"I am the generation politicians worry about"

He is only 20 years old. Yet he has had a career as a film maker, photographer and successful e-juice manufacturer. Now he has opened an e-cigarette shop in Karlskrona, with his savings, and in the middle of the debate on youthvejping and flavour bans.

Mateo Lozano is one of those people everyone talks about. One of those young people like vejpar, who are "attracted" by e-cigs. By the flavours. Mateo Lozano started using e-cigarettes when he was 16, before there were even legal age limits. He bought his first vejp a few months after arriving in Sweden. But even then, he had been smoking cigarettes for a few years.

"Everyone smokes in Colombia. It's standard. And we were just kids who started smoking early. E-cigs didn't exist. But when I tried a vejp, the cigar was gone. From the first puff," he says when Vejpkollen calls back.

From film to vejp online shop

He is a bit nervous, he says. For the interview, that is. I think it might have something to do with the attention. But it would be a bit strange, given that he is a photographer and film-maker in everyday life. Or rather was. 

"I had several jobs booked to support me throughout the year when the coronavirus hit. Then everything fell apart," he says.

Almost. That left the other source of income - an online shop for vejp products - and Mateo Lozano's homemade e-juices.

Stopped immediately after visit to vejpshop

Mateo Lozano started mixing his own e-juice at an early age. Initially, it was to help his mum. She had been a smoker for 40 years. And she didn't believe in new inventions like e-cigarettes," says Mateo Lozano.

"She had been given so much strange information and really didn't trust what I said about the differences between cigars and e-cigs. It was only when we were visiting London that things turned round. We went into a vejp shop and got great service. She stopped smoking immediately"

Blended e-juice for mum

When they returned to Sweden, it turned out that the particular e-juice she liked was not available. That's when Mateo Lozano started mixing it himself. Flavours had been an interest for a long time.

"I have always loved fruit combinations. And coffee. I can spend a lot of money in a café to test different coffee blends. The same with smoothies," he says.

And so it was. Friends who vejped, or smoked, became interested. He gave away a bottle here and a bottle there.

"But when I started noticing that even my friends' friends' friends wanted my juices, I thought I might as well start doing it for real. So I started a business.

E-cigarette shop in Karlskrona

Just a few weeks before our conversation, he opened the doors of his physical store. Opposite the police station in Karlskrona. It is the first store in Karlskrona since Vapour store closed down two years ago. But vejpshoppar builds community and creates a small market that often lasts. 

"I hung out a lot at the Vaporstore and learnt a lot. Others did the same. About 60 per cent of my customers are already vejpers. 40 per cent are smokers who want help to quit smoking," says Mateo Lozano.

Media praise and criticism

He was also recognised in the media (locked article), steam clouds and all, in the local newspaper Sydöstran. And criticised. Making money from nicotine products is eye-catching. And around the same time that Mateo Lozano hung up the shop sign, the government announced that a ban on flavours in e-cigarettes and e-juices is planned. "E-cigarettes with candy and fruit flavours are the tobacco industry's latest method of attracting new customers, young people," thundered Minister for Social Affairs Lena Hallengren in a DN debate. A subsequent investigation proposed banning all flavourings that do not taste and smell of tobacco.

Mateo Lozano sighs.

"I belong to the generation that politicians are worried about. And I can say this: every single person I know who vejps, and there are quite a few, smoked cigarettes before they switched to vejping. It ALWAYS starts with cigarettes. Vaping is a way out of smoking, no matter how old you are."

Doctors contacted about 'candy flavours'

He reads a message from a doctor who contacted him via Facebook. It begins with encouraging words about helping smokers quit, but ends with a call to stop selling fruit-flavoured e-juice. "No smoker wants it. It's just a ploy to attract non-smokers," the doctor writes. 

"I have tried to explain, to anyone who asks, that almost all my customers want fruity flavours. Regardless of age. Out of 2000 bottles sold, 5 are tobacco flavours. Politicians and doctors who want to ban flavours really don't understand this. It's scary," says Mateo Lozano.

More passion than profitability

And he laughs at the idea that a webshop would certainly be lucrative. After all the fees and registrations, there is not much margin for a 1TP8Shop owner.

"I get a bit angry about it. So far I haven't earned a single cent. I have spent my savings on building the shop. It's going better and better, and I expect to make it on that in a year or so. But really, it's just passion and the desire to help one person stop smoking that gets me up in the morning."

Says Mateo Lozano. Vejpkollen suggests inviting the doctor with the candy flavours to the shop.
"Indeed. I've already done it!"

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