It started as a joke, but now people spend a fortune on bottled fresh air. Alex Moshakis reveals how global pollution is fuelling this fad
One day in early 2015, Moses Lam and Troy Paquette filled a Ziploc bag with fresh air and posted it to eBay. The bag sold at the asking price – 99 Canadian cents, about 60p – and what was at first a joke between friends suddenly became less fanciful. The pair filled another bag and posted that online, too. When the media took note, a bidding war began, and the item ended, as hot tickets on eBay normally do, with an improbable surge. It sold for C$168 (£99).
Lam had been toiling on commission as a mortgage specialist. He had met Paquette at work. Both were fed up with the monotony of their jobs, and they saw in their eBay success the opportunity to create a new kind of market – fresh air! – one they might control themselves. Carefully, they developed a product robust enough to survive divergent postal systems: an aluminium canister connected to a plastic mouthpiece through which customers could inhale air siphoned from remote locations in Banff, Alberta, where the pair live. Next they conducted cursory research on air pollution, and soon they identified a primary market: Los Angeles, a city at once health-conscious, plagued by cars, and susceptible to wild fires, which fill the atmosphere with toxins. “We said: ‘Let’s model this after bottled water’,” Lam told me. They named their company Vitality Air.