CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Luke Tschantz is confident that Eastern Iowans concerned about their health will purchase a product that is popular in Hawaii.
Tschantz, an Iowa City native, is the licensed distributor of Volcano Fine Electronic Cigarettes in the Corridor. The devices provide smokers with nicotine, but without the other chemicals, tar and carbon monoxide found in cigarettes.
Volcano is based in Hawaii, where it was formed in 2009. Two different e-cigarette kits are available at Tschantz's kiosk in Westdale Mall and he expects to add a third beginner version of the device.
"Smokers are addicted to nicotine, and the alternatives are to chew nicotine gum all day or wear a nicotine patch," Tschantz said. "Those don't provide the oral fixation and enjoyment of cigarettes.
"Most smokers don't want to quit. They just don't want to smoke tobacco because of all the health risks and the cost."
A one-pack-a-day smoker, he added, spends "between $200 and $250 a month on cigarettes."
Volcano e-cigarettes, which carry a one-year warranty, start at $79.95 and require the purchase of a bottle of fluid. The fluid, which is available in 40 flavors, sells for $19.95 and is equivalent to a carton of cigarettes.
"You can choose the flavor and the level of nicotine," Tschantz said. "If you're a heavy smoker, we have nicotine levels all the way up to 24 milligrams. That's equivalent to a Marlboro red or a full Newport, a very strong, earthy cigarette.
"We also offer 16 milligrams, which is equivalent to a regular Camel, and 8 milligrams, which is comparable to a Marlboro Light or Camel Light."
A zero nicotine also is available "for those who want to step down over a period of time or just want to something to do with their hands."
The Volcano comes with a charger to recharge a small battery that powers a cartomizer, which heats the fluid and turns it into a vapor. When the user sucks on a plastic tip attached to the device, they inhale the flavored vapor with nicotine and exhale vapor that looks like smoke.
Electronic cigarettes, also known as smokeless cigarettes, have been available for about five years.
"The vapor evaporates in the air and has a light, sweet scent," Tschantz said. "It does not stain clothing or fingers, so you can use it sitting on your couch or driving in your car.
"Many public places like the Ped Mall in Iowa City that prohibit smoking are allowing e-cigarettes. They are not in the same category as cigarettes."
Volcano started four years ago with a single mall location in Hawaii and has expanded to 10 locations. Tschantz said one of the reasons the brand has been successful is the ability of customers to try it before buying a device and fluid.
"Our customers also tell us that it closely resembles the smoking experience," he said. "In Hawaii, Volcano has started opening vapor cafes and lounges where they sell the product as well as Italian sodas and coffee grown in the state.
"I'm in talks right now with commercial real estate people to put a vapor lounge in North Liberty, probably toward the end of this year. As soon as we see the customer response, we will probably expand our presence to other locations."