In the exploding market for electronic cigarettes, entrepreneurs are trying new things to stand out. So now comes the leather e-cig dispenser.

Two French emigrants, Ben Guez and Rudy Halioua, last month launched Beverly Hills online e-cig business Ophis, the Greek word for serpent. The idea: sell upscale leather dispensers and have customers sign up for subscription delivery of nicotine-infused liquid.

The pair met in 2012 at a local club. The 32-year-old Halioua had been in Los Angeles for a few years and has a company that designs handbags and costume jewelry. Guez, 25, was visiting from France.

The two were intrigued by e-cig smokers at the club. With e-cigarettes, customers inhale nicotine-infused vapor that’s thought to be much less harmful to health than standard smokes. But the two thought the utilitarian plastic dispensers on the “vapes” left a lot to be desired stylewise.

“We both love fashion and clothing, and we thought we could try to make these dispensers more appealing, more classy,” Guez said. “We decided to make a leather dispenser and market it as a fashion accessory.”

They now sell the dispensers and liquid tobacco supplies online and are in talks with several fashion retailers to carry the dispensers.

The refillable leather dispensers will cost $99, toward the high end of what comparable models sell for. But Guez and Halioua plan to make most of their money through selling the liquids via subscriptions. A yearlong membership costs $420. Those trying to kick the habit can place orders for e-cig juice with lower levels of nicotine each month.

“This makes an ideal gift for someone who is trying to quit smoking,” Guez said.

– Howard Fine

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