Rethinking Tobacco: SF Startup Ploom’s Tech Alternative to Smoking


In a city where innovation is intrinsic and entrepreneurship is status quo, Ploom, a tobacco startup based in San Francisco’s historic Dogpatch district, has stepped up an underserved market in a new and alternative way. 

Founded by James Monsees and Adam Bowen, Ploom has grown exponentially since its beginnings. As it reads on the company’s website, the pair began Ploom “in a tiny orange-painted room on an apple orchard in Palo Alto” and were “determined to bring a better alternative to people who love (and hate) smoking.”

Despite the flux and flow of the tobacco industry over the last few decades, the interest in alternatives, such as those Monsees and Bowen are exploring, have risen in popularity. 

“We wanted to bring a better alternative to smoking and burning tobacco, something we ourselves would want to use, for people who want to enjoy tobacco but don’t self-identify with, nor necessarily want to be associated, with cigarettes,” says Monsees, in an interview with 429Magazine. “We wanted to recreate the ritual and elegance that smoking was once all about, to remove tobacco’s social stigma and its public adversity while bringing personal tobacco use to a new level of accessibility.”

Since Ploom hit the market with their original modelOne line, the popularity of e-cigarettes and vaporizers has undeniably risen. But Ploom is truly unique with few, if any, direct competitors–maintaining a level of luxury not to be found in the alternatives. 

Monsees says, “I firmly believe that we’re just at the beginning of a revolution in tobacco and now that consumers are aware our job is to continue to create the best possible product offerings. Ploom and Pax are the only products on the market that use vaporization and real tobacco to create an honest full-flavored luxury experience.”

Ploom followed the successful launch of the Pax, a premium loose-leaf tobacco vaporizer, with the new modelTwo, which uses the company’s prefilled single-serving tobacco pods. “Like Nespresso for tobacco,” says Sarah Richardson, Ploom’s Marketing Director.

Pax, on the other hand, allows the user to use their own selected blend of loose-leaf tobacco. Monsees says, “Pax is really crafted around a simple set of consumer needs. It’s simple, beautiful and generally fun to use and play with. It gives us a first look at what can be done with some empathy for what consumers are really looking for.”

There are certainly many obvious benefits to the Ploom experience. A vaporizer allows the user to enjoy tobacco while eliminating both smoke and second-hand smoke. The smell dissipates soon after use (unlike with cigarettes, where the smell lingers in hair and clothes) and because no smoke is actually produced, users are allowed to enjoy the product where smoking itself is not permitted. 

Imagine being able to enjoy tobacco while sitting at your desk, at a bar while drinking with friends, or in airports before a long flight. The tobacco enthusiast is no longer relegated to hovering in doorways to escape the wind or sneaking out with breath mints in hand to “make a quick phone call.” 

Beyond the need for a product like Ploom on the market, beyond the high design and functionality of its structure, and beyond the luxury and consideration offered to consumers, Ploom has succeeded in the real secret behind startups these days–and that’s the passion of the people behind it. 

“We all really believe in what we’re doing,” says Monsees. “We all love our products but I think the major positive here is that we don’t have to just love them in a vacuum. Our customers, and lovers of tobacco everywhere, are beginning to embrace new thinking in the industry and that’s the kind of work that we really love to do.”

To find out more about Ploom, their products, and the development of the brand’s philosophy, visit their website here. You can also attend dot429’s upcoming events featuring the Ploom Lounge, where you can experience the luxury for yourself. For more information, visit our events page here.


About The Author

Send this to friend