A great satisfaction is granted to the few who can look back on their day and feel that what they’ve spent their time doing has benefitted someone else. For Shanu Mohamedali and the company he founded, Smoke NV Inc., that daily sense of accomplishment is bound up with the idea of satisfaction itself. The e-cigarettes that the company designs and sells allow users the tangible satisfaction of smoking while reducing the harm done by the habit. Combining a physician’s attitude toward well-being with an entrepreneur’s pragmatic approach to design and safety, Smoke NV has developed a product that accomplishes its goal of not only satisfying but helping its customers.
The son of a career nurse, Mohamedali watched most of his close friends at the University of Alberta go on to become physicians, and his own postcollege ambitions centred on business and profitability in the health care industry. Mohamedali’s first business was a clinic used mainly for Botox injections, which were not as common at the time he opened the facility in 2000. “It was something that really interested me—the medical field,” Mohamedali says. “My business partner in the venture was a physician friend of mine, and my mother, who had retired by that time, ran the clinic.”
Opportunity in the medical industry struck again in 2007, when another of Mohamedali’s friends graduated from medical school and they bought and restructured a clinic together. The two were able to run it more efficiently and with less overhead for the practitioners there. “It’s tough for a physician in Canada to come out of school and go work at a clinic where they typically pay an overhead of 35–40 percent of what they bill,” Mohamedali says. “An average doctor can bill $500,000–$600,000 a year; that’s a lot to payback.” Mohamedali and his partner were able to get overhead costs down 27 percent, and keeping the money in their physician’s pockets caught on. The clinic that started with eight doctors grew into a group of 62 doctors in eight different locations.
Smoke NV Starter Kit
The kit is important because it presents the product naturally in a pharmacy setting. The reusable e-cigarette comes with two batteries, a wall charger, a USB charger, five cartridges, and a carrying case.
Smoke NV Disposables
This four-pack offers a convenient and cost-effective way for new users to try the product before purchasing the full kit.
Smoke NV REVEAL
This new version doesn’t have the shape and feel of a cigarette. It looks more like a medical device and has embedded UVB light that also kills bacteria.
During this time, Mohamedali began following the e-cigarette industry, and he noticed a number of problems. “When [it was] first introduced, the e-cigarette was made of cheap material, produced no real vapour, and generally didn’t work all that well,” he says. “But I started to see the product idea itself as possibly a great thing for smokers and brought it to my board of directors in 2006.” His team identified things to change right away. First, the device had no regulator, which meant there was nothing controlling the amount of nicotine the user was injecting, whereas with a cigarette, there’s a fixed dose.
Second, a lot of effort was put into finding the right manufacturer overseas. “It was very important to bring the medical directors with us to the countries we were looking at, because they might see something I wouldn’t,” Mohamedali says. “We interviewed the factories, visited their sites, and together we saw some alarming things that needed to be addressed.” Many of the prospective manufacturers, for instance, were making the product’s electric components and liquid solution at the same factory. Also, they were testing the finished products by actually blowing on them, then wiping the tips before packaging. Mohamedali’s firm invented a device to test an e-cigarette without blowing on it, and it made its product safer by using all-natural tree-extract glue—rather than crazy glue that can potentially release harmful toxins—to attach the e-cigarette’s atomizer to a nylon housing.
Looking forward, Mohamedali and his team are considering manufacturing the e-cigarettes’ liquid solution in Canada, and they hope to promote the product not only as a harm-reduction device but also as a quitting aide without nicotine in it. “In the next two years,” Mohamedali says, “the product will be more and more intended to be used in conjuncture with a patch or gum to improve quitting success rates.”