When St. Louis Park resident Emma Schlesinger was 18 years old, she started smoking cigarettes.
By the time she was 21, she was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
Schlesinger’s mother, Golden Valley resident Maria Verven, was worried for her daughter’s health. Verven’s father currently suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease--a result of 30 years of smoking.
“She tried the [nicotine] patch, and it didn’t work,” Verven said of her daughter. “So I bought her an e-cigarette starter kit and she stopped smoking in a month.”
That was the “aha moment,” Verven said, when she realized that e-cigarettes could really help others. After failing to find an electronic cigarette brand that connected with women, she decided to create her own business called Vaping Vamps.
Today, in addition to her work as a marketing and P.R. consultant for Minnesota small businesses, Verven is knee-deep in e-cigarette research, sales and, well, vapor.
The act of using an e-cigarette is called “vaping,” and it cuts out 99 percent of the carcinogens in traditional cigarettes, Verven said. Vaping is one of the easiest ways to quit smoking because it mimics the habit of smoking but eliminates most of the harmful chemicals.
Verven sells e-cigarettes that are actually battery-powered and come with various cartridges called 'cartomizers' with flavoring and various levels of nicotine, from zero nicotine to 24 mg, or about the same amount as in a regular cigarette.
Verven developed an e-cig starter kit called the 'Ready to Quit Kit' to help women not just switch to vaping but quit altogether.
Using the step-down method of nicotine replacement, over time, e-cigarette smokers can lessen the amount of nicotine they inhale until they don’t need it anymore.
And while Vaping Vamps sells starter kits to smokers who are ready to quit, Verven says that vaping can be fun for non-smokers, too.
“I’m a non drinker, and I don’t smoke, so for me, vaping is fun,” Verven said. Unlike smoking, vaping can be done indoors and doesn’t include inhaling and exhaling harmful chemicals, so there's no secondhand smoke.
According to Verven, vaping a flavored non-nicotine electronic cigarette is fun and just a little "vampy." When you inhale, the e-cigarette end lights up purple and the exhaled vapor perfumes the air.
“When I vape in bars and restaurants, I get all sorts of fun comments,” Verven said.
Mostly, Verven hopes to make a difference in the lives of young women.
“The fact is, young people are smoking,” Verven said. “So, if they are going to do something, I’d rather they vape than smoke.”