ADDISON – Nick Panos has been smoking since he’s been old enough to legally buy cigarettes, but for the past 25 days, he’s been cigarette-free.
“I smoked for six years,” said Panos, part-owner of Buddha Vape Inc. in Addison. “I never thought I would quit ever.”
Buddha Vape, which opened Dec. 23, sells vaping equipment and electronic cigarettes. When 23-year-old Panos and his coworkers tried replacing smoking with vaping, he was skeptical.
It didn’t take long for the former smoker to change his tune. Before he knew it, he was one of seven business partners opening the vaping product store.
“We all switched and that’s what gave us the idea to open up this new company,” said Panos, who lives in Glen Ellyn.
After the group of smokers-turned-vapers realized there weren’t many places nearby to buy flavored juice for the refillable e-cigarettes they were using, the group of entrepreneurs decided to open Buddha Vape next door to their existing businesses.
“It’s really difficult to see if there’s actually money in it because it’s really new,” Panos admitted, but he said he’s still confident in the industry.
He has experienced firsthand how a smoker might switch to electronic cigarettes. He said many hookah fans like vaping with flavored solution that contains no nicotine.
“If people are big into hookahing they like to switch because it has no tobacco,” Panos said.
The flavored juice sold at Buddha Vape contains four main ingredients, while a lit cigarette produces thousands of chemicals, Panos said. The liquid sold at Buddha Vape contains the flavor, vegetable glycerin that produces the thick vapor, propylene glycol that creates a hard throat hit similar to smoking and nicotine. Juices are also available without nicotine.
“The most important thing is people don’t know what it is,” Panos said.
He said that refillable e-cigarettes are a much higher quality and operate differently than the cheaper versions sold at many gas stations and convenience stores.
Panos thinks the price difference is worth the quality products he sells, and they’re still cheaper than cigarettes in most cases.
The store sells electronic cigarettes that range from $20 on the low end to $120 on the high end with a variety of options. Juice is sold in three sizes. Panos said the average vaper uses about a milliliter of juice each day. A 15 milliliter bottle of flavored juice is sold for $8, 30 milliliters for $15 or 50 milliliters for $25.
“We have way more of a selection than anyone else,” Panos said.
The store carries 40 different flavors as of now, which can all be combined to create custom flavors. Panos said some more unusual flavors include absinthe and horchata.
Panos already has plans to expand the store by moving into a larger suite in the same building and adding a vaping lounge. It would be similar to hookah lounge where customers could relax on couches or chairs and try out different flavors.
“Everyone in my life that smokes has switched,” Panos said.