— Gums and patches weren’t working for Paula Glover.
The Kokomo resident kept trying to cut back on her more than 30-year smoking habit, but nothing worked.
Then she visited Vapor Place LLC, downtown Kokomo’s newest business.
A month after smoking electronic cigarettes, Glover said, she is starting to feel better and save money.
Government health and consumer agencies have questioned the health effects of electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, and whether they are healthier than traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Glover, who has become a regular at Vapor Place, testifies that she has seen positive effects since her switch.
“I was spending $240 a month,” she said. “Spending that kind of money is not something you feel good about. This is working. This has relieved so much of the anxiety of quitting smoking.”
Vapor Place is the first electronic cigarette store for the City of Firsts, as well as the first brick-and-mortar vendor for the store’s supplier, Green Smoke.
There were enough traditional smoke shops in Kokomo, so Vapor Place owner Rachael Polk decided to ditch the smoke and switch to steam.
The store opened in February at the northwest corner of Sycamore and Buckeye streets.
Polk decided to open the business after returning home from college.
Polk, a 2009 graduate of Western High School, left the University of Tennessee, where she majored in finance. While there, to the dismay of her family, she said, she picked up smoking as a habit.
Once she returned to Howard County, her father, Roger Polk, turned her to electronic cigarettes.
Through Internet research, they came across the brand Green Smoke, which ranks at the top of several consumer ratings reports.
Government agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, continue to scrutinize the health effects that electronic cigarettes have, both through first- and second-hand smoke. The alternative to traditional cigarettes, also known as analog cigarettes, provides nicotine fixes that smokers can legally use in restaurants, offices and other public places.
Instead of smoke, batteries plug into cartridges with vapor, flavoring and nicotine. An electrical current pushes steam through the other ingredients.
“This is something which people are picking up and putting into their lungs,” said Kevin Davis, a spokesman for Green Smoke. “It’s most important to us that this is a quality product.”
After smoking Green Smoke e-cigarettes, Polk decided she wanted to sell them.
“I was ordering them online, and I thought, ‘Why don’t they just have a place where they can go in and buy them right there,’” she said.
Polk received a $15,000 low-interest loan from the city of Kokomo’s Emerging Business Revolving Loan Fund, said Paul Allor, a development specialist for the city. Roger Polk received a $145,000 RLF loan from the city in 2009 for the manufacturing company he runs, Electronic Support Services Inc.
Davis said Vapor Place was the first brick-and-mortar Green Smoke supplier he knew of in the U.S.
Part of the appeal of a tangible building versus an online store was the ability to lower prices by not having shipping costs, Rachael Polk said.
Green Smoke’s starter kits sell at Vapor Place for $99, which is about $40 less than most Internet vendors.
Cartridge kits — electronic cigarettes’ equivalent to cartons of regular cigarettes — sell for $12.50.
Customers can sample from one of seven flavors, each offered at five nicotine levels that range from 0 milligrams to 24 milligrams of the substance.
Having a choice of flavors — while drawing criticism from e-cigarette opponents who say it appeals to minors — has made it difficult for Polk to switch back to traditional cigarettes.
“I haven’t had a pack of cigarettes for months now,” she said. “It tastes horrible. I got a stomach ache when I tried one.”
• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached
at 765-454-8570 or at daniel.human@kokomo