E-cigarette cafe in Moncton sparks debate about regulations

A new e-cigarette cafe in Moncton is sparking debate about whether health regulations for the electronic devices are needed sooner rather than later.

Vape Vision Cafe owner Marc Sonier believes e-cigarettes healthier than tobacco cigarettes

Marc Sonier opened Vape Vision Cafe in Moncton about a week ago. (Jennifer Choi/CBC)

A new e-cigarette cafe in Moncton is sparking debate about whether health regulations for the electronic devices are needed sooner rather than later.

Marc Sonier opened Vape Vision Cafe on Main Street about a week ago, offering coffee and snacks, as well as a place for people to buy and smoke e-cigarettes.

"It gives the people a public place to come and vape where they don't have to worry about anybody saying, 'You can't do that here.' More or less, with the cigarettes you can't do it anywhere. These are socially acceptable for the most part," he said.

E-cigarettes use flavoured liquids that emit a vapour when heated. Many retailers, like Sonier, sell liquids that contain nicotine.

Health Canada has not authorized any electronic cigarettes with nicotine or health claims, but proponents contend they are healthier than smoking traditional cigarettes and can help people quit.

Sonier says trying to find accurate information about the health impacts for himself and his clients has been a challenge.

Still, he believes e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative and says he is catering to a growing number of e-cigarette users.

"I mean cigarettes have 11,000-plus chemicals, I believe this only has around 10. Less than 11,000 is a good number."

More research needed

Critics, however, say the science is not there to determine the health effects of e-cigarettes

Barbara MacKinnon, president and CEO of the New Brunswick Lung Association, recommends people not use e-cigarettes until more research is done.

"There are some toxins that are fewer in the e-cigarettes than in regular cigarettes. However, they do have chemicals in them that aren't present in cigarettes. They have propelyn-glycol, they have formeldahyde in them. And we do not know the level of dosage that people are getting with e-cigarettes and we don't have any long term data to show the health effects of these exposures," she said.

MacKinnon would like to see the current ban on smoking in public places extended to e-cigarettes.

"And the reasons for that is, as I mentioned before, the lack of understanding of just what the second hand exposure is when people smoke these," she said.

Sonier's father, Hector Sonier, who was a smoker for 42 years and says he quit by using e-cigarettes, argues a ban would go too far.

He says second hand smoke from cigarettes is toxic and different from what's emitted from e-cigarettes.

"This is vapour … and it dissipates quick. And there's no smell to it, okay?"