For many Nova Scotians, the debate over e-cigarettes has been out of sight, out of mind.
Not so anymore for people who pass through the downtowns of Halifax or Dartmouth. Two new “vape” shops that opened this week are hoping to attract passersby on two of the municipality’s busiest streets.
“We kind of looked at where all the stores were located in Halifax. We wanted to get a lot of the walk-in traffic,” said Benjamin Merry, 22, who was working at the counter of Vape Escape on Queen Street, just north of Spring Garden Road, on Friday.
Jon Borelli, the owner of both stores, is working at the other location on Portland Street in Dartmouth.
They are the latest of more than a dozen e-cig stores that have opened across the province since 2013.
“We want to cater to people who have tried quitting,” said Merry.
Customer Zach O’Keefe says he became a convert to e-cigs this summer when he tried them and stopped smoking cigarettes the same day.
O’Keefe, 24, started smoking when he was 16. E-cigs allowed him to cut down on how much tobacco he was consuming, he told Merry.
“You don’t have to commit to a whole cigarette,” he said.
Merry, who is from Eastern Passage and started smoking at 13, said he switched to e-cigs after trying to quit many times and developing two serious lung infections. He has since drastically cut down on his nicotine intake.
O’Keefe said another major draw was not having to go outside to smoke, but that won’t be the case for long in Nova Scotia. New legislation that comes into effect on May 31 will ban e-cig smoking in public indoor places.
The law’s only effect on Vape Escape will be to end indoor sampling, said Merry.
“It’s unfortunate, because people can’t try out their different flavours,” he said.
On a chalkboard behind the counter, next to a popcorn machine, dozens of flavours were advertised in colourful chalk. The shop will one day be able to mix custom “juice,” as the liquid is called. Merry and his co-worker said their favourites were the fruity ones.
“Key lime pie is really good,” he told one customer.
Nova Scotia's first vape shop
The first vape shop in Nova Scotia, The End Vapor Shop in New Glasgow, is also in a busy pedestrian area. The fish n' chip shop next door is good for business, said owner Shai Sinnis.
“A lot of our customers come from that, because every smoker has to smoke as soon as they finish eating,” she said.
Most of The End’s clients are 40 to 60 years old, with only a small number of university-aged customers, Sinnis said.
“If somebody comes in and tell me that they've never smoked, I will not serve them,” she said.
People used to drive from Halifax to visit her shop, but there are now shops all over the province.
Just outside of Halifax's downtown, another vape shop opened on Quinpool Road in mid-February. There is also one, established earlier, on Kempt Road, and several more in other areas of the municipality.