Smokers are upgrading paper rolled tobacco for electronic cigarettes.
Nadine Brosseau, owner of Vapour Solutions, takes a puff of her shiny, red e-cigarette while comfortable in her Langford store and exhales a white cloud of vapour. Since swapping tobacco for the e-cigarette, Brosseau doesn’t have to go outside or stand more than three metres from a door to get her daily dose of nicotine.
She’s upgraded to “vaping” as opposed to smoking.
E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that use a refillable liquid cartridge. Patrons can purchase nicotine or non-nicotine juice and both are popular, said Brosseau.
“We do sell nicotine juice here, there is nothing bad in it. There is no heart and lung disease and it’s a better alternative to smoking,” Brosseau said. “There aren’t any health claims and this is not a health product.”
Health officials are still unsure of the product.
“(Electronic cigarettes) aren’t regulated under provincial or (Capital Regional District) legislations and in Canada, they don’t contain tobacco,” said Kim Bruce, regional manager for tobacco and control with Island Health (formerly VIHA). “In Canada if these products contain nicotine they are not authorized for sale.”
E-cigarettes are still relatively new in Canada and Bruce is cautious, saying she’s unaware of any significant health studies available on the product.
“It’s an unknown area at this time,” Bruce explained. “The problem is it’s taking off before the science is.”
Perhaps flavours are a part of the allure. E-juices come in an assortment of flavours including caramel cappuccino and banana cream pie. But even with 200 flavours, tobacco flavoured is the best seller at Vapour Solutions.
The e-juices contain propylene glycol, a substance often found in food colouring and medicines, and vegetable glycerin, that Brosseau said is found in potatoes and beets. Brosseau started smoking at the age of 15 and 20 years later used e-cigarettes to make the switch.
“These are for people who want to keep that terrible habit and just do it in a different way,” Brosseau said. “People who don’t smoke want no involvement in them.”
Brosseau’s clientele come from all walks of life, with one thing in common, each has been a tobacco smoker.
“People who use e-cigarettes inhale unknown, unregulated and potentially harmful substances into their lungs,” said Dr. Theo Moraes, a medical spokesperson for the Canadian Lung Association in a press release. “There are many nicotine replacement therapies approved by Health Canada to help someone quit smoking; the e-cigarette is not one of them.”
In Canada, nicotine falls under Health Canada jurisdiction and it is yet to be approved in e-cigarettes. Even though e-cigarettes with nicotine aren’t approved for sale by Health Canada, Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Island Health, said many smokers use it a cessation device.
“It’s called e-juice and you can buy it for $56 a gallon on the Internet,” Stanwick explained. “Middle-aged people are using it as a transition to quitting and it’s proving very effective.”
For older people it can be a positive tool, he said. It can be more dangerous because younger people, who tend to use e-cigarettes with nicotine as a way to ingest the drug while avoiding some of the carcinogens.
“For younger people it can be used as a gateway to smoking,” Stanwick said. He advises those looking to quit traditional cigarettes use other forms of nicotine replacement therapy including gum, patches and inhalers.Sales Conflict
Nadine and Kevin Brosseau opened Vapour Solutions on Hillside Avenue in September 2012 and last month they opened a second location on Goldstream Avenue.
The business is unable to advertise due to Health Canada regulations but both stores are always busy, said Brosseau.
E-cigarettes have not been approved or given market authorization by Health Canada.
Health Canada’s most recent public release on e-cigarettes from 2009 states, “Health Canada is aware that some electronic smoking products have been advertised and sold in Canada without market authorization from Health Canada. Persons who may be importing, advertising or selling electronic smoking products without the appropriate authorizations are asked to stop doing so immediately.”
Even though e-cigarettes are not authorized for sale in Canada, they can be found in various outlets including gas stations and convenience stores.
Distributors are banding together through the Electronic Cigarette Trade Association, which is in the process of working with Health Canada to become a self-regulating group Brosseau said.