by Kalie Ammons
Rachael Polk, owner and creator of Vapor Place, has a story that many people can relate to.
“I went to college and became a smoker, and my parents weren’t very happy,” Polk said.
After coming home from her freshmen year of college smoking, Polk’s parents were determined to help her quit. Polk explained e-cigarettes to her father.
“My dad started looking into it and researched all the different brands because he wanted to make sure he got me the number one,” Polk said. “And that was by far Green Smoke, and it still is, which is why we sell the product.”
Green Smoke produces electronic cigarettes that consist of a flavored cartridge called a cartomizer, a battery and a cigarette-like stem that lights up and releases a vapor when in use.
The e-cigs don’t contain the tar or carbon monoxide found in traditional cigarettes. There is also no harsh smell or smoker’s breath.
However, Polk had some issues with trying to find the right flavor and nicotine level.
“I smoked menthol and he got me a tobacco flavor, and then it was too strong or not strong enough, so we kept having to buy it off the internet without getting to try it or figure out what we really liked,” Polk said. “I wondered, ‘why isn’t there a place where people can come in and try it out so they don’t have to buy blind off the Internet.”
Polk’s father advised her to look into the business. And, at just 20-years-old, Polk did just that.
“I went into the City of Kokomo and got a revolving loan fund and then one of the banks matches it,” Polk explained. “I got a storefront in downtown Kokomo and I opened up on what seemed like the coldest day in 2011 in February.”
Six months later, Polk opened her second store in Kokomo and has just now made her way to Wabash.
Something unique about Vapor Place is its trade-in policy. After testing a Green Smoke e-cig, if you decide it’s better than your current e-cig, you can trade it in to get a discount on your purchase.
However, even those who smoke regular cigarettes have the opportunity to save money.
“We figured out a pack a day smoker would save about $1,500 in nine months by switching,” said Polk. “One cartridge is good for about a pack and a half to two packs, and there are five cartridges in one pack.”
The decrease in negative health effects is also noticeable to users. Polk said she’s had several customers come in and thank her, saying the product changed their lives.
“I had one person, they smoked two to three packs a day, and they were able to completely switch to e-cigs, and they said they’d be out of breath just getting in and out of the shower,” Polk said. “Now they can walk up and down the stairs without being out of breath and they have more energy.”
There is also no worry of second-hand smoke with e-cigs and can be used inside most places.
“It’s up to the establishment, of course,” Polk said. “I know Chuck E. Cheese wouldn’t be an appropriate place, but people use them in movie theaters or at the grocery store all the time.”
The flavored cartridges contain water vapor and nicotine, along with the flavoring. Consumers inhale the nicotine and exhale the water vapor.
When it comes to rumors of negative effects of e-cigs, Polk is very honest about.
“I think that it’s something you would want to talk to your doctor about, just to check,” she said. “We’ve got cardiologists in Kokomo that actually recommend the product to their patients when they can’t smoke cigarettes before they go to surgery.”
E-cigs are alternatives to cigarettes that can be used like a regular cigarette or an aid to help quit altogether.
“The idea is we have different levels of nicotine ranging from zero nicotine, where’s there’s none, all the way up to 24, which is a high level,” Polk explained. “18 is like a full flavored cigarette, but the idea is just to kind of find a level that you’re comfortable with and taper down until you get down to just the vapor…then it’s more of just the hand to mouth motion and seeing the vapor.”
The Wabash store is managed and run by Andrea Kaiser and Angie Sturgill-Honeycutt. As soon as the doors open, the ladies are waiting to find you a seat and have you test some products.
“We really just want to make everyone comfortable and find out what product best fits them,” said Kaiser, the Wabash manager.