(PHOTO: Patrick Riley, owner of VapeKing on Stittsville Main Street, is wary of the effect that new regulations may have on his business.)
As the Ontario government moves to impose restrictions on e-cigarettes, business owners, lawyers and users are contemplating the effects that regulations may have on the industry.
VapeKing, located at Stittsville Main and Hobin Street, is so far the only shop selling e-cigarette products in the community. The store, which belongs to a Quebec-based franchise, opened in Stittsville last November, the same month Quebec levied its own rules on the public consumption of e-cigarettes, essentially treating them the same as tobacco products.
Storeowner Patrick Riley is keenly aware of the looming threat of government restrictions, but remains confident that e-cigarette stores will endure.
“Regulations are coming and they will make things different,” says Riley. “But I don’t think it will be enough to ruin the industry.” Hopefully the government will be satisfied with compensation similar to the tobacco industry.”
Currently, e-cigarettes aren’t allowed on city property, including parks and OC Transpo buses. Last week, the city’s Board of Health decided to hold off on adopting additional rules until they find out how Ontario will be enacting regulations. Some of the changes Ottawa considered include flavoured e-cigarettes. A staff report said that they contain a flavouring chemical called diacetyl which has been linked to respiratory diseases
David Sweanor, adjunct professor of law at the University of Ottawa and a member of the school’s Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics, is a vocal opponent of the tobacco industry. He suggests government action on e-cigarettes might even violate human rights.
“Efforts to restrict e-cigarettes inevitably raise constitutional questions,” he explains, “such as violating the ‘right to life’ provision in Section 7 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Furthermore, Sweanor notes that a ban could jeopardize a booming e-cigarette market which employs many Canadians.
“There are now a great many smokers who have switched to vaping and a significant number of jobs (now exist) in the field,” he says.
A HEALTHIER ALTERNATIVE?
Beyond economic factors, e-cigarettes have been hailed as a safer option than traditional cigarettes.
Riley has been vaping for nearly two years and says he feels healthier as a result.
“I perform better at the gym, I save money and I have less of a wheezing cough in the morning,” he says.
With e-cigarettes, users can get their nicotine fix without inhaling the carcinogens found in traditional cigarettes.
“It is the inhalation of smoke that causes virtually all of the health risks,” says Sweanor. “Vapour products avoid combustion.”
Stittsville resident Sam Reid bought his first e-cigarette at VapeKing in January. While he agrees the product is the healthier option, he remains skeptical of its net benefit.
“I don’t like how they are so appealing to an underage group,” Reid says. “Cigarettes are supposed to be disgusting so people won’t buy them. But now with e-cigs, why wouldn’t I smoke?”
Reid also thinks he uses his device too often, despite buying it for one purpose: quitting smoking.
E-cigarettes have generated criticism for other reasons as well. In January, reports surfaced about a device exploding in an Edmonton teenager’s face.
Riley, however, maintains that these types of horror-stories are almost always user-oriented.
“It’s all about knowledge,” he explains. “Sometimes (the e-cigarette) is not regulated, and it can overheat. You’ve got to use safe equipment and make sure you know the company’s reputation.”
UP IN THE AIR
E-cigarette users are growing in number, putting the pressure on government and industry officials to act.
“Business is great, it’s just a matter of what the government and the tobacco companies are going to do about the industry,” says Riley. “They’re powerful people.”
Above all else, Sweanor emphasizes the role e-cigarettes can play in public health.
“Unless Big Tobacco and abstinence-only moralists can kill vapour products,” he says, “I believe that we are on the cusp of a major public health revolution.”
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