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Up in smoke: Select-A-Vapor opens store in Tri-State Crossing in South Point

SOUTH POINT — Electronic cigarettes are becoming a popular alternative to the real thing, allowing smokers to get their fix of nicotine without the other harmful components of tobacco smoke.

According to last year’s study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one-fifth of America’s cigarette smokers have converted to e-cigs, growing into a billion-dollar industry. For smokers in the Tri-State the electronic substitutes were only available at kiosks in local malls. That was until Jeff Smith, an Ironton High School graduate, opened his first Select-A-Vapor location in Russell, Ky.

Earlier this year, Select-A-Vapor opened at the Tri-State Crossing shopping center in South Point.

“We were the first brick and mortar store in the area,” Smith said. “We also have stores located in Russell, Ky., and Barboursville, W.Va., So we can really service the entire Tri-State.”

Smith himself was a smoker for 39 years when he discovered electronic cigarettes while working in North Carolina. He decided to try “vaping” and two days later he was able to give up traditional cigarettes altogether.

“I was smoking two or three packs a day,” Smith said. “Then literally within two days I was able to go from two packs a day to none. It wasn’t long before I could breathe better, smell better and I was starting to become more active again.”

Smith, who lives in Florida, was so astonished with the results he immediately began to look into how he could turn his discovery into a business.

“I instantly started thinking about how I could get this product to other people,” Smith said. “I wanted to bring it home, I wanted to bring it back to the area where I was from and that’s what I’ve done.”

Outside of the health benefits, many traditional smokers are turning to e-cigs for the savings.

“Cigarettes can get expensive,” Smith said. “Especially, if you are smoking multiple packs a day. Vaping is a money saver. We sell starter kits anywhere from $32.99 to $79.99, in a couple of weeks these things pay for themselves. Now the liquid cartridges have to be bought every couple weeks but they don’t cost much.”

The liquid cartridges come in an assortment of flavors with varying amounts of nicotine.

“We have 65 different flavors,” Smith said. “And the nicotine levels range from 0mg to 24mg.”

Because of the nicotine the Food and Drug Administration now requires a person be 18 years or older to purchase electronic cigarettes. Recently, the industry has come under scrutiny due to the ability to modify e-cigs for consumption of drugs such as marijuana.

“It’s possible to modify it for smoking other drugs,” Smith said. “But, that isn’t what we are about here. We want to provide the people in this area with a healthier alternative to smoking. We I.D. everyone and we do everything by the book.”

Select-A-Vapor has a partnership with another local business called Jus Tha Tip, a mouthpiece manufacturer from Ashland, Ky., that specializes in customizing e-cigs.

“All of our pieces are handmade,” said Jus Tha Tip owner, Jerry Goodwin. “The tips allow people to personalize their devices or to color code the different flavors. We partnered up with Jeff and it’s worked out for both of us.”