Business owner Alan Fox is his own best promotional tool.
An ex two "plus" packs-a-day smoker for many years, Fox stumbled upon electronic cigarettes at a mall and gave them a try.
"By the next day I had no interest in smoking," said Fox, of Upper Dublin, one of three co-owners of Hatboro-based electronic cigarette maker/retailer . "It went from consumer to a hobbyist to an obsession to a store."
Since trying his first electronic cigarette in December 2009, Fox spent the next few months freelance selling vapor manufactured by an England company, Totally Wicked, out of his car. By November 2010, , later expanding in size before settling in at his current brick and mortar store in Hatboro.
Now, with two co-owners, Fox transformed the 1,200-square-foot South York Road space into a cozy vaping lounge, bar area and "juice lab" where Fox's "juice chemist" concocts more than 60 food-based juices under the PhoxxeBrew brand.
And, while Fox makes no promise about his product's ability to help smokers kick the habit, customer Joe Senger, of Glenside, said electronic cigarettes have helped him do just that.
"I smoked 2-and-a-half packs a day," said Senger during a recent visit to the store. "I haven't bought a pack in three months."
Instead, Senger said he spends about $27 a month for the custom-made liquid.
"Cigarettes are deadly and if you don't smoke them, it must be better for you," Fox said, adding that compared to smoking traditional cigarettes, the electronic versions are much more cost effective.
Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, have been around for about a decade. The electrical devices simulate the act of smoking traditional cigarettes via the inhalation of a flavored vapor. Researchers have said that electronic cigarettes cause damage to lungs, but others have hailed the devices as an effective smoking cessation tool.
A release issued in 2009 by the Food and Drug Administration said electronic cigarettes tested in its laboratory contained "carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze." Officials expressed concern that e-cigarettes could actually increase nicotine addiction and tobacco use, particularly among young people.
For his part, Fox said VaporPhoxxe does not sell electronic cigarettes to anyone under 18. In addition, he said that, like cars, no two electronic cigarette brands are identical.
"I tell people just because you drove one car and it was a Yugo, doesn't mean all cars are bad," Fox said. "Our VaporPhoxxe liquids are all completely natural, food-based."