E-cigarette industry booming in Saskatchewan

In less than a year, Vapor Jedi owner Mitch Tarala said his Saskatoon business has increased tenfold.

Anti-smoking groups calling for more regulation

The electronic cigarette. Safer than the real thing? (Nam Y. Huh/The Associated Press)

Earl Reyes sampled from a large selection of "juices," the term used for e-cigarette liquids, available at a Saskatoon shop.

"I used to smoke 10 cigarettes a day, now it's one, two, here and there, and that's it -- I'm done for the day," Reyes, a customer at Vapor Jedi said.

The store opened in September and is part of a growing trend of e-cigarette shops popping up across the country. According to the Electronic Cigarette Trade Association of Canada, there were 10 e-cigarette stores in Canada in 2009. Today, as many as 400.

In less than a year, Vapor Jedi owner Mitch Tarala said his business has increased tenfold. He figures his company is among the three largest producers of the liquids in Canada.

Earl Reyes samples from a large selection of "juices" available at a Saskatoon shop. (CBC)

Vapor Jedi's wholesale juices -- which come in flavours from bubble gum to apple pie to root beer -- are shipped to retailers across the country. 

"The growth that we've seen in the period has been overwhelming," he said. "I never expected it to be quite so busy. it's been almost difficult at times to deal with how busy it's gotten."

Heath concerns

"Vaping," as e-cigarette smoking is often called, has it's own subculture and is attracting a dedicated community. While the vaping industry is booming, it's still not clear what the rules are about selling the products.

Health Canada said that selling this liquid is illegal and that e-cigarettes have never received approval. However, the government is not clamping down on anyone selling the products.

The Canadian Cancer Society says that Health Canada needs to clarify the rules.

Saskatoon's Vapor Jedi is one of the largest producers of the liquids in Canada. (CBC)

"We would like to see kids prevented from purchasing these electronic cigarettes and not being able to use them on school grounds in the same way we prevent that with tobacco," said Donna Pasiechnik, spokesperson with the Canadian Cancer Society Saskatchewan. "We'd like these products not to be used in places where smoking isn't allowed -- work places and public places. We think the flavours, fruit and candy flavours, should be banned from these products. That's very enticing to kids."

She added that even without greater clarity, smoking or vaping anything is a bad idea.

"If you're not smoking, if you've never smoked, don't start whether it's electronic cigarettes or tobacco, first and foremost," she said.

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