Over the past couple of weeks I’ve talked to our newest, and largest, contributor, Wendy Bivona (owner and operator of Premium eCigs, a brick and mortar store and online website in Melbourne Florida) about the current state of the eCig industry. Below are some of the highlights of our extensive discussions.
Over the coming weeks Wendy will tackle these, and other, issues in her section of Spinfuel. Wendy will also bring new video tutorials, columns, opinion pieces and more to our readers. Make sure to stop by her landing page and let her know what you think. Wendy has also set up her own Q&A page where anyone can come by and post a question about vaping, eCigs, tank systems, and so on, and Wendy will answer each one. Her expertise in the world of electronic cigarettes makes her one of the most influential, and sought after, people today. Spinfuel is proud to have her here to help all new comers and veterans alike get the most out of their vaping experience.
SPINFUEL: How long have you been selling eCigarettes and supplies?
WENDY: I started the business in 2008. It began with selling eCigs to friends and family. I decided one day to sit in the Flea Market for a day and see what happens. I sold four starter kits that day and decided this was what I would do. I went on the set up a booth and that’s how it begun.
SPINFUEL: How long have you been vaping?
WENDY: I was a smoker and someone said to me, why don’t you try these electronic cigarettes. So I did and that was July 2008. I liked it.
SPINFUEL: Do you have any favorites?
WENDY: Since I have a store, and I sell a large variety, I generally have to test them all out. I like the eLips and I smoke the flavor Green Mint from DeKang.
SPINFUEL: What is your typical customer like? (Walk Ins, not online)
WENDY: My regular customers are those who have walked into my store and tried out the eCigarette. We do allow everyone to try them out before buying. I have a lot of word of mouth business. Doctors, therapists, and even hypnotists send me customers. I also cater to a large volume of Canadians and tourists. These folks come to Florida for the winter.
SPINFUEL: What was it that got you into the retail end of vaping?
WENDY: It was very early in the industry and I saw the potential of making some money and helping people quit smoking, although I do not sell it that way. It is sold as an alternative. I was a member of the now defunct Electronic Cigarette Association when the ex-congressman headed it up. I followed all the rules as the FDA at that time was confiscating incoming shipments. (I’ve lost a few).
SPINFUEL: You are considered an expert on the whole vaping phenomenon; just how safe do you think it all is?
WENDY: Generally I think the art of vaping is safer. Comparing it to a real cigarette, how can it not be? I am very concerned about the companies that make their own liquids, and modifications on the battery. The batteries are not made to be modified, so it is risky to play with them in that way.
SPINFUEL: Do you mix or blend your own unique flavors for your customers? (Like a high-end coffee bean seller?)
WENDY: Absolutely NOT. Liquids are manufactured in a bacteria free, sterile plant that is monitored by several Quality Control companies. The liquid does not hit the air until you open the bottle. When customers tell me they buy from someone who mixes and makes their own flavors, I always ask them “So where do they mix the flavors, in their bathroom?”
It’s like cooking at home and trying to sell the food in a restaurant. This is against the law and the Board of Health would jump all over you. But since the industry is not overseen by any government agency, it is free to do anything. This could be its downfall, if someone gets deathly ill. See how fast congress begins regulating this.
SPINFUEL: Where do you think the whole eCig industry is headed?
WENDY: It is hard to tell at this point, but I do know the FDA will not stand idle long. (Neither will the government if they can tax it) They are currently trying to make it illegal to import this device without a tobacco import license. The problem is that the device itself does not have to contain nicotine, so barring an all out ban on the electronic cigarette itself, it’s here to stay, in my opinion. It’s what we are vaping that becomes the issue. It will be years before we see any long-term effects, good or bad.
SPINFUEL: Why does there seem to be such a wide disparity in battery quality among various brands? Aren’t eCig batteries all the same, on the inside?
WENDY: China has the worldwide patent on eCigarettes. There are thousands of manufacturers in China. There are also “Traders” who pose as manufacturers but simply buy from them and resell them. The larger the manufacturer the better the product. I do believe that the tubes and electronics are purchased separately and each company puts them together. Some are sloppier than others. Also, the big companies laser in their logo, so they know which batteries are theirs.
SPINFUEL: What should people look for in a vaping system?
WENDY: To be honest, it’s all according to how the person is going to use the ecig. I would opt for personalized service, of course, as that is what my store is all about. You can buy an ecig just about everywhere these days. But to work with an expert and learn the ins and outs of your product is the best. We service everything we sell, and if a customer gets a bad product, we change it out, no questions asked. (Well we do ask some) as there are several reasons why an ecig battery falls, that can be prevented. The same is true with atomizers. We sell 3 piece units so the atomizer, which is the workhorse of the eCig, needs attending to.
SPINFUEL: Many people quit smoking and pick up vaping. Do they then go on to quit all types of “smoking” or do they stay with vaping?
WENDY: People vape for several reasons. Most try to use it to quit. Some are successful and continue to vape nicotine free. Others continue to vape at high levels. I say most are tobacco free but really enjoy the ECigs. If they quit entirely I would not know it, because they would have no need to return to store. Happy Vaporers have many eCig varieties.
SPINFUEL: How does the usual customer find their way to buying and using e-juice when they probably started with a 3-piece or 2-piece “brand” system?
WENDY: If they come into the store we teach them. Some visit online forums and read about it.
SPINFUEL: What is the biggest benefit to using e-juice over buying cartomizers?
WENDY: Cost savings first and foremost and more variety of flavors in liquid form.
SPINFUEL: Can you tell us a little about the various e-juice brands you sell?
WENDY: I sell DeKang and Johnson Creek. Some of my kits use other manufacturers. There are others that I know of. DeKang, Ruyan and Meiyi and all have slightly different tastes.
SPINFUEL: That’s interesting. You can tell our readers how a branded eCig company develops their own unique flavors? Or are they unique at all? Do customers ever come to you and ask for e-liquid that tastes like “X/Y/Z” companies?
WENDY: I often get request for DeKang. They are the most familiar Most do not know about other companies.
SPINFUEL: Is there a particular flavor that seems to sell the best in your store and your online store? Are they different?
WENDY: My online store is merely a convenience for customers who are not in town all year. My biggest sellers are Johnson Creek Tennessee Cured and USA Mix from DeKang. Johnson Creek is much different than the imported liquids. It is a bit thicker and has a rich taste.
SPINFUEL: Which e-liquids produce the most vapor?
WENDY: It is the device that plays the major part of making vapor. The higher percentage of PG or VG in the liquid will also impact the amount of Vapor. We sell Aqueous Glycerin to add to liquid to increase Vapor and Decrease Nicotine. USP Glycerin can be purchased in most pharmacies but it is thicker and is sold as skin care. I personally am not comfortable inhaling a skin care product. LOL
SPINFUEL: What is the difference between PG and VG based e-liquids? Is one safer over the other, produce more or less vapor, etc.
WENDY: Both produce the same amount if vapor. VG is easier on the throat. Some people have a reaction to PG. PG can irritate the respiratory system
SPINFUEL: What is it in e-liquid formulas that cause the elusive “throat hit”? Is it simply the amount of nicotine?
WENDY: No it’s the device that draws a larger amount of vapor.
SPINFUEL: Speaking of nicotine, if a regular smoker smokes a normal cigarette, say Winston Red, and another person vapes, say, 15 puffs of his or her eCig filled with an e-liquid containing 18% nicotine… which one would inhale more nicotine, generally speaking of course?
WENDY: I don’t have the answer to that. We really don’t know how much nicotine is in a cigarette. Trade Secret. LOL But I do know that liquid nicotine when vaped takes a bit more time to feel as compared to a cigarette. Estimates were between 7 to 10 seconds longer. The chemicals in a cigarette help the body feel the nicotine faster
SPINFUEL: Recently one of the largest eCig brands was purchased by one of the largest of the Big Tobacco companies. Is this the beginning of the big “absorption” of eCig companies by Big Tobacco?
WENDY: I really don’t know that answer. It depends on the market I would guess. My question is why would a Tobacco company acquire a known eCig company when they can brand their own with a very well known name like Newport ECigs?
SPINFUEL: That’s an excellent question. Why wouldn’t Lorillard choose to market one of their brands as an eCig? Hmm… Why should people consider switching to filling their own cartomizers?
WENDY: They are cheaper and why throw away an atomizer that still works because your cart is dry. On the other hand, cartomizer users like the convenience of just throwing them away.
SPINFUEL: Can you tell us a little about how it’s done, and any tricks of the trade to make it a successful procedure for noobs?
WENDY: You can fill from the top or if it comes with a rubber cup you can fill the cup and push the screw end and let the cart suck up the liquid. You must let cart sit before using. I’ll have some videos up on my l Landing Page that will demonstrate various ways to refill cartomziers, and much more.
SPINFUEL: About China. Are you completely comfortable with eCigs being made in China?
WENDY: Yes. But I wish the US could also produce them. JC (Johnson Creek) claims to have a new VGO in production. I personally think that this is being manufactured to specs by China under close Supervision of JC.
SPINFUEL: Are ANY eCig manufactured anywhere else?
WENDY: Not that I know of. China holds the International patent I have ordered eCigs from the manufacturers that make the BIG US Company’s eCigs.
SPINFUEL: Do you know if there have ever been any issues with Chinese made e-juice or batteries?
WENDY: A Chinese e-liquid producer was shut down from the Chinese government for using plasticizing agents (whatever that is)? This company was shut down for 3 months last year. So there is some oversight. 2 Months ago a shipment of batteries caught fire. UPS stopped taking eCigs for a short time over this. It could be a defective battery that was screwed tightly to the atomizer that just stayed on. (My opinion of course)
SPINFUEL: Is the Chinese Government monitoring the eCig industry in China?
WENDY: Some aspects may be, but I’m not sure just how monitored they are. The Chinese Government sometimes bans shipping of liquids and eCigarettes during Holiday and High security days. It bans and confiscates their own products. I can’t figure that out, but I have had my liquids confiscated by Chinese Government. (Go Figure)
SPINFUEL: Do American companies have employees in China, who watch for Quality Control?
WENDY: I do know that the larger US companies do go to China manufacturers to view production. I have not heard of any oversight by US companies. And besides, they really wouldn’t have any control, except for threatening to move business elsewhere.
And there you have it. Wendy has come aboard Spinfuel Magazine as a major contributor this week. You can check out her landing page here on Spinfuel.
Wendy will broaden her answers to most of these questions, and more, over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!