I have to admit that I was somewhat ambivalent about writing this story. The sale of e-cigarettes in Canada is not technically legal, although apparently no steps have been taken yet by the Federal Department of Health to ban the sale of e-cigarettes.

So, when I was asked by a young Russian-Israeli friend whether I could write something about a venture in which one of his friends was involved, I said I would look into it. After meeting with this friend – and two of his friend’s partners, I decided that I would write something about their venture, but also add several disclaimers noting the grey area in which e-cigarettes currently fall within Canada.
The three young fellows to whom I am referring all live in the north end of the city, either in Garden City or North Kildonan. Many of the Israelis who have moved here, by the way, have settled in area that have not been traditional choices for Jews, such as St. Vital, Transcona, Charleswood and Bridgewater Forest, for instance. Others have moved into more rural areas, such as Oakbank and Dugald.

In the case of two of these young fellows: Stan Gomon, 20, and Igor Tshaicovski, 22, both of them attended Gray Academy, with Stan having graduated a couple of years ago, while Igor ended up graduating from Garden City Collegiate. The third member of the group, Vadim Andreyev, 22, came here from Israel just four months ago.
A while back the idea occurred to them that opening up a shop to sell e-cigarettes might be a good idea. One of their friends had opened up a shop of this sort, also Stan’s brother had opened one up as well, and both were doing reasonably well. In August they ended up opening their new store, Flamingo Vape Shop, at 2450 Main Street.
The capital investment required to open up a “vape” shop, as these shops are known, isn’t all that great. All that you need is a suitable premises and some stock, which is fairly limited. There are three components to an e-cigarette: The battery,k  the atomizer - which heats up the liquid and is usually contained in a tank of some sort, and which is a receptacle for the last part, which is the e-liquid.

In fact, many of the early merchandisers of e-cigarettes, which have been around for about five years now, produced their own e-liquids. The basic components of the liquids are: Vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol which, when combined, produce the vapour in an e-cigarette; flavours – the same as used in baking or candy making; and nicotine, at varying levels, which gives smokers the nicotine hit they crave.
Proponents of e-cigarettes claim that they are much safer to use than regular cigarettes; regular cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals, while e-cigarettes contain only four, they say.

Yet health authorities are highly ambivalent about the long-run safety of e-cigarettes, saying that their long-term health effects are unknown. Also, there is the concern that e-cigarettes, if placed in the hands of minors, will lead to their being “gateways” to regular cigarettes. (Flamingo Vape Shop, like every other e-cigarettes shop in Winnipeg, claims that it will not sell to minors.)
When the three friends opened their shop this past summer though, they ran into some immediate bad luck when the shop was broken into in September and thieves took some of their product. Not too long after that the shop was broken into again, but this time the store was only vandalized. The culprits were caught be police and the store was eventually restocked. It is now protected by video surveillance and an alarm system, both of which had not been in place in Septemeber.

Since opening, Flamingo Vape Shop has done reasonably well, primarily through word of mouth, I was told. It certainly seems that smokers anxious to quit the habit are willing to give e-cigarettes a try.
While I was in the store, I happened to end up chatting with a customer who was also there, who said his name was Randy. Randy told me that he had been a pack and a half a day smoker.  He was constantly wheezing and coughing while he was a smoker, he said, and his wife couldn’t stand the smell of tobacco on his clothes and on his breath. He had tried nicoderm and the nicotine patch, he said, but without any success. So he thought he’d give e-cigarettes a try.
Two months ago he started using e-cigarettes. Within three weeks Randy was able to give up real cigarettes altogether. He still takes a puff on an e-cigarette from four to six times an hour,  he noted, but he’s gradually lowering the nicotine level in his e-cigarettes, he said. He also said he and his clothes no longer reek of tobacco, he’s tasting foods now that he hadn’t tasted in years, and he hasn’t experienced any weight gain at all.
It’s his hope, Randy told me, to be completely off e-cigarettes as well sometime in 2015.

Again, this article is not meant to be an endorsement of e-cigarettes. But, if you are a smoker currently – or know someone who is, it might be worth the while to try switching to e-cigarettes. The monetary expenditure isn’t all that high: From $70-100 for the holder, which contains the battery and the atomizer; and from $20-28 for a 30 ml. bottle of e-liquid. A typical carton of cigarettes (which contains 200 cigarettes), by way of comparison, costs over $125 in Manitoba.

What might be worth considering, however, is that if you are thinking of trying e-cigarettes or are already using them, why not give these three Jewish boys the business? (I’m sure there are other Jews in the business, as well, and I’d be quite willing to give them a plug if they contact me, but I regard is as part of this paper’s mandate to try and give Jewish businesses a boost.) Flamingo Vape Shop is open seven days a week, Monday-Saturday, from 10-9; Sundays from noon-6. The number for the store is 204-219-8787.