Samir El-Gindi smoked cigarettes since he was kid, but decided it was time to quit when he tried vaping. Now, he runs three vape stores in Calgary called Alt Vape.
El-Gindi was born in Egypt in 1983. Early in his childhood, he moved to New York City, where he spent his adolescence.
“I guess I was 13. I went to a camp, guy had a cigarette. I took a hit or puff, — whatever it was — and I got buzzed.”
This began a creeping dependency on cigarettes over the course of his teens.
“It was a slow transition,” El-Gindi said. “It’s disgusting when you start … then it becomes, ‘Oh let me take a drag,’ and then it’s like, ‘Okay now I’m buying a pack.’”
Remembering it as a conscious addiction, it carried on with El- Gindi, travelling with him wherever he went.
“The worst was when I was in Africa with the Peace Corps … a pack was like 50 cents, it was just so easy and cheap,” he said.
At the peak of his habit, El-Gindi was getting sick twice a year with bronchitis. He knew it was time to quit when he moved to Calgary in January 2017.
“This was my chance, moving to Canada, starting a new life. This was my chance to do something different, that's when I went to my first vape store,” El-Gindi said.
He had tried other smoking alternatives provided by the Peace Corps, like Nicorette and the nicotine patch. However, he says these never gave him the satisfaction and relief like vaping has.
“You know, two years ago I would have said there is a 50/50 chance that you could quit with vapes, but now it's a much higher chance,” he said.
After transitioning to vaping, El-Gindi grew interested in running vape stores of his own.
El-Gindi and his common-law partner, Danielle Chesney, opened up the first Alt Vape location in Calgary in late 2017. [MW1]
Alt Vape currently has three locations in Calgary. Their stores are stocked with all necessary vaping tools to get someone off of cigarettes, like the JUUL, a slim device that, as El-Gindi describes, “Mimics the feel of having a cigarette.”
“Business is definitely not my passion, [but] I am having fun doing this,” El-Gindi said.
The stores he runs provides smokers who are seeking an alternative, with the necessary equipment and knowledge to do so.
“I saw how effective this was for me to quit smoking, and [then] I started doing some research on the market,” El-Gindi said.
Michael Mitchell, a 28 year-old automotive salesman, is a frequent client of Alt Vape. He agrees with El-Gindi’s opinion on vaping as a smoking alternative.
“I started smoking when I was probably at the early ages of, I believe 14. I never quit smoking, up until about three months ago now when I bought my first Myle,” Mitchell said.
A Myle is a device similar to the JUUL in design and functionality.
Mitchell had attempted to quit before, even using traditional style vapes, but could only kick the habit when discovering ‘NicSalt’ devices.
NicSalt devices are typically smaller, less powerful, and use a higher nicotine percentage than a normal vape; this helps mimic a cigarette.
“When I would first wake up, I would probably have one or two cigarettes out of the pack, and the rest of the day was [the] Myle. And that lasted for about a month and then I was on the straight Myle,” Mitchell said.
As for El-Gindi, vaping helped him get over his addiction to cigarettes much faster than he anticipated.
“The transition was pretty quick. I would vape during the day,” said El-Gindi. “When I was out drinking I would still smoke cigarettes, and then slowly just having a cigarette would be nasty.”
After a long battle with smoking, El-Gindi now has the confidence to say he has officially quit cigarettes.
“You're going from one addiction to another, but I'd rather the lesser of two evils,” — Samir El-Gindi
El-Gindi and Mitchell are not the only ones trying to quit decades old cigarette addictions — according to the 2017 Tobacco Use in Canada report conducted by the University of Waterloo, 13.2 per cent of Canadians have reported trying vaping.
In addition, 51 per cent of Canadians report having tried vaping, and 22.8 per cent of smokers used vaping to help them quit smoking.
A recent study completed by students at the University of Calgary has revealed some of the unknown effects of vaping.
Sam Shang, a Bachelor of Health Science student majoring in biomedical science at U of C, was one of the students conducting the study.
“We were trying to compare the effect of e-cigarettes versus cigarettes on the developing embryo using zebrafish as a model organism,” he said.
The study showed that when zebrafish embryos were exposed to e-cigarette extract, as well as cigarette extract, it caused defects in the development of the retina, a part of the eye.
From this study, Shang discovered that there are drawbacks and risks to vaping, but he believes it is still an overall healthier alternative to cigarettes.
Mitchell and El-Gindi understand that there are potential risks to vaping, but they are willing to accept them if it means staying off of cigarettes.
“There is always a risk to everything, every habit, every vice. But I see less risk with smoking a vape than actually smoking a cigarette,” Mitchell said.
“You're going from one addiction to another, but I'd rather [choose] the lesser of two evils,” El-Gindi said.
El-Gindi enjoys being smoke-free as well as running the Alt Vape stores and has plans for expanding in the future, helping customers with their vaping needs.
- By Ty Patterson