As of September, new laws surrounding the sale, promotion and use of e-cigarettes will come into effect.
While local retailers and producers say the restrictions are needed, they are tired of “vapes” being treated like tobacco.
The government’s announcement says the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act, “is designed to protect youth from the unknown effects of e-cigarette vapour and from becoming addicted to nicotine, which is why it will treat e-cigarette use exactly the same as tobacco, with the same bans and restrictions.”
Local e-juice producer Ryan Gruszie with Vector Vapor gives the new regulations a C+.
“In a way, we dodged a huge bullet from a production point of view,” he says. “There was talk that the regulations would not allow producers to make flavoured juice anymore – that it would be limited to menthols or tobacco flavours – and that would have been terrible not just for us as producers, but for everyone.”
The main reason people pick up “vaping,” Gruszie says, is to help them quit smoking.
He used the products himself to quit and hasn’t had a cigarette in almost two years after smoking for over half his life.
“Why would people want to vape something that tastes like the thing they’re trying to quit because it’s gross?” he asks rhetorically. “If you’re looking for a way to get off cigarettes, you want something that tastes delicious.
“There are juices out there that taste like tobacco, and that’s fine for people who actually enjoy the flavour of a cigarette, but, in my experience, that’s definitely the minority of people picking up a vape.”
Thankfully, that didn’t end up being part of the legislation, but there are aspects of it that Gruszie is concerned about, like what could be added to the regulations down the road because the products have been “lumped in with tobacco.”
Like increased taxation.
While some people are quitting smoking and turning to e-cigarettes as a cessation tool for health reasons, Gruszie says, many others are quitting due to the expense.
“Some people quit because they just can’t afford to be paying $11 a day – depending on how much you smoke – for a habit,” he says, so if e-juice becomes significantly more expensive than it currently is due to excessive taxation, that incentive for people to quit smoking using these products goes away.
Chris Roffey, owner of North Island Vapours in Campbell River, says that while he, too, agrees the products need to be regulated so shops who sold to minors can’t anymore – most did not, he says – the products have nothing to do with tobacco, and should never have been labelled as such.
“People are saying, ‘hey this isn’t so bad,’ when they see the new rules, but I tell them to remember that it’s now also in the Tobacco Act, so all of those rules come into effect, as well,” Roffey says. “They’re not looking long-term. I look further down the road and see the potential for them to really go after it now that it falls under tobacco regulations.”
It’s also going to complicate things in the short-term, he says. The new rules aren’t anything he can’t – or won’t – work within, but they will add some logistical issues to his day-to-day operations.
Use of the products inside the store will be severely limited under the new regulations – restricted to customers who are testing products they are thinking of purchasing and only two will be allowed to test at a time. Employees will also no longer be allowed to operate the equipment.
“Technically, if one of my employees is checking out a customer’s broken device, and he presses the button on it to test it, is he technically contravening the regulations?
“He’s firing the button, so technically he is, maybe, because he’s operating it. Are we going to have to take customers outside and walk 20 feet out into the parking lot to help them with their gear?”
It’s also going to cost Roffey and businesses like his a ton of money to abide by a few of the new regulations, including the purchase and installation of new air filtering systems so that no vapour escapes the premises.
But Roffey, Gruszie and those like them will keep at it, working within whatever regulations the government imposes. What’s important to them is that they’re helping people.
“We’re going to keep at it,” Roffey says.
“We’re still going to help these people. I love doing this, and we’ll work within any framework that they put in place so we can keep doing it.”