It has been too long since we last spoke about vaping. I suspect that this is partly because my time has been taken up fighting other battles in the vaping world over the last few years. The vaping regulations that you enacted in Ontario have been working. I thank you for that.
I also want to share it is because of you and your late brother Rob that I can fight for fair regulations. The two of you were the first politicians to listen and keep your promise. It is because of the two positive experiences in 2014 with Rob, and 2018 with yourself, that I have been able to ensure legal access to Tobacco Harm Reduction in Canada. Sadly, many provincial leaders do not hold the same integrity as the Fords, in my opinion.
However, I can feel the winds of change when it comes to vaping in Ontario.
First, so-called public health groups won a huge victory in Quebec this year with the restrictions on flavoured vaping products (including mint and menthol). We could not convince the Government of Quebec to even grant exemptions to adult-only specialty vape shops. This is truly a loss for people who vape and smoke in our neighbours to the east.
We are seeing similar influences by public health groups in Ontario. We see that these so-called public health groups have been working closely with NDP MPPs to table “new legislation” on vaping. For example, NDP Health Critic France Gélinas introduced a bill called ‘Vaping is Not for Kids’. The bill would prohibit the promotion of vaping products, restrict sales to specialty vape shops, increase the minimum legal age from 19 to 21, and ban online sales of vaping products. What Ms. Gélinas did not disclose was that the bill was written in part by Cynthia Callard, whose organization Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada’s federal funding was recently NOT renewed.
We are also seeing more and more militant actions against vape shops in Ontario by local public health units and public health organizations. It seems that local health units across the province have taken it upon themselves to enforce and interpret Smoke Free Ontario in different ways.
Just a few examples:
- In Ottawa, a vape shop owner was fined for having their phone number on the outside of their business displayed, they said that this is advertising – however Toronto allows this.
- In Belleville, Specialty Vape Shop was forced to remove any and all mentions of their business from their store fronts. They were graciously allowed to leave their name ONCE, as they have decided that displaying the name of the business is considered “promotion”.
- Lastly, I had a sign in my window that encouraged people to sign a petition on vaping, and I was told that encouraging people to participate in democracy was against Smoke Free Ontario.
Additionally, several Health Units (including those listed above) are currently using the website www.notanexperiment.ca to share misinformation about vaping. Coincidently, the site was created by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, whose Medical Officer of Health, Charles Gardner, also sits on the board of the recently defunded organization mentioned above: Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada.
From my point of view, that the health of Ontarians, is being used as a pawn by a group of people who lost their fight with Health Canada. I don’t think we are anyone’s pawn.
Fortunately, Ontario and the federal government continue to be the voice of reason in the vaping debate. You understand how important vaping is for adults who smoke who are looking for a less harmful alternative to smoking. We must keep vapour product available and accessible to adults while enforcing youth prevention laws. There are so many lives we can save. I would very much like to meet with you or your team at your convenience to explain why it is critical that no new vaping regulations are enacted until there are robust consultations that include the voice of consumers.
We, in Canada, have the potential to be on the vanguard of tobacco harm reduction. Ontario has the opportunity to set the standard for provinces. However, militant groups are feeding policy makers with outdated information. We would like to set the record straight.