E-cigarette retailer says it helped him kick a 40-year habit
FORMER smoker Tony O'Mahoney who set up Smoke Free Ireland selling electronic cigarettes a month ago, would love to see the Government introducing regulations.
'I'm being honest. At the moment you're worried you're going to be put out of business at the drop of a hat,' said Tony.
The Wexfordman, who has a prime stand in the downstairs reception area of Tesco in Distillery Road, has been following the ongoing public debate about e-cigarettes.
He has read what is described as the first definitive study from the USA by Professor Igor Burstyn of Drexel University School of Public Health which maintains that e-cigarettes pose no health concerns.
Although Dr. Burstyn has recommended ongoing monitoring to confirm that there is no risk from the main chemicals in e-cigarette liquid - propylene glycol and glycerin.
Tony became interested in e-cigarettes eight months ago when he tried one out after 40 years of smoking.
'I was so impressed with it. It worked immediately.'
'I smoked from the age of 12 and I had tried everything over the years.'
'I decided to set up the company and it has been up and running for over a month.'
'I'm importing the units from China and the e-juice comes from China, the UK and Ireland.'
'I have family members working with me. We're just selling in Wexford at the moment but we have plans for Gorey and Arklow as well as an online shop.'
'We're hoping to take on two extra full-time staff soon.'
There is currently huge interest in e-cigarettes as nicotine replacement therapy, according to Tony who said he experienced immediate health benefits from switching to them.
There are also financial benefits, he points out.
The price of a smoking unit starts at €28.50 depending on battery size and the juice is €4 for a quantity equivalent to 20 cigarettes a day for one week.
'That's €4 a week instead of €70 which a 20-a-day smoker would spend,' he said.
The juice which is poured into the unit to produce a vapour when puffed, comes in more than 50 flavours from concoctions resembling well-known cigarette brands to raspberry, apple and menthol.
'The juice contains four chemicals - propylene gycol, vegetable glycerine, nicotine and food flavouring,' explained Tony.
'We let people test them out to get the right nicotine level for them - the juice comes with zero nicotine, 6mg, 12 mg, 18 mg and 24mg.'
The feedback from customers has been very positive, he said.
'We have people coming up who are suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (CPD) and are breathless.'
'We see them three weeks later and there is a noticeable improvement in their breathing.'
'I'm not exaggerating. I had COPD myself. I was on two inhalers a day. Since week one, I have not had to use an inhaler.'
'I would describe it as like someone stepping off my chest.'
Tony said he doesn't sell the units to anyone under 18 and has a policy of asking for I.D.
Recent newspaper coverage which compared the sale of e-cigarettes to now-banned Head Shop products, was 'extremely unfair', in his opinion.
He regards e-cigarettes as a revolutionary products with the potential to usurp the traditional cigarette industry.
'The second largest tobacco company in America has launched its own brand of e-cigarettes, so in other words, they seem to be conceding defeat,' he said.
Tony said he wonders whether the current attempt to discredit e-cigarettes is connected with the vested interests of both the tobacco industry and the Revenue Commissioners.
'The cigarette industry has a lot to lose and so does Revenue. I wonder is that what this is all about.'