Walking into the new vape shop on Elmwood, 180 Smoke Vape Store, isn’t exactly like walking into your typical vape store. It feels more like walking into an Apple store with its sleek countertops, matching mod stools, and glass cases full of vaping accessories. Behind the counter is a huge array of what I guess you’d have to call craft vape juice. The company makes its own juice and almost strictly sells that. The proprietor of the new store on Elmwood is Joel Rudewicz, who is sitting at a desk near the back of the store when I come in to meet him. He’s working on a syllabus for a couple of classes he’s teaching at ECC on the history of technology and American history. His background is in history—he’s got a master’s degree in history from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom—but he fell into the world of vaping while living in Toronto. Rudewicz is from Buffalo, but eventually made his way to Toronto, where he began working with the company in 2015. Earlier this year he moved back to Buffalo and opened 180 Vape Store on Elmwood Avenue.
The company was founded in 2012 by a small group of people from Toronto, including a heart surgeon, Dr. Gopal Bhatnagar.
“It first started as a way to get into an emerging market, but also, Dr. Gopal for many years saw a lot of patients with heart problems and found out a good way to make a little money and bring people into a new technology that seemed to provide harm reduction for them,” says Rudewicz.
Last summer, the FDA announced a new plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation. Part of the goal of the new plan is both to regulate and encourage the development of “innovative tobacco products that may be less dangerous than cigarettes.” The FDA says the key to their approach to curbing tobacco use is to make the public aware that tobacco is “most harmful when delivered through smoke particles in combustible cigarettes.”
In this sense, the FDA agrees that any form of nicotine ingestion that does not involve actual smoke particles is safer, and obviously this is where vaping comes in.
After being away from Buffalo for several years, Rudewicz saw opportunity in a city that seemed like it was making a comeback.
“I wanted to move back to Buffalo and I saw that Buffalo was doing better, stabilizing, if you will. I don’t know if it’s booming but it’s not doing as bad as it had been for decades. I viewed this as a great opportunity. Buffalo is coming back. There’s more foot traffic, more investment,” says Rudewicz.
180 Smoke Vape Store is one of the biggest vape companies in Canada, with more than a dozen stores, and they manufacture their own e-liquid. Rudewicz helped develop some of the companies manufacturing processes while working in Toronto.
“We manufacture our own e-liquid so we can say with responsibility what’s in it and that all the ingredients are high in quality,” says Rudewicz.
His store is the first store that the company has opened in the United States. Technically his job title is head of US operations, says Rudewicz. “And if we ever have any more operations it might be a more significant position, but right now it’s just this one store,” he says smiling.
In the future the company hopes to expand not only in Buffalo but across the country. They hope to start manufacturing their e-liquid in the United States, perhaps in Buffalo.
Rudewicz’s focus is mostly on helping cigarette smokers make the switch over to vaping. Below he’s provided a few tips for making the switch.
Picking the right device
A lot of people come in and look at these devices and it confuses the hell out of them, and they don’t know how they work or what to do with them. We try to find them a device which not only fits their budget but fits their hand, fits their pocket, and fits their lifestyle. The device is important because you want something that will last you the entire day. If you get too small a device, your battery is going to keep dying over and over, you’re going to be refilling it over and over, and people get frustrated so they just smoke a cigarette. If we find them the right device, they won’t ever get frustrated. If we teach them how it’s used, how to fill it, how to keep it in good mechanical order, then they don’t have troubles.
Picking the right flavor
Just as important as which device you get is the type of flavor. There is no tobacco involved with any e-liquid manufacturing. The e-liquid isn’t derived from tobacco, so we have flavors that we call tobacco but there is no tobacco in it. It’s not like just buying a pack of Camels, you have to find something that really clicks with you. Are you going to get sick of vaping cotton candy all day? Do you want something that tastes like cigarettes? Sometimes people don’t, they just want to get away from it altogether.
Know how it works
The devices all have the same basic components: They consist of a battery, which powers the device, a tank, which holds the liquid, and then inside there is something called a coil—a metal coil wrapped in cotton which heats up and aerosols the liquid. There’s no chemical change of the liquid, unlike cigarettes where there is combustion and chemical changes. Although nicotine alone is super addictive, to your body it’s not much more harmful than caffeine would be.
Know what’s in your liquid
Our liquid is a very straight forward liquid. It contains propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. Those are the same things they use in smoke machines at rock concerts, the same thing that’s in a nebulizer for an asthma patient. That’s the visual vapor you’re seeing and those are known to be very inert. There’s also food flavoring, just like you’d put in any sort of food. We use natural flavorings and when we can, organic. And nicotine if you want it in there.
Find your nicotine level
All of these liquids come in many different nicotine levels from 0 to 18 milligrams. This allows people to switch to vaping and find a level that’s good for them in a strength. The nicotine translates to the amount of what they call throat hit that you get, but it also allows people who, if they want to eventually kick the habit of nicotine to cut their nicotine down slowly after a while. Vaping is lumped in with smoking but really they’re night and day. You’re breathing something in and exhaling it out but that’s where the similarity ends. The nicotine is there too, sure, but you don’t need nicotine if you don’t want it.