Colbourne’s shop, Four O’Clock Vapour, has only been open in Corner Brook for a month and he already has to prepare for changes in how he can operate the business.
This week, Health and Community Services Minister John Haggie and Seniors, Wellness and Social Development Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh announced the province plans to amend the Smoke-Free Environment Act and the Tobacco Control Act. The amendments include making it illegal to sell electronic cigarettes and prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in indoor public places, workplaces or in vehicles with anyone under the age of 16.
The promotion and display of the vapour products used in e-cigarettes will also be subject to the same rules for tobacco sales. Those changes won’t be so bad for Four O’Clock Vapour since it is a store dedicated to e-cigarette products only.
Colbourne already requests identification proving his customers are 19 years of age and does not display his products in his storefront window.
His issue is with how he will be restricted in promoting his products in-store, including showing customers how to properly set up, operate and maintain vaping devices.
“I like to go above and beyond for my customers and I show them safe and efficient use for their devices before they take them home,” he said. “Not allowing me to do that could be a deterrent for someone to use my products because they might not know how to use it properly and may go back to smoking.”
Colbourne said nearly every one of his customers is someone trying to kick their tobacco smoking habit for good. That, he added, flies in the face of government’s argument that stricter laws are needed to protect the public from the potential harms of electronic cigarettes.
“(Haggie’s) talking points were the same tired lines from anti e-cigarette lobby groups from the last few years,” said Colbourne. “Anybody that’s been following it knows they are cookie-cutter argument that are myths that have all been debunked … John Haggie’s and Sherry Gambin-Walsh’s attitude towards this is worrisome and there doesn’t seem to have been much thought put into it.”
In a press release issued Monday, Gambin-Walsh and Haggie said the main objective of the amendments is to prevent and reduce smoking in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly among children and youth.
“The legislation we are bringing forward is consistent with legislation in several other Canadian provinces and supports our larger goal of promoting healthy living and protecting public health."
E-cigarettes have been shown, countered Colbourne, to be much safer than tobacco. In April, the Royal College of Physicians publicly stated that substitution of e-cigarettes for tobacco smoking has the potential to prevent almost all the harm from smoking in society.
Colbourne hopes a lobbying effort to make amendments to the proposed legislation works.
“These aren’t tobacco products and they shouldn’t be classified the same as tobacco products,” he said.