The back room of The Vape Escape, which sells electronic cigarettes, looks like a chemist’s lab.
There, father-son duo Roy and Robert Long draw from vials of flavorings and, using precise recipes, mix them with nicotine and glycerol to suit each customer’s taste.
E-cigarettes are an increasingly popular alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes. They resemble battery-operated cigarettes; instead of burning tobacco, they heat up a liquid and churn out an aerosol in lieu of smoke to be inhaled, or “vaped.”
“It is one of the few alternatives that give the feel of a cigarette without the tobacco,” said Roy Long of Cary.
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A relatively new industry, e-cigarettes were developed in China and introduced in the United States seven years ago. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed adding e-cigarettes to its list of federally regulated tobacco products.
Roy Long was introduced to vaping by his son, Robert. Robert recently moved from Michigan to launch The Vape Escape in Cary with his father. The business opened in June and has seen a steady flow of customers.
The Longs say their customers range from those seeking to kick the tobacco habit to hobbyists looking to add to their collections. It is illegal to sell to anyone under 18.
Roy Long admits that nicotine is addictive, but he says “people should weigh what is more harmful. This is a safer delivery system.”
Customers decide how much nicotine to add to the e-liquid and can reduce it over time.
The vapor from an e-cigarette evaporates quickly and does not leave a lingering scent.
“I never understood why a woman would put on two-hundred-dollar perfume and then totally obliterate the smell with tobacco smoke,” Roy Long said.
Robert Long says the company is not marketing e-cigarettes as a quit-smoking device.
“It’s about getting nicotine at whatever level you want,” he said. “It’s a cleaner alternative to tobacco.”
The hand-to-mouth motion required to smoke is a sensation some people want to continue without using tobacco, he said.
The Vape Escape offers an array of kits and devices, and 87 flavors.
“It gives a variety instead of tobacco flavor,” Robert Long said.
Vanilla custard and strawberry-banana are top sellers. A do-it-yourself station allows customers to mix their own liquids.
Roy Long said vaping can be cheaper than tobacco cigarettes.
“Even with the initial investment, it’s cheaper in the long run,” he said. “Probably in the neighborhood of half the cost.”
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