Dan: Welcome back! Today we are going to be talking about the history of vaping. This is another entry into our 10-year anniversary series of videos. Thanks for stopping by! With me today I have Ron Pease, the CEO of Mister-E-Liquid; and Russ Swanson, who is a product specialist, wholesale account manager—
Russ: Pick a hat, I've had it on!
Dan: —He kind of does it all. Russ and Ron have both been with us for a long time. We're all kind of tech-nerd, vape people? In and out of the vape industry, right?
Ron: Yeah, for sure.
Dan: We like tools, and machines, and…
Russ: It's great when your hobby becomes your work.
Dan: Right, yeah.
Ron: This is the first interview where you're one of the 'old guys.' I just thought I would mention that...
Dan and Russ both laugh.
Dan: Fun, yeah, no–10 years in, right? So I thought maybe we'd just start talking about our first starter device? Where was the market at when you first started vaping? I want to say I'm maybe a year and a half ahead. You guys are probably about the same?
Ron: Yeah, I want to say we were early 2012. January–February 2012. Maybe even 2011. It was when Lakeshore had just opened in Muskegon.
Ron: eGo-C's were the big thing.
Dan: Okay, yeah!
Ron: So, 510 bridged and 510 un-bridged.
Russ: Oh, cig-a-like for me, man.
Ron: All of those, and 308's.
A pair of sweet 510 attys
Dan: That eGo-C cartridge thing. Yeah, it was a good shot at a tank system.
Ron: Yeah, it was a good shot.
The eGo-C, an early attempt at a tank
Dan: Yeah, the market had changed so much over the years, I mean—When I started, I started on I think it was called a 401? The little cig-a-like-looking things? It came in a cigarette package that you—
Ron: Yeah that you charged. The cool kid had the charger in their bag...
Dan: Haha - you can plug it in! I had vanilla cartridges that...yeah, that whole system was just garbage, but…it did its job.
Seriously, vaping used to look like this.
Dan: So, Russ, what did you start on?
Russ: Well, I was an insurance agent when I started vaping. okay, and I stopped at a local tobacco store. They had a sign out front that said 'E-Cigarettes,' and it was like —
Dan: Like one of those—
Russ: Mark-10 cig-a-likes?
Russ: It was an 808? 808 cartos on that?
Dan: Yeah, 808 was bigger, wasn't it?
Russ: Yeah, it was longer.
Russ: It was longer, yeah. It was bigger around than a cigarette—
Russ: —but then the next day, I said, 'This may work? But I don't...know?'
Ron: 'There's got to be something better?' And the next day you opened the store down in Kentwood.
Dan: Oh, okay.
Russ: And I walked into that store that day.
Dan: Wow, that's crazy.
Ron: That's when you started?
Russ: That's when I REALLY started. You looked at me and you said: 'You want to quit smoking?'
Dan: I said that to you?
Dan: Ooh, that is presumptuous.
All three laugh loudly.
Russ: And it was 10 years ago.
Dan: Yeah, yeah. The rules were different.
Russ: It was 2012, yeah. It was a different world.
Dan: So did you buy a device that day?
Russ: I did.
Dan: Did you jump right into ProVari?
Russ: No, that wasn't immediate.
Dan: Ah, okay.
A ProVari, one of the earliest quality devices
Russ: I think you sold me a starter kit with eGo batteries, and cartos. Y'know.
Dan: Because, I mean...if you don't know Russ, he has like every mod.
Ron: The 'cool-kid' mods.
Dan: ALL of the mods! Like the really high-end, handmade stuff. I just assumed that you would you just started—
Russ: Just started out that way? No, no, but the ProVari was not far removed from that.
Dan: Right, so, today's topic is the history of vaping. Basically, a lot of people back in the day started on the cig-a-like-type devices. Then the eGo came out, and shortly thereafter, mods started coming out.
Russ: Getting bigger and bigger.
Dan: Yeah, and the ProVari was a big seller for us, especially in the store. We would have, I dunno, four or five in stock? We were constantly ordering them.
Ron: I remember.
Dan: At that time it really mattered, because that was a 'Made in the USA' product.
Dan: And—how much was a ProVari? Like $200?
Dan: $250? Depending on what size you got?
Ron: Right, yeah.
Dan: And at what time? Because eventually the price started coming down.
Ron: It did. I think they still ended in the $170 range when it was all said and done.
Russ: I have one sitting at my desk, should I go get it?
Ron, Russ, and Dan all laugh.
Ron: There's some in that box over there, I'm sure. The first mod I saw, actually, was a Volt. I still have it, actually. It's a red Volt. It was at your house. I walked in, you had a couple of them. You were like: 'Oh, check this out!' It was around the third time I've been there. It was as if we were best friends all the sudden. That was the old school vaping world, right? Like: 'Oh, you do what I do? Cool! Let's be friends!'
Dan: 'Will you be my friend?'
Ron: Right, and so I bought that Volt and Velvet was just like: 'I don't know what you're going to do with that thing.' Well, 'I'm going to vape with it!' And I had the drip shield around it.
Dan: 305? 306?
Ron: Yeah, 306.
Dan: I don't even remember…
Ron: Yup, so it leaked all over. Everything, everywhere I went. You could take like two pulls. Driving down the road, and it just drips. Yeah, it was a mess.
Russ: Yeah, I remember. I got a carto tank. I had stepped into the big time, because I had a tank. I didn't have to drip into that carto.
Dan: I remember that. We went from 510s and 306s to cartomizer tanks, and you had to make your own holes in them.
Ron: You punch a hole with the tool, and they were cheap, and the threads stripped out right when you needed it the most.
Russ: Of course.
Dan: But you could punch more holes if you wanted to vape at a higher wattage.
Haha, punching holes in cartos. Those were the days.
Russ: If you really wanted to flood your carto, you could do that.
Dan: And then the whole cartomizer tank thing jumped off and…
Ron: The prices of those, to me, are—to think back on what everyone used to spend. So, just an eGo battery is just, what? $19? $15–$19 for an eGo battery?
Dan: That's like the high-end, variable voltage eGo battery.
Ron: Right, and y'know, back then we would buy a starter kit, and it would have one eGo battery, or two eGo batteries; little trim piece, two cartos, and a drip-tip. It'd be $120. When the tanks came in, Infinities were a big one in the store.
Russ: Oh yeah, and those were sexy tanks, too.
Dan: Mhm, all the colors.
Ron: Yup, and then there were the fluids. Velvet and I both have fluids and those were $125 apiece just for the tank. If you remember those at the show in Ann Arbor.
Dan: The first time we saw fluid flasks we were in Virginia. Were we in Virginia?
Ron: That was the second time. We bought them at the second show, the one in Ann Arbor.
Dan: Vape Expo.
Ooh, haven't seen Fluid Flasks in a minute!
Russ: Vape Expo...
Ron: Vape Expo, too. Yup, and so we bought it from them.
Ron: They were $125 apiece and I think. Actually, yours is sitting somewhere. At any rate, and then you sold those Infinities. The different colors, and the glass.
Dan: Retail on those were like $45 or $55, something like that.
Dan: It was finally a nice carto tank that we could sell.
Ron: That was a screamin' deal at $45. Everyone's like, 'I have all the colors,' right?
Dan: Simultaneously, SMOKTech then came out with their colored carto tanks. That was HUGE.
Russ: That was a game-changer.
Ron: It was.
The game-changing Smok carto tanks
Dan: Because they came out with pre-punched cartos...
Russ: Right, THAT was a game-changer. That was a big-time game-changer. Because remember those things we used to...what are they called?
Dan: You'd chalk the cartomizer in the jig, and then you would screw down a pin…
Russ: And of COURSE you'd smash the cartomizer.
Ron: It broke the seals, or ripped the o-rings.
Dan: You couldn't get in the tank.
Russ: When they started laser cutting those holes that was—
Ron: That was a big deal.
Russ: —that was a big deal.
Dan: And then dual coils?
Ron: The dual coil cartomizers, yup. But then you didn't have enough battery power unless you had a ProVari or a VMEX, or something like that. After that, the CE4s came in.
Ron: Right? And the CE4s, then again, were like the next level of game-changer. With that delicious silica flavor you got with every hit, and it was amazing.
The famed CE4
Dan: You got to prime it, that was the first time where you were like: 'You gotta prime it.' Got to let it soak up.
Russ: You got to let it sit for a while.
Ron: A while, yup, right.
Dan: With the cartomizer you just fill it and that was that!
Dan: Y'know, there was no 'letting it sit.'
Ron: Well, to get your 3ml in the cartomizer it took 10–15 minutes. Drip, drip, drip.
Russ: Right, just drip, drip, drip...yeah.
Ron: I specifically remember when the CE4s came in, and they started to go with the wickless version where there were just stub wicks. Then they came out with the really skinny ones that would go on those 808 pens.
Russ: Your wife loved those things.
Ron: She set those up and you guys killed it. The store absolutely killed it with: 'Get this starter pack! It's only $30!' or '$40!' And, at the time, that was cheap. I remember that whole system just killed it.
Dan: Yeah, 510 battery and one of those little skinny CE5s, or whatever they were called.
Dan: That was the closest thing to a modern-day pod system—I think—that we have.
Dan: It was that.
Russ: It's interesting to think the more things change, the more they stay the same, though. Because we've gone around from the CE4s, and that little thing we're talking about now, to—GREAT BIG BATTERIES, GREAT BIG MODS!—Now we're back to the pod systems.
Dan: Myself included, I vape pod systems.
Dan: I've been on pods for a couple years now. Refillable, of course, but it just became...my lifestyle changed, y'know? And it became a hassle to bring two sets of three batteries. I was all about the three battery mods, and dripping...
Ron: Oh yeah.
One of Dan's favorite old triple-18650 mods, the RX200S
Russ: I'm not going to lie, I haven't grown back into the pod system. I still carry a backpack with me every day.
Ron: Interestingly enough, you know what I first thought when I saw a mod like this, or something big? I'm like: 'I mean, I guess that's cool if you're at home and it's just on your coffee table or side table, because they're nice to vape. So if you're at home and you're not carrying them around, that's great.' That's my first impression, and now these have come back to that. I mean, I'm carrying around this, but I'm at the office, right? It worked today, but when I'm not at the office, I'm using a Crown pod system.
Dan: Right, so when you're on your boat?
Ron: Well, if I'm on the boat, there's no way I'd haul this thing around the boat. So, yeah, you're right. As time has gone on—there was a time when we did mesh coils in the hybrids.
Ron: So we got that mesh technology and the flavor from that, and that went away over time.
Russ: Well—stainless steel wicks, the steel-mesh wicks.
Dan: Genesis atomizers...
Ron: Right, and now that's come back around and now they're just in the pre-purchased pods. Now you can actually get them—products we have coming in—you can buy the mesh.
Russ: Just the mesh.
Dan: Rebuildable coil mesh.
Ron: Rebuildable coil mesh for the RTA's.
Ron: So it just has the two poles on it, you just put the poles in that, right? You tighten it down, and you just run your cotton through it and you're good to go. I think we're going to get back to that in the not-so-distant future.
Dan: That's an interesting kind of point too, is with the COVID-19 shutdown that happened, with the Chinese New Year preceding that, coils have become quite scarce.
Ron: Hardware in general has become very scarce. It's really difficult to get a hold of. As Becky's trying to purchase hardware, we're always looking at new things if it's possible. For our customer base, we're trying to grow into: 'Here's something different.' What we're finding is that even the old, the old and the new; they're being told they'll release—like SMOKTech—'We'll release 20 new mods,' right? In different colors, or variants, or whatever—but you get one chance to buy it and that's it. Then it's gone.
Ron: So now, it's not even a cycle—
Russ: No reorder.
Ron: There's no reorder. Even if you can order it the first time, y'know, there's things that are new out there we hadn't seen. Like, 'Yeah! Let's grab some of those and bring them in the store—' You get to purchase what you can purchase. So now, where you could buy enough to put in your store and get to the customers, see if they like it, maybe switch it out; you're really rolling the dice on, y'know, six figures at a time, trying to pull in hardware. You get one shot at it. The hard part, for our customers—and us, even—is that I really like this tank, so I wanna buy these coils.
Russ: You can't buy coils.
Ron: All of a sudden, to your point, they have become really scarce, and it's really hard to do that, so…we're kind of adopting back to the old way. Let's get back to the: 'teach people to build their own' and the technology in that now is so much better than when we used to wrap by ourselves. Now you just buy a box of coils. You screw 'em on and put cotton in it. There's almost an arrow that tells you where to stuff the cotton down.
Russ and Dan both start laughing.
Ron: 'Here! It won't burn if you use these holes!' And so, that technology has come a long way.
Russ: It's like, we went from silicone, to rebuildables, to like...the Genesis devices, and then...coming back around! It seems like we're coming back around in a lot of ways.
Dan: There's only so many ways you can apply heat to a piece of metal to create vapor, right?
Dan: Speaking of Genesis, I definitely wasn't a 'vape-dummy'?
Dan: Y'know, I knew a few things about vaping.
Russ: Right. I mean, you did own a vape company.
Dan: Right, well—yeah.
Russ: Heh heh heh!
Dan: —but building Genesis atomizers was by far one of the most frustrating things—
Dan: —I've ever done.
Russ: Fiddly to the max!
Ron: In between hits you would have to pull the cap off, and mess with your—
Russ: Mess with your coils!
Ron: —mesh, and then put it back and then…
Russ: 'Hot! Oop-ah-hot! Ah, oo, ow! That's hot...'
Dan: On top of the whole challenge in finding vape-stuff, when we're buying for a wholesale website or a retail website that does a lot of business, and then having seven stores…
Ron: Right, it's tough.
Dan: It's tough! And then, specifically those seven stores are in seven very unique markets.
Dan: Their customer bases are very unique. Each store almost has a different set of requirements for hardware in general.
Ron: For sure.
Dan: Thanks so much Ron, and Russ, for spending some time with me. Thank you guys for tuning in. It's been a wild ride for sure. The last 10 years have been a beautiful amazing experience, and we owe so much to our customers who have allowed us to do so much. So, thank you for tuning in! We really appreciate you, and we hope you have a beautiful day.
The vaping market has changed drastically over the years, and yet has come back around to some of the older tools, techniques, and devices that made vaping what it is today. Through it all, Mister-E-Liquid has always done its best to keep pace with this incredible, dynamic market, and to provide its customers with the products they want. We're proud to have been such an integral part of your lives for so long!