AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

A duo from Edmonton is selling their product by the thousands, thanks to China’s latest air quality crisis.

It’s an especially bad time to depend on a nose, mouth, and lungs for breathing if you’re in Beijing. While few can afford the pleasures of a leisurely mountain escape in nearby Zhangjiakou, a whiff of Banff is within reach!

“Red alert” smog levels hit China’s capital city earlier this month—the highest alert issued since the color-coded system debuted in 2013. As a result, some residents are taking the desperate measure of buying clean air from a can.

For Troy Paquette and Moses Lam, it’s a very good time to be in the business of selling an invisible element. After successfully selling sealed plastic bags of air on eBay (the first for 99 cents, the second for $168 after a bidding war), the duo started Vitality Air in 2014.

(Vitality Air)

Based in Edmonton, Vitality Air claims to fill each can with the purest air found in the Rockies and Lake Louise in Banff. Their process, “a bit of a trade secret," Paquette told Vice, involves filling “massive cans through clean compression, locking in the pure air without any contamination.” Then, back at their facility, they fill canisters “to the brim.”

A can of Vitality Air contains about 150 sprays. A single can goes for $14 (before shipping), while a double pack can go for as much as $43. It’s no bargain. According to the Telegraph, one can is “about 50 times more expensive than a bottle of mineral water in China.” Vitality Air’s China sales representative tells the Telegraph that most customers are affluent women “who buy [cans] for their families or give [them] away as gifts.” Night clubs and senior homes are also buying in.

The company’s first shipment of 500 bottles sold out in less than a week and 4,000 more are on their way, according to Lam. Enthusiasm is palpable on the company’s customer testimonial page: “IT TASTE LIKE AIR VERY GOOD THANK U,” says a reviewer by the name of “Xi.”

The only listed U.S. vendor is Brown Dog Distributors in Jacksonville, Florida. Owner Teresa Davis tells CityLab that she reached out to Vitality after struggling with the elevation on a trip Springboat Valley, Colorado. Feeling better after taking hits from a $15 can of oxygen she bought at a convenience store, Davis is a believer. Since then, she has sold 60 cans in two months and reaches out to exercise studios in hopes of reaching the coveted healthy-and-affluent demographic.

Lam and Paquette’s venture into the business of selling air isn’t totally new to China. Liang Kegang, an artist in Beijing, sold a glass jar of air from southern France last year for nearly $800. The eccentric millionaire Chen Guangbiao sold cans of air from less-polluted parts of China in 2013 for $0.80 each. With no signs of China solving its unhealthy air problem, more absurd solutions are sure to arrive on the market.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a woman on a SkyTrain car its way to the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.
    Transportation

    In the City That Ride-Hailing Forgot, Change Is Coming

    Fears of congestion and a powerful taxi lobby have long kept ride-hailing apps out of this transit-friendly British Columbia city. That’s about to change.  

  2. A man rides an electric scooter in Los Angeles.
    Perspective

    Why Do City Dwellers Love to Hate Scooters?

    Electric scooters draw a lot of hate, but if supported well by cities, they have the potential to provide a widespread and beneficial mode of transportation.

  3. Life

    American Migration Patterns Should Terrify the GOP

    Millennial movers have hastened the growth of left-leaning metros in southern red states such as Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. It could be the biggest political story of the 2020s.

  4. A photo of a man along a walkway near a beach in Barcelona.
    Transportation

    The Life-Saving Benefits of Barcelona’s Car-Free ‘Superblocks’

    A new study estimates that a citywide plan to limit cars and capture nearly 70 percent of street space for bikes and pedestrians could save 667 lives per year.

  5. A mural of Woody Guthrie in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    Life

    Don't Move People Out of Distressed Places. Instead, Revitalize Them

    A new study shows that place-based policies are key to helping people in distressed cities, where investments should be tailored to local economic conditions.

×