E-Cigarettes: a fake puff with real consequences

“Vapours” might be harmless, but that isn’t a free pass.

Electronic cigarettes have been in the news a lot lately. It all seems unbelievably biased and almost short-sighted in nature: the reports of them being a gateway to smoking (or even harder drugs), or that they’re marketed to children, have created a campaign of fear-mongering by some media outlets.

Let’s start with some science: an e-cig is essentially a battery that sends power to a coil, which heats up and atomizes a liquid. What is inhaled is made up of propylene glycol (commonly found in medical inhalers and food), vegetable glycerine (used in food and shisha), food flavouring and – of course – nicotine. Minus the food flavouring, these are medically proven to be safe for inhalation. Pretty simple, right?

The liquid itself varies in strength, going from no nicotine at all to strong doses like 24 milligrams per millilitre. It’s important to note that a single cigarette holds roughly 18 milligrams of nicotine. Obviously, the math becomes a little more complicated down the line, but there’s nothing grossly unsafe about the practice.

Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet

As it stands, the new hobby supposedly helps many kick the habit, by progressively stepping down the intake of nicotine. Better yet, it helps users purge the added “bonuses” of standard cigarettes like tar, all while being much cheaper. So what exactly is the problem here?

All things considered, there’s a big market for smoking in the West – and not just from those picking up the habit, but also from those quitting it. Pharmaceutical companies are making millions on quit smoking aids and the government is raking in its fair share of taxes, too. Just like dieting “supplements,” the best way to secure returning business on quit smoking tools is to ensure that they have a reasonable chance to fail. But when something new comes in (with standard sales taxes applied, rather than the ludicrous increased taxes on cigarettes to “encourage people to quit”), it becomes clear that this is a business being disrupted. After all, who can out-monopolize the people in charge of regulating against monopolies?

Conspiracies aside, there’s still a lot of discussion to be had regarding those who are making the switch, and it all boils down to etiquette. A lot of shops and places will flat out say that you can use e-cigs any and everywhere, because it’s not really smoking. This holds a degree of truth: the “vapour” produced is relatively harmless according to several studies done on the subject. The smell generally reflects whatever flavour the user has, but more importantly it dissipates fairly quickly. This is all well and good, but there’s still the issue of respect to keep in consideration.

I’ve been using e-cigs for a year and haven’t really used them indoors unless permitted by the establishment either openly, or after some enquiries. Not so cool, though, are the fellow students I’ve seen using them indoors on campus and the random folks puffing away on the metro and in the bus. Don’t get me wrong, I get it: it’s fairly stealthy and can be pretty unnoticeable. But to be honest, doing this is going to harm the case for e-cigs far more than help them in the long run. If the market needs to do any convincing to keep from being locked and shut down, then it needs to start being mindful of non-smokers, too.

At the end of the day, it’s not healthy. There’s no point in saying it is. But e-cigs are sold as a tool for harm-reduction. Being able to get a nicotine fix anywhere isn’t in the books, nor should it be. I don’t miss the days of smoky bars and night clubs, and I’m fairly sure that most people would be inclined to agree. If you’re an e-cigarette smoker, head outside during your breaks like everyone else, or check with the establishment to see whether or not they’re okay with it first. It’s common sense, just like kicking the habit altogether.

Student Life

Con U students should know more about electronic cigarettes

Cristian Sava is not your typical smoker. He is a 24-year-old John Molson School of Business (JMSB) student currently pursuing a bachelor of commerce,who on Aug. 1 launched This e-commerce site sells electronic cigarettes. The Concordian spoke to Sava and asked him to expand on the e-cigarette industry and shed a light on the pros of this vaping device.

Press photo

How did ElegantVape start?

I started thinking about ElegantVape a few months after having tried my first electronic cigarette. Even though it was a very low-quality, yet terribly expensive model that I had to throw away after a few weeks, it was enough for me to understand that I was in possession of a truly life-changing device. A few months after purchasing my second starter kit, having witnessed several positive effects already, I began planning

In March of 2013, after meeting Nathalie (my current business partner), we began setting the whole thing in motion. After losing several members of her close family to lung cancer due to tobacco and shisha smoking, Nathalie saw ElegantVape as the perfect resolution to a problem that destroyed her family and still affects thousands of families throughout Canada.

What is the purpose of ElegantVape?

The purpose of ElegantVape is very simple: to provide smokers with a very qualitative, less detrimental alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes.

What is the difference between a regular cigarette and an e-cigarette?

There are several notable differences between regular cigarettes and electronic cigarettes.

First and foremost, electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco and there is no combustion involved when vaping. The fact that there is no combustion when using e-cigarettes is very important, as there is no production and inhalation of tar, carbon monoxide and other dangerous toxins.

Second, a tobacco cigarette contains more than 4,000 chemicals when it is burning, 70 of which are known carcinogens. E-liquid, on the other hand, contains only a handful of ingredients (food-grade propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, water-soluble flavoring, distilled water and/or small quantities of food-grade alcohol, and optionally nicotine), all of which are found in consumable products. Nicotine, for instance, is naturally found in potatoes, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Many mistakenly believe that nicotine causes cancer, however, a lot of scientific studies show that nicotine by itself is not a carcinogen, and that its effects on the human body are pretty much the same as those of caffeine.

With e-cigs you have no smoke and no secondhand smoke, only an odorless and harmless (scientifically proven) vapor.

An electronic cigarette does not taste like a regular cigarette and probably never will. While the sensation (in the mouth, throat and brain) is very similar, due to the lack of combustion and lack of many chemical substances, e-cigarettes have a rather smooth taste, not a burnt one.


Is this an effective way to kick the habit?

In my opinion (the guy who actually tried several quitting products – patches, gum and medication, all unsuccessfully), it is the most effective way. Many studies actually show that traditional methods of quitting have a low rate of success, and that many of those who manage to quit temporarily relapse. The majority of vapers that I know personally did not switch to e-cigarettes in order to quit, but because they wanted to smoke better. They do not have the slightest intention to kick the habit, as they do not feel any harmful effects associated with this “new habit.”

However, those who do switch for the purpose of quitting have been able to do so with the help of the electronic cigarette, and numerous forum discussions available on the Internet can confirm this. When people want to quit, they start with a level of nicotine that corresponds to their usual consumption. Over time, they are able to decrease the nicotine strength at their own pace – from high, to medium, then low, and finally to zero nicotine. Another thing that I witnessed with some of my clients is they switched from a tobacco flavour to a fruit flavour in order to move further away from the cigarette-like experience and stop the habit completely.


What is the appeal?

Smokers switch to electronic cigarettes for a variety of reasons. From my experience, the most common are:

–  Getting the same enjoyable sensation without the whole collection of harmful effects;

–  To save money;

–  To relieve family of secondhand smoke;

–  For the great variety of flavours;

–  To avoid the bad smell and ash.

Is this a cheaper option?

Rechargeable electronic cigarettes are definitely a cheaper option.

After the initial investment of $50-100 for the starter kit, a person who smokes the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes/day will pay around $40 in e-liquid and accessories per month. Compare this with the $200-300, depending on the brand, paid for regular cigarettes.

One year after the purchase of my first e-cigarette, I decided to calculate out of curiosity how much I had economized and was amazed to realize that I was able to save almost $2,800 by switching.


Are there any regulations on the manufacture, sale and marketing of e-cigarettes?

At the present time, Canada does not regulate the manufacture, sale and marketing of electronic cigarettes. This can be problematic, as there are companies who enter this industry only for the potential financial benefits, without fully understanding the product and smokers’ needs. These vendors often purchase the cheapest possible products, without care for consumer satisfaction or safety.


Just because e-cigarettes are a lesser evil doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Do you think this business encourages smoking?

I highly doubt it. It only happened to me once for a non-smoker to ask me “Hey, can I try your electronic cigarette?” and my answer was “No!” Adults know all too well that cigarettes are addictive and those who never smoked have no interest in electronic cigarettes. It would be as if I offered a nicotine patch to a non-smoker. Teenagers, on the other hand, curious and wanting to try everything, might be more interested in trying them out, as they do try tobacco cigarettes even though they are underage. Fortunately, the majority of e-cigarette companies do not market its products to youths and do not allow sale to minors. When it comes to e-commerce sites, at ElegantVape, for instance, we have a strict 18+ policy and PayPal is set to check the date of birth of the cardholder. Minors could, for example, make a purchase with their parents’ credit cards, but the fact that each of our kits costs between $50 and $100 (material amounts), chances are that will not happen too often, if at all.


Do you consider yourself a smoker?

I consider myself an electronic smoker. “Electronic” because I do not associate e-cigarettes with all the troubles caused by tobacco, and “smoker” because I enjoy vaping as much as – if not even more than – I used to enjoy “real” smoking.

For more information, check out our article on electronic cigarettes.

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