Naples gets vapor lounge for patrons to share electronic cigarette camaraderie

Scott McIntyre/Staff
Michael Minichiello and his wife Dorothy opened their Naples business Vintage Joye in its current location in July. The store acts as a vapor lounge where people can purchase e-cigarette packages as well as smoke there. The couple is currently trying for a beer and wine license to create a lounge atmosphere where people can relax, have a drink, and smoke e-cigarettes.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE // Buy this photo

Scott McIntyre/Staff Michael Minichiello and his wife Dorothy opened their Naples business Vintage Joye in its current location in July. The store acts as a vapor lounge where people can purchase e-cigarette packages as well as smoke there. The couple is currently trying for a beer and wine license to create a lounge atmosphere where people can relax, have a drink, and smoke e-cigarettes.

— Some Neapolitans are into "vaping," the electronic and healthier alternative to smoking.

Naples is getting a vapor lounge, where devotees to electronic cigarettes can connect and enjoy a glass of wine or beer.

"It's more like a Starbucks atmosphere," Michael Minichiello, proprietor of Vintage Joye, said of what's envisioned for the new business he owns with his wife, Dorothy.

The couple opened Vintage Joye at 89 Ninth St. S. in July, an e-cigarette retailer where they help customers learn about the battery-operated devices that are a healthier alternative to real cigarettes.

The beer-and-wine service will debut later this month or in October once they've gained clearance from the state Department of Health. For now, a six-seat bar area with a flat-screen television and Wi-Fi service is quiet.

The atmosphere inside the storefront is serene with vintage décor as a throwback to an era when smoking was glamorized. That image is being replaced now with e-cigarettes, which don't contain any of the 4,000 carcinogens, tar or tobacco of real cigarettes.

"Our motto is this is the modern alternative to smoking," Dorothy Minichiello said.

Smokers have been shunned from public establishments but e-cigarettes don't pollute the air and so users don't need to be shamed, she said.

According to the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, about 2.5 million Americans are using e-cigarettes. The association also reports there's been about 21 scientific studies that have examined the health implications of e-cigarettes, which are mired in debate whether they carry their own risks.

"It's clean, it's eco-friendly. It's definitely more glamorous than a cigarette," she said.

Her specialty at Vintage Joye is offering health and beauty products, and a private-room setting for doing eyelash extensions.

The couple initially had an e-cigarette store in North Naples in a smaller location and wanted to expand their offerings.

They initially got into the business by circumstance; she's always been health conscious and both of her parents died from smoking-related illnesses in 2006. Dorothy Minichiello said her husband smoked and she wanted him to quit.

"He refused to try an electronic cigarette," she said. "It is an electronic device so it takes time getting used to it."

He reluctantly agreed to try one for three days and it worked; he was a convert.

According to the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, about 2.5 million Americans are using e-cigarettes. The association also reports there's been about 21 scientific studies that have examined the health implications of e-cigarettes, which are mired in debate whether they carry their own risks.

On the plus side, they don't contain tar or carcinogens.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration didn't appeal a 2010 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that it cannot regulate e-cigarettes as a drug or device as long as the manufacturers don't market them for smoking cessation purposes. The FDA also was blocked from trying to ban the importation of electronic cigarettes from China and elsewhere.

Retailers like Vintage Joye can't market them as smoking cessation products; instead the Minichiellos let customers draw their own conclusions.

"We see a lot of people who find us because their doctor recommended electronic smoking," Dorothy Minichiello said.

Daniel and Kirsty Banks, Londoners who have relocated to Naples, stopped by Vintage Joye one day last week for the first time to check it out. Both smoked two packs of cigarettes a day before trying e-cigarettes.

"We've been on e-cigarettes for four weeks," he said. Neither have gone back to real cigarettes. They decided to swap to a better brand at Vintage Joye, 89 Ninth St. S., four blocks north of Fifth Ave.

"We bought first at a flea market," he said, offering advice to others to forgo the cheaper devices because they fall apart.

"I'm just shocked myself," his wife said, referring to how easy it was to transition to e-cigarettes. "I would definitely recommend it."

The devices consist of a rechargeable battery, heating element and replaceable cartridge that contains nicotine and flavoring. The heat vaporizes the nicotine that is dissolved in propylene glycol, a colorless liquid, or vegetable glycol. There is no tobacco or tar. Users take in the liquid nicotine and flavoring, in what's called "vaping." There's no smoke or smell.

"What you are blowing out is water vapor," Michael Minichiello said.

Even though manufacturers and retailers can't advertise e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, smokers are the prime target.

Information: VintageJoye.com

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