Manuel Muñoz was born in Igualada (Barcelona), although he is quick to point out that he does not feel Catalan. On weekdays he is in Madrid (unless he is abroad on business) and on weekends he joins his wife and two children in Huesca.
Muñoz, 40, is an executive at a software company and the spokesman for the e-cigarette industry. He says he started "vaping," as he calls the electronic habit, with the goal of quitting real cigarettes.
He has so far failed.
Question. How many e-cigarette stores do you represent?
Answer. 530 Spanish businesses with 1,800 sales points. Around 60 percent of the total... We believe not just anyone should be selling e-cigarettes.
Q. How much do you vape every day?
A. One milliliter.
Q. Can I try it?
A. Do you smoke?
A. Then I don't recommend it. It could start a habit. You're going to get hooked on something. It's better not to smoke or vape.
Q. Why did you get hooked on electronic cigarettes?
I paid 130 euros for my first kit. I thought it was the invention of the century"
A. It was the gestures. Vaping emulates the act of smoking. Why don't most blind people smoke? Because they can see neither the smoke nor the vapor. What gets you hooked is the paraphernalia.
Q. When did you discover e-cigarettes?
A. In 2008. My job takes me to Italy a lot. I am a strategy consultant at a company that sells software to automate business processes. That is where I first saw an e-cigarette store. I paid 130 euros for my first kit. I thought it was the invention of the century.
Q. And what did you feel?
A. That the more I vaped, the less I needed tobacco. One day I told myself: 'I am going to quit smoking.' I thought this might do the trick, but no. I still smoke between three and four cigarettes a day.
Q. How much did you smoke before this?
A. One and a half to two packs a day. I remember the father of a former girlfriend who used to smoke four cigarettes a day. I was really envious. I couldn't do that.
Q. And do you feel any improvements?
A. I notice it a lot when I ski. Before this, I would do two slopes and get tired. I also notice that my mouth gets less dry in the morning. What else may be going on inside my body I don't know.
Q. But you're still addicted to tobacco.
A. I like the flavor, in fact I like cigars. That is why I carry an e-cigar with me. It's amazing together with a glass of cognac.
I like the flavor, in fact I like cigars. That is why I carry an e-cigar with me"
Q. Spain has just banned vaping in hospitals, schools and mass transit.
A. We support that. I have never smoked inside a hospital, out of respect.
Q. Europe has also just taken the sector out of its legal limbo.
A. And we are also glad that it finally happened.
Q. Do you have an e-cigarette store?
A. No, but I helped a good friend set one up. I saw that the regulations were lacking, that this industry was in a constant state of war. It made no sense. So I proposed creating an association.
Q. Why are you the president of the National Electronic Cigarette Association?
A. Because I like getting my hands dirty. And it looks good on my resume. I'm going to make a lot of contacts. I've met someone in the tax agency, another one at the Health Ministry... Maybe tomorrow I will talk to them about other issues.
Q. E-cigarettes have liquids inside that are flavored like chocolate, ginseng... What's your favorite?
A. Bebeca, by Atmos Lab. It tastes like sweet tobacco. The brand owner told me one of the ingredients is also used in baby formula.
Q. I suppose you know it contains carcinogens.
A. So many things are being said about e-cigarettes... In any case, our position is that it is a less harmful alternative than tobacco, not that it is healthier.
Our position is that it is a less harmful alternative than tobacco, not that it is healthier"
Q. When did you start smoking?
A. At the age of 13, with friends, because it was trendy
Q. Have you ever considered quitting entirely?
A. Yes, I managed it for six months. I put on 12 kilos. And at a party some friends of mine started to get on my case: come on, smoke, smoke, smoke ...and I went back to it.
Q. Don't you want to quit again?
A. I don't really feel that four cigarettes a day are harmful to me.
Q. But they are.
A. Well... the problem is that I'll start gaining weight again.
Q. The smokers' symbol is the Marlboro cowboy. What about the vapers?
A. Good question. The problem is there's a lot of embarrassment around the issue of vaping.
Q. Anyone famous who vapes?
A. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson...
Q. For now you're still allowed to smoke e-cigarettes at bars and shopping centers. What if that were banned?
A. It would be curtains for the sector.