‘Vaping’ comes to Riverhead, with two new stores

Employees Sam Leibowitz and Phil Brito inside Real Vapor, Riverhead's first e-cigarette store, on Route 58
Employees Sam Leibowitz and Phil Brito inside Real Vapor, Riverhead’s first e-cigarette store, on Route 58, with some of the flavored liquids they sell

Flavors include chocolate raspberry cheesecake, warm cinnamon apple pie, roasted marshmallows, peanut butter and caramel and even pancakes.

You probably think we’re talking about a bakery or maybe an ice cream shop, right?

Actually, we’re talking about an electronic cigarette store.

Those are just some of the liquid flavors available at Real Vapor, which became Riverhead’s first e-cigarette store when it opened last Thursday in the County Seat Professional Complex on Route 58, next to State Farm Insurance.

Electronic cigarettes give off a vapor, rather than the smoke that comes from real cigarettes, and thus replaces “smoking” with “vaping.”

The vaping industry is a relatively new one and scientists are debating whether they are a healthy alternative to cigarettes. Locally, Suffolk County has passed regulations to regulate the new product.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a report in April saying that e-cigarette use had tripled among middle and high schoolers nationwide from 2013 to 2014. The e-cigarettes containing nicotine, an addictive drug found in cigarettes, are still dangerous and addictive, the report stated.

Real Vapor now has three locations, the other two being in Center Moriches and Ronkonkoma, and all of them have opened within the past six or seven months, as vaping becomes more popular — particularly with younger crowds, experts say.

Real Vapor will soon have competition locally as well, as a second vape store, called Vape Pro, is planning to open on 48 West Main St. in about a week, according to Tony Turkset, one of the owners of that business.

Phil Brito, the manager of the Riverhead Real Vapor store, said he started vaping about four years ago and took it up as a way to quit cigarettes, which he says he did within six months of taking up vaping.

He says vaping is “95 percent healthier than cigarettes.”

“When I smoked, I was having breathing problems and I was wheezing all the time,” Mr. Brito said.

He says he also no longer uses vape flavors that have nicotine, having gradually weaned himself off the nicotine by gradually reducing the amount in his e-cigs.  The flavored liquids that are used in vaping come with varying amounts of nicotine, including none at all.

There actually are tobacco-flavored vape liquids, as well — which Mr. Brito doesn’t recommend.

“We only have about three tobacco flavors here because, the way I see it and the way other people see it, if you have the tobacco flavor, you’re going to crave a real cigarette,” he said. “That’s why it took me six months to get off cigarettes. Because I was vaping tobacco flavors. When I finally switched to the fruity flavors and the dessert flavors, I stopped craving cigarettes.”

The tobacco flavor is not actually tobacco but rather, vegetable glycerine, he said.

Nick Callister, who will be the general manager of the Riverhead Vape Pro, said he also saw his health improve when he stopped smoking and started vaping.

“I’ve had to be on blood pressure medicine since I was 16. I’m now 27. As soon as I stopped actually smoking and went to vaping, my blood pressure went back to normal in about three weeks.”

The electronic cigarettes come with a battery, which often looks like a pen but comes in varying sizes, as well as a “tank,” where the liquid is stored, and the liquids themselves, which come in many flavors and have names like “Man bites Dog” and “Burnt Elephant Shag.”

While most of his business is geared toward getting people to stop smoking cigarettes, another portion is geared toward the “hobby aspect” of vaping, which includes various accessories, designs and flavors, Mr. Brito said.

But don’t go looking to vape just anyplace.

County law says e-cigarettes are not permitted anywhere that regular cigarettes are not permitted.