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You’ll never believe what product is starting to rack up huge demand in China.

Bottled air. Yes, as in, a bottle of nothing. A Canadian start-up company has begun packaging bottles of fresh air from places like the Rocky Mountains and Banff and selling it primarily to people in China, where clean air is actually becoming a luxury. Vitality Air sprung up last year in Edmonton, but sales only began to take off recently after the company was interviewed by the media.

While the business idea might seem strange, its success isn’t a total surprise when you consider that Beijing recently issued its first “Red Alert” for smog. And things haven’t been much better in the surrounding cities, either.

It would seem we Canadians simply take our clean air for granted, but even the co-founders of the company were met with strange looks when they originally pitched the idea to friends and family. “Don’t quit your day job,” was a response they were often met with, according to Vitality Air Co-founder Troy Paquette.

Their very first product — a ziploc bag packed with air from Alberta — was actually listed on eBay as a joke. But after they managed to sell two of them, Paquette started to realize they were onto something. One year later, “sales have gone through the roof.” “We’re having trouble keeping up,” Paquette said, adding that they’ve had to refund some orders they couldn’t fill. Vitality Air has come a long way from its humble, Ziploc bag beginnings, though. For $19 you can have your very own aluminum-brushed canister filled with “crisp mountain air” from Banff National Park. Or 7.7 litres of air from beautiful Lake Louise for $32.

For the record, you aren’t just given a can full of air that you open, allowing it to instantly seep out. The canisters come with a spray nozzle and mask attachment, and are made to release one “inhale” worth of oxygen at a time. The seven-litre option will get you about 200 inhales, for example. Before you go out and buy anything though, remember there is a difference between its “air” and “oxygen” products. Bottled air is literally a bottle of the air you would be breathing if you were standing in Banff or Lake Louise — oxygen along with a mixture of other elements.

But bottled oxygen is the pure stuff, mimicking the effect of an oxygen bar. And the website adds taking in some pure 02 could have health benefits, like preventing altitude sickness and even warding off hangovers. But Paquette was quick to clarify that these are not medical products.

If you’re strapped for Christmas gift ideas this year, some bottled air could make for the perfect novelty stocking stuffer for anyone who really wants to inhale Banff, the Rocky Mountains or Lake Louise. Or just anyone going to China in the near future.

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