium that Fingerman opened Tuesday with partner Tom Homan, 52, a pack-a-day guy who now counts himself a nonsmoker, too.
Tucked at the end of the small Mariano Plaza on Spring Hill Drive, the "full-service retail e-cigarette vapor shop" touts its product line as an effective alternative to traditional cigarettes and helping others to give up an unhealthy, smelly habit.
When Fingerman talks of "high end" electronic cigarettes, he doesn't mean those one-size-fits-all, one-flavor, use-and-throw-out substitutes sold at gas stations or convenience stores.
Rather, the standard unit of the latest generation of e-cigarettes contains an atomizer, or tank, a charger and a battery. The tank holds a flavored liquid — nicotine optional. The battery delivers a pulse to the charger, which transforms a drop of the liquid into vapor, which is inhaled by the user.
There's no fire, no smoke, no odor, Homan declared.
The unit is slightly larger and heavier than a high-end ball-point pen. The user must depress a small button to activate a "puff."
An e-cigarette will prompt a change in habits, from smoking a cigarette to its end to taking a puff or two and laying down the unit, Fingerman said.
Adding liquid nicotine to a flavored fluid is an option, he noted, and may be done in various measurements. Someone who wants to quit traditional cigarettes might select a high concentration to start, then blend downward as the demand diminishes.
A main attraction is the variety of e-liquids offered, currently 21, personally developed by Fingerman and Homan. They include Lovely Latte, with a coffee flavor; Honey Dew, with a taste of melon; Into the Dragon, carrying a hint of dragon fruit; and Monte Cristo Bold, referencing the famous cigar.
Soon to come are 35 more flavors that can be blended to a customer's whim. Homan is training three employees as "mixologists," who will advise and blend at a customer's behest.
Sampling is encouraged, with a sanitary-wrapped mouthpiece offered each customer.
A standard starter kit with delivery unit and one vial of e-liquid sells for $19.95. Additional e-liquid vials are $5.99.
Homan figures a heavy smoker aiming to transfer over a reasonable period wholly to e-vapor can do so for about $75, roughly the cost of a carton of name-brand cigarettes. All products are manufactured at registered laboratories according to international safety standards.
Fingerman acknowledges that there are questions about whether e-vapor indulgence is harmful or addictive. But, he maintains, "compared to smoking, it's a far healthier alternative." He pointed out that users can chose e-vapor liquids without nicotine.
"The problem of anyone who's not been a smoker becoming addicted (to the new technology) is very low, comparatively," he said.
He also noted that the E-Vape shop will not sell to minors.
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]