JEREMY APPEL, TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, JULY 04, 2015 09:00 PM EDT
Vaping on e-cigarette products
Vapour from an e-juice cigarette on June 19, 2015. (Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun)
TORONTO Gopal Bhatnagar founded a Toronto company that sells e-cigarettes and other vaping tools to customers across Canada and as far away as Pakistan.
He also happens to be a renowned heart surgeon who is convinced 180 Smoke helps save people from the ravages of tobacco smoking.
“We’re taking people off combustible tobacco and putting them onto an alternative, which may or may not contain nicotine,” he said.
“The demonstrated benefits immediately are improved lung function in terms of how much air they can move back and forth,” Bhatnagar said.
But the government and health groups aren’t convinced e-cigarettes are a healthy alternative to smoking tobacco.
“We do think that it’s probably less harmful (than smoking), but we’re not exactly sure because they’re not regulated in terms of what the chemicals are in the product,” Kelly Gorman of the Canadian Cancer Society said. “We should take a precautionary approach to it. We need to study it a bit more.”
Gorman said regulations must limit where e-cigarettes are advertised, sold and used, and set age restrictions.
Until more research is done, she said e-cigarettes should be treated as tobacco products.
That doesn’t make sense to 180 Smoke employee Mike Livingston.
“We’re not using any products aside from what the food industry uses,” he said, referring to vegetables such as tomatoes and eggplant, which contain small amounts of nicotine.
Health Canada currently breaks down market authorization for products containing nicotine as either a tobacco product or medicine, and e-cigarettes don’t fit either of those categories.
“It leaves us in a bit of a grey area,” Canadian Vaping Association vice-president Beju Lakhani said of the industry, which is estimated at $140 million in Canada. “The industry in general wants regulation. We’re pushing for it. The lack of regulation creates a lot of uncertainty, which makes it very difficult to grow our businesses.”
He said the association’s 100 members — most of them in Ontario — won’t stop selling nicotine liquids or e-cigarettes while Health Canada creates clearer guidelines.
“We can’t turn away customers who successfully have switched away from tobacco,” he said.
— With files by Jenny Yuen