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Shop fills vaping hole among smokers

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Pam Wright  

Something new is floating in the air in downtown Sarnia.

Christina Street is now home to the Tugboat Vaping Co., a new business catering to a growing phenomenon.

Vaping, viewed as a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco, features the inhalation of flavorful, moisturized vapour via an electronic cigarette.

Entrepreneur Martin Lacombe said his new venture features a variety of paraphernalia and 75 vaping liquids. The store also features a lounge area where clients can gather to inhale together.

Vaping is portrayed as a younger crowd pastime on social media, but Lacombe said that’s not the case.

“My bread and butter is the 40-plus crowd,” Lacombe said, adding vaping appeals to middle-agers as a way to kick tobacco smoking.

And folks seem grateful.

“Older ladies bake me pies because they’re so happy I got their husbands off cigarettes,” Lacombe said.

While vaping can deliver a nicotine hit, most of the hundreds of toxins that appear in regular tobacco are absent. The battery-powered e-cigarettes have various settings, which can be dialed up or down, depending on the level of nicotine the consumer wants.

That allows people to quit smoking gradually, Lacombe said.

Martin Lacombe
Martin Lacombe

Vaping gets a lot of media attention as a cool, hipster activity. You Tube is peppered with video of vaping contests and feats of wonder —the extremes of vapour exhalation.

“There is a subculture, Lacombe agreed, adding vapers can be compared to cigar aficionados, tattoo lovers, or ‘gear heads’ who like to talk about cars and engines.

“Yes, they get together to compare tastes and whatnot.”

Flavours for the liquids range from standard tobacco-styles to fruits and candies. Vapers can play board games while they hang out and newcomers are welcome.

The former Ottawa resident said he chose Sarnia to set up shop after completing market research that pinpointed the city and Charlottetown, PEI as the two best prospects for what he had in mind.

Sarnia was closer to home, added Lacombe, who worked for another vaping company for a few years.

New rules in Ontario prohibit the sale of product to anyone under 19, and he won’t — unlike some Canadian vaping shops — be providing a space at 173 Christina St. for medical marijuana smokers.

Vaping enthusiasts insist the practice practice isn’t harmful.

Inquiries to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care about vaping were not answered by press time.




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