'Vape' shop owners defend e-cigarettes as quit-smoking aid
The owners of some Winnipeg shops that sell e-cigarette products say Health Canada should leave them alone, as they believe their products are helping people quit smoking.
Health Canada says selling e-cigarettes with nicotine, or those with a health claim, is not authorized in this country, though selling e-cigarettes or e-juice without nicotine is legal.
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But the fact that e-cigarettes containing nicotine are illegal in Canada hasn't stopped a number of "vaping" entrepreneurs from opening shops in Winnipeg.
Igor Tshaikovski, 21, says he opened Flamingo Vape Shop on Main Street two weeks ago, in part because he wants to help people quit smoking with the help of e-cigarettes.
"My parents always smoked and I hated it growing up. I hated the smell of it," he told CBC News on Friday.
Tshaikovski said being able to control how much nicotine a person is inhaling, while still being able to hold something similar to a cigarette, helps people kick the habit.
"That's why I think patches and things like that, gum, [weren't] very successful because yeah, it has nicotine, but it didn't have the actual inhaling, the actual holding in your mouth," he said.
Health Canada has not regulated e-cigarettes because officials say there's not enough proof they're safe.
The federal department says it had to recommend that border guards refuse more than 2,500 shipments of unauthorized e-cigarettes, and staff have acted on more than 250 complaints about illegal sales since 2009.
In most cases, retailers who were caught were sent letters asking them to stop selling.
Jim Chabai, who owns the online store Vapetastic, has not received one of the Health Canada letters.
Chabai said there are more than 10 e-cigarette shops in Winnipeg now, and he believes Health Canada should just let them all be.
"If you go to a drugstore, you can buy nicotine spray; why is that being allowed? You can buy nicotine gum; why is that being allowed?" he said.
Tshaiakovski agrees, saying he would gladly close his shop if Health Canada can prove to him that e-cigarettes are worse than traditional cigarettes.
"We're doing what we can to help people out," he said. "At the end of the day, it's not like I'm forcing anybody to buy it."