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Vape store owner says panic over e-cigarettes unfounded

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Troy Shantz

The owner of a Sarnia vaping store says recent media scrutiny of e-cigarettes is doing more harm than good by discouraging tobacco smokers trying to quit.

“Vaping is a miracle,” claims Martin Lacombe, owner of Tugboat Vaping Co. “It has taken more people off cigarettes. It saved more lives.”

Lacombe was responding to a growing threat of government bans on flavoured e-cigarettes following at least 18 deaths and over 800 hospitalizations in the U.S. related to vaping.

The small, electronic devices that users puff on to emit plumes of white vapour are used by one in four high school students in the U.S.

And while health officials acknowledge e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes, the flavour pods of e-juice are still largely unregulated in Canada and can contain large does of nicotine and other chemicals.

Lacombe claims the vaping products sold at his Christina Street shop have been cleared by Health Canada. Many of the products currently harming consumers are imported or from black markets and far from the reach of government regulators, he said.

“You realize there was four years when the Canadian government inspected our industry… to check the science, to check everything,” he said. “They closed the books, they wrote the laws. Now this hysteria happens.”

According to Lambton Public Health, one flavour pod can contain as much nicotine as 1.5 packs of cigarettes and the average user goes through two pods per day.

Nicotine is more addictive than heroin, increases stress levels, thins blood, and impacts the brain development of youths.

Lacombe said e-cigarettes aren’t perfect but less harmful than tobacco. He doesn’t sell vaping products produced or owned by tobacco companies, such as Juul and Vype, he said.

“If you’re 15, 20 or 50, and you decide you want to smoke something, I don’t care who you are, you’re wiser to pick up an e-cigarette versus a cigarette. It’s a safer product,” added Lacombe, who quit smoking a month after first using e-cigarettes about seven years ago.

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