Victoria vaping shops hit hard by reports of vape illness, say the regulated industry not to blame

Business owners say vaping does more good than harm for former-smokers

Sales at Victoria’s vaping stores are being hit hard after ‘vape-related illness’ reports out of the U.S., and more recently, Canada.

John Delaney, owner of South Island Vapors, says sales are down about 60 per cent, and if the trend continues, he and many other vaping businesses might close.

“We’ve had the worst impact you could possibly imagine,” he says. “It is a complete drop in sales for the shop.”

Vaping products have been on the market since 2004, but in the last year health concerns have taken over the news cycle, with hundreds of possible cases of vape-related illness, including 33 deaths, identified in the U.S. and at least five cases confirmed in Canada.

However a majority of those affected say they had been vaping THC – the compound in marijuana that provides a high.

RELATED: Canadian officials monitor reports of vaping-linked illnesses in the U.S

The Centre for Disease Control has acknowledged that most patients with vaping-related lung problems used e-cigarettes containing THC, and the Federal Drug Administration’s official warning asks consumers to stop using THC-containing vaping products and products purchased “off the street” – two things Delaney’s shop doesn’t sell.

“This is not a vape shop issue, it’s a matter of people getting the right story and relaying it in the proper fashion,” he says, calling the subsequent sales impact and policy-making a “knee-jerk reaction.”

“When [consumers] buy off the street, they’re not sure what they’re getting and there’s an inherent risk associated with that … all that blame is being placed on our industry and it’s heart breaking.”

Heart breaking, Delaney says, because vaping allowed him, and many others, to quit smoking cigarettes. At one time Delaney smoked two packs of Du Mauriers a day.

“I started smoking when I was nine,” he says. “I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for 17 years … I watched my my father die from smoking-related illness.” He credits vaping with quitting and the subsequent health benefits includidng breathing, sleeping and tasting food better all while not “stinking like a cigarette.”

RELATED: Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

Delaney points to a study out of the U.K. by the Royal College of Physicians which states that although e-cigarettes are likely more hazardous than other nicotine replacement therapies – such as gums, patches, sprays, inhalers or lozenges – the vapour inhalation from regulated products “is unlikely to exceed five per cent of the harm from smoking tobacco.”

Health Canada, while still in the midst of investigating potential harmful effects, says completely replacing cigarette smoking with vaping reduces exposure to harmful chemicals. The government states that with the exception of nicotine, vaping products typically contain “a fraction of the 7,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke.”

RELATED: Vancouver Island’s only vaping manufacturer says industry unfairly targeted

Rina Goth opened E-Clectic Vape – now located on Victoria’s Courtenay Street – six years ago. She says sales have dipped about 20 to 25 per cent since reports of vaping-related illness hit the news.

“I knew I would probably get hit a little bit, but it’s hit me harder than I thought it would,” Goth says. “Every time we get hit by bad news or misinformation that’s out there, the sales go down and it takes a little while for people to come back.”

To Goth, who also used vaping to quit smoking cigarettes, misinformation about the cause of vaping-related illness is likely the root cause of the sales hit. She says THC and black market products are behind the sudden surge of illnesses.

“All our juices are made by manufacturers here in Canada, and we have very strict laws to what can be put in there,” she says, adding that one of her big concerns is B.C. MLA Todd Stone’s efforts to ban flavoured vaping products.

“It concerns me that they are trying to ban flavours. If they ban flavours, I’m going bankrupt. I would lose my shop,” she says. “I, as an adult, like my flavours and I don’t think we should eliminate the flavours just because kids are getting a hold of it.”

RELATED: B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

RELATED: New vaping regulations on the way, B.C.’s health minister says

But vaping is relatively new – something many health professionals point to as a cause for concern, citing the lengthy time period it took to identify the harmful health impacts of cigarette smoking.

And many of the concerns around vaping are related to non-smoking youth at risk of developing nicotine addictions. A recent Health Canada survey showed that 23 per cent of students in grades 7-12 had tried an e-cigarette.

RELATED: Health organizations call for end to promotion of vaping products

Both Delaney and Goth agree that youth vaping is an issue, but point to the fact that identification is required to purchase vaping products in their stores – and those under 19-years-old are prohibited from making purchases, just like tobacco and alcohol sales.

“As an adult-only location, we never sell to minors or anyone under 19,” Delaney says.

RELATED: Talk to your kids about vaping, B.C.’s top doctor says

Since vaping-related illness emerged, the federal government has recommended that those who don’t already vape not to start – but for those who do, it says not to use unregulated or illegal vaping products, not to modify or add substances to vaping products, and finally, not to return to cigarettes if you “are vaping…as a means of quitting cigarette smoking.”

“I need to vape, because I use nicotine,” Delaney says. “I’m an adult. If they take this away from us, if they go ahead with a ban, I will be out buying Du Mauriers.”

With files from the Canadian Press.



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich residents sound alarm after second owl dies of rat poison

Great Horned Owl found in Kings Park killed by three rodenticides

Point-guard lobs no-look, three-pointer for Oak Bay High video

Trick-shot only took three times, says Oak Bay teen

Cancelled cruise ships costs Victoria more than $130 million

Transport Canada bans ships until end of October in response to COVID-19

Phase-by-phase look at how Greater Victoria Public Libraries will reopen

GVPL to quarantine returned material for a minimum of 72 hours before lending again

Langford pitches Westhills as Canadian Premier League soccer hub

Langford could host all eight teams for August matches

VIDEO: Victoria dental staff dance to *NSYNC to promote reopening

Urban Smiles staff ‘want you back’ after closure in response to pandemic

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

B.C. aquaculture farm’s employees sweat it out to raise funds for food banks

For every five minutes of exercise recorded, Cermaq Canada is donating a dollar to local food banks in communities they operate

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Police watchdog recommends charges against five Mounties in Prince George man’s death

Police used pepper spray on the man, who then had trouble breathing before dying at the scene

Most Read