Vaping offers alternative to smoking

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John Sperber gets much satisfaction from helping customers such as Andrea Bednar (right) reduce or eliminate their cigarette-smoking habits.

John Sperber gets much satisfaction from helping customers such as Andrea Bednar (right) reduce or eliminate their cigarette-smoking habits.

Andrea Bednar started smoking because her husband smoked.

Now pregnant and tired of the cigarette stench, Bednar and her husband Luke sought an alternative — vaping.

“The biggest turnoff about cigarettes for me was the smell,” Bednar said. “My husband smoked, and I couldn’t quit if he didn’t quit. I can’t be around it.

“I was able to find a solution that felt like smoking, but it tastes better. And you don’t stink.”

Vaping is like smoking, only without the tobacco, said John Sperber, who owns RAD Vapor with his wife Sarah at 333 N. Tejon St. in downtown Colorado Springs.

A form of electronic cigarettes, vaping involves an electric battery that heats a wick, which is immersed in a flavored liquid. The entire pipe consists of three components: a vessel holding the flavored liquid and wick, the battery and the mouthpiece.

The person vaping inhales from the pipe. Like cigarette smoking, the person exhales a cloud. But unlike cigarettes, the cloud is vapor, not cigarette smoke.

Sperber has around 45 flavors to try, and at RAD Vapor, customers get to try a flavor before they buy the liquid, he said. Flavors include cotton candy, pastry, dessert, Boston creme pie, pumpkin pie, frozen lime drop, mint chocolate, vanilla, tobacco and more.

“It’s delicious,” Bednar said.

The liquid is comprised of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin as primary ingredients, Sperber said. Those ingredients are augmented with flavor and nicotine.

While they’re not inhaling tobacco, they do inhale varying degrees of nicotine. Some vapor flavors have no nicotine, while others have nicotine in strengths of 6, 12, 18 and 24 milligrams.

A heavy smoker can start vaping in the 24-milligram range while cutting down on smoking, while a pack-a-day smoker can vape at 18 mg., Sperber said.

An ex-smoker, Sperber quit the habit long before opening his store.

“I love vaping. I love the flavors. I love the clouds,” Sperber said. “Instead of getting back on [nicotine], I vape zero, but I can relate to my customers.”

A basic starter vaping kit can cost about the same as a carton of cigarettes, Sperber said. Between $40 and $45 will “get you absolutely started and on your way.” He can also sell kits in the $100 range and more, but, he adds, “I’m not going to oversell you. I want you to have a good experience so you won’t go back to cigarettes.”

Location matters

Sperber intentionally located his business between downtown and the Colorado College campus.

“I certainly had the CC students in mind, and I really love the vibe of downtown,” Sperber said. He considered opening his lounge closer to the bars, but no storefront was available.

The joy of being in the vaping business is the ability to help people who want to quit smoking, he said.

“I already have, on this corner, five success stories of people who have transformed from cigarettes to vaping,” Sperber said. He cited a hair stylist next door who had smoked two packs a day.

“He’s been vaping for two weeks, and now he’s down to a pack a day,” Sperber said. “What a charge I get. I wanted to help people quit smoking.

“If I can deliver their nicotine alternatively, I want to be part of it,” he said.

“People get hung up about the clouds and things of that nature you can’t do anything about. Except I tell them it’s better than the alternative.”

Critics exist

Vaping critics “still think of this as tobacco,” Sperber said. However, he added that in fact it’s an alternative with no tobacco, no chemicals , no tar, no ash from the burning.

The answer to whether it is better than the alternative remains elusive, according to the Bloomberg.com website.

“Small studies that have been done so far hint at both pros and cons; one found that smokers cut back on real cigarettes after trying the electric kind, while another found particles of metal and silicates in e-cigarette vapor that could cause breathing problems,” the website said.

According to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom website nhs.uk, “The place of vaping in helping to reduce smoking is controversial, with a lack of reliable research on the devices because of their recent emergence.”

According to copd.about.com, “e-cigarettes may contain ingredients that are known to be toxic to humans, and may contain other ingredients that may not be safe.” Also, the about.com site states manufacturers are not required to list ingredients and they are not reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration.

Teens and smoking

The RAD Vapor store and website are off-limits to persons age 17 and younger, and the store will “absolutely not” sell to a minor, Sperber said.

Still, he said, “If a whole generation is vaping, it’s better.”

He said it’s the nature of teens to stretch limits set on them by adults.

“Every day, they’re going to get into things. That’s what happens with teenagers,” Sperber said. “I understand. When I was a teenager, we tried stuff and everybody smoked.”

As for vaping, he said, “If it’s not a positive experience for them, they’re going to reach for the cigarettes.”

RAD Vapor

Website: radvaporcolorado.com

Contact info: 434-1816

333 N. Tejon St., Suite D

Years in business: Start-up

Number of employees: 3