With its borders sealed to imported nicotine e-liquid, you might expect the e-cigarette business to be dead and buried in Canada, but vape shop owners all across the country are standing up to the state’s public health department. And with over 17,000 Kg of tobacco substitutes captured by the border patrol last year alone, the domestic business is booming.  Vape shops and online e-cig outlets have been expanding rapidly all over the State, leaving the government baffled.

Canada flagIt was December 2013 when many of the Canadian retail owners received a letter from Health Canada, regarding the illegal sale of nicotine products with the request to submit a complete list of all brand names of ecig products they import and sell. The owners also were required to give the names and address of other businesses to which the e-liquid products have been distributed. Also the list of ingredients and copies of all product labels have been requested.

The other drawback is the constant fight to keep stocks as their products are held up in customs for detailed inspections at the order of Health Canada. Sometimes these inspections can produce delays of weeks and even months.

But despite these issues, many vape shops and online stores continue to pop up all over the country. e-Steam Canada is one of the most successful businesses that started out as a small retail store and expanded in just a few years to almost 14 new locations. ‘We know the criticism of the industry: that we’re signing up people and creating a problem, not solving a problem,’ said e-Steam manager Martin Lacombe.

As there are no formally established ecig regulations in Canada, the company has its own in-house policies. They refuse to sell their products to non-smokers or minors and they are very keen on respecting ECTA standards like regular eliquid testing in a laboratory accredited by Health Canada and proper product labeling.

ECTA or Electronic Cigarette Trade Association has attempted several times to have a discussion with the health agency regarding proper e-cigarette regulations, but achieve no significant success. “We’re pushing for the federal government to sit down with the ECTA to join voices, get this product regulated so it can be handled properly, so these Canadian businesses can grow and smokers can have access to this alternative,” said Kate Ackerman, an ecigarette seller and member of ECTA.

“There are still five million smokers in Canada and only a handful are even aware of what an electronic cigarette is.” She added.  Also some vendors are scared off when a letter arrives from Health Canada telling them to “Stop selling, or else.”

But the maximum the authorities have done is to mark any vendor who is selling nicotine e-liquid as non-compliant with their food and drug regulations, explained Ackerman.

Attitudes are changing, and although the issue may end up in the courts, for the time being no one is budging. Things might change with the introduction of the first licensed devices next year, but until the authorities won’t come up with strict regulations regarding these types of products, we’ll still swim in murky waters.