Vape City, on Cherokee Street near the intersection of Jiles Road, opened for business on Oct. 30, right in the heat of council discussions over a proposed citywide smoking ban, said co-owner Todd Sherman.
Councilwoman Cris Welsh brought the idea to the council in October, and proposed the council consider banning smoking in all forms — cigars, cigarettes, pipes and even e-cigarettes — across the city, including in parks, street corners, bars, playgrounds and places of employment.
Council members and city residents were hesitant to jump on board with the plan, and many saw it as government overreach that could infringe upon residents’ private-property rights.
“I’m not a big government kind of guy,” Councilman Tim Killingsworth said at the time.
His fellow councilmen, Bruce Jenkins, Matt Riedemann and Jeff Duckett, have all said they would not support a total ban on smoking.
Since discussions began in October, Welsh has backed off the proposal for an outright ban.
She said she has determined it is not something the community is ready to support.
Welsh said she would be going “back to the drawing board” with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s health and wellness committee to re-draft a proposal.
She hopes to bring the council and mayor a draft ordinance that would ban smoking in all of the city’s parks, including its parking lots, at the city’s next work session on Nov. 27, she said. But the new ordinance would not attempt to ban any smoking on private property.
The amendment to the city’s ban on smoking is good news for his business, Sherman said, although he doesn’t sell filtered cigarettes.
Sherman, 42, owns the shop with Josh Pierce, 28, and Ian Aros, 38. The three sell electronic, hand-held vaporizers, which burn liquid nicotine and flavorings to allow people to smoke without inhaling the added ingredients that come in traditional cigarettes, Sherman said.
This method of smoking, Sherman said, has helped more than 75 people, including himself, quit smoking cigarettes since his shop opened up.
Smokers can still get their nicotine, he said, but not have to step outside for a smoke or bother people with toxic second-hand smoke.
“We don’t stink, we have more money, we feel better, we have a lot more energy, a sense of taste, a sense of smell,” said Sherman, who used to smoke close to two packs a day.
He and his fellow business owners began “vaping” six months ago, and haven’t looked back to cigarettes since, he said.
The thick metal, pen-sized devices, the vaporizers, cost between $30 to $300, Sherman said. Batteries run between $30 and $219, and the tank for the liquid nicotine can cost anywhere from $7 to $45, he added.
Flavors for the devices last longer than regular cigarettes, Sherman said, and can last the average person about a week.
Sherman sells 41 flavors for $7 each that smokers can choose from to inhale, including chocolate rum cake, popcorn, lemon and peach. The flavors are positioned in racks along the walls, and customers can switch out flavors at any time, depending on their mood, Sherman added.
But it’s not just longtime smokers looking to kick the habit who buy e-cigarettes.
Critics allege that e-cigarettes and their multi-flavored options only encourage young people to take up smoking.
In 2012, approximately 160,000 middle and high schools reported using e-cigarettes who had never used traditional cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Kennesaw resident Michele Benedetto stopped by Vape City on a recent afternoon to pick up a refill for her husband. While she doesn’t smoke, her husband has for 40 years, and quit as soon as he tried the vaporizer at the beginning of November, she said.
“I’m so super excited. He is not coughing as much,” she said, adding that the lingering smell of maple syrup is much better than the stale ashtray smell his cigarettes left on him.
Kevin Erisman, a 34-year-old Kennesaw resident, began smoking at 17. He said he used to smoke about two packs of cigarettes a day until he discovered Sherman’s products.
“There was no reason to keep smoking cigarettes,” he said, and now he “can’t stand the smell of cigarettes.”
Regardless of policy
Despite conversations on banning smoking, the city of Kennesaw has been supportive during his business start-up, and council members have listened to his needs, Sherman said.
While technically on the outskirts of the city limit, Vape City’s customers would have been affected by a ban on electronic smoking devices. Sherman is happy the council is moving away from a complete ban, and excited to see his business grow, he said.
Welsh plans to attend the shop’s official opening party Dec. 7, she said.
Sherman said he did extensive research on where to place his shop, and determined that Kennesaw needed vaporizers.
“It was needed here,” he said.
He sells to Kennesaw State University students and professors, truck drivers and city residents, and hopes to someday soon employ eight to 10 people to run the front desk and assist customers.