From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 3
By Kirt Ramirez
Bill Blowitz of Los Altos started smoking at a young age and has tried different things over the years to help him quit.
Nicotine patches, gums and the like, just didn’t work for him. After experimenting with different products over time, he came across electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigarettes.”
Blowitz replaced puffing on tobacco roll-ups with sucking on flavored vapor. He liked the idea so much that he wrote up a business plan and opened his own store – Smokeless Success – which is becoming a success of its own.
His entrepreneurial spirit may come from his father, John Blowitz, the successful former publisher of Gazette Newspapers, who sold the business at a hefty profit nine years ago.
“I saw a need for it,” said Blowitz, 42, who operates with a partner, Dan Gilboa, also of Long Beach. “I saw an opportunity to help people and have a successful business.”
The place opened up in November and already seems like a hit at 3800 E. Anaheim Street, next to the Long Beach Animal Hospital.
“We’re a zero-debt business,” he added.
Upon entering, one might think they’re in a jewelry store. But instead of pearls and diamonds filling the glass cases, everything related to e-cigarettes are on display.
“We want people to be successful and get off cigarettes,” Blowitz said. “I did a lot of research and saw that everything added up and I wanted to do it.”
With e-cigs, people can still enjoy holding an object while inhaling and exhaling. But in this case, they breathe in and breathe out vapor – not smoke.
The vapor vanishes and does not linger. There is no bad smell and your clothes don’t stink, Blowitz said. “Vapor is not smoke; it doesn’t create combustion.”
The smokeless cigarettes he sells come in different shapes and sizes and contain a rechargeable battery. They are medium to high-end in terms of quality, he said. No cheap quality. At the same time prices are competitive with what’s on the Internet.
Otherwise, people would come in, sample what he has to offer and then go online, he said.
A heating element sits inside each e-cigarette to create the vapor. Cartridges of liquid sold separately attach to the e-cig. Push the button, draw, and puff out.
The liquids and elements burn out after a while and need to be replaced. But Blowitz said smoking packs of regular cigarettes are more costly. “Compared to cigarettes, it’s practically free.”
Smokeless Success uses many vendors and offers upwards of 90 flavors. People can sample them. The product sells itself, Blowitz said. Some of the more popular tastes include coffee, pear and honeydew, watermelon and bubblegum, he added.
Blowitz said he doesn’t make any health claims but that his goal is to provide adults with an alternative to tobacco. “There are 3,000 chemicals that they know cause cancer when you light tobacco leaves on fire and nicotine is not one of them,” he said.
Like regular cigarettes, many of the e-cig flavors contain nicotine, which Blowitz said is highly addictive and is a stimulant. But added he sells more than 40 flavors that do not contain the substance for those who don’t want it.
“People love cigarettes because they like to smoke. We’re trying to give them something that they enjoy better,” he said. “To the best of our knowledge, they’re safe.”
Blowitz said so far he averages 45 sales per day and expects to grow. Anyone interested can visit in-person or call (562) 567-3244.
Keri Murrey, 26, a happy customer and intern, said, “The money that I put into cigarettes, it was getting too costly. When I discovered the electric cigarette, it practically changed my life, not only financially but for health reasons.”
Meanwhile, people who want to quit smoking cigarettes can get free support from the California smokers’ helpline 1-800-NO-BUTTS.
There also are nicotine anonymous meetings around that offer a 12-step program.
The American Lung Association says on its web page, “Every year in the U.S. over 392,000 people die from tobacco-caused disease, making it the leading cause of preventable death. Another 50,000 people die from exposure to secondhand smoke. Tragically, each day thousands of kids still pick up a cigarette for the first time. The cycle of addiction, illness and death continues.”
Pharmacist Jack Silberstein, who owns and runs Grove Harbor Medical Center Pharmacy, said he stopped smoking over 50 years ago – cold turkey.
Silberstein said customers are welcome to buy his quit-smoking products of course, but in his opinion, the best way is the old-fashioned way. Make up your mind that you’re going to quit, and then stick to it, he said.
Silberstein – who turns 77 next month – said that’s what he tells customers who come in and ask for his advice. “Just make up your mind and stop smoking.”