The owners of Hope’s only vape shop are on board with the district’s smoking bylaw, but say provincial laws on e-cigarettes are lagging behind.
Next week council will vote to adopt a bylaw to ban smoking from many public spaces and expand the definition of smoking to include “all products intended for inhalation, such as hookahs, marijuana and electronic smoking devices.”
This definition is taken from provincial regulations and does not take into account the people who vape for health reasons, the owners of Stratus Vapor Shop said.
“Because they are a district, they pretty much have to follow what other districts are doing, what provincial is doing. Provincial does what federal is doing right, so it all leads off of federal,” co-owner Sandy Renes said.
Renes and her partner Avery Coates run the shop together with their sons Gordon and Quinton, where they sell a battery-operated device that heats and vapourizes a fluid known as e-juice. The fluid contains propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and, if the buyer chooses, nicotine juice.
Most of those who vape, Renes added, will be happy with the new rules that prevent people from smoking close to buildings, parks and other public spaces as they do not want to inhale second-hand smoke.
This is why Renes and her partner Avery Coates support the smoking bylaw, but they would like to see the provincial government come up to speed with the health benefits of vaping and how it can be used as a way to quit tobacco.
“At least a third of the people that vape, vape zero nicotine. So they’re doing it for a multitude of other reasons,” Renes said.
“The hand to mouth movement is a big thing for smokers, and if they’re not doing that movement they want to go back to smoking… We have people that vape zeros to assist them with weight loss. Zero nicotine in there, but they are vaping so they’re not turning to sweets.”
In their experience, vaping is also a much less dangerous way to inhale nicotine for those who want to keep doing so. For the family, it has had marked health benefits.
That’s how the family got into the e-cigarette business. One of their sons introduced Coates to vaping, which helped to quickly wean him off what was at times a four-pack-a-day habit. Then Renes started vaping.
Soon enough everyone in their immediate family who had smoked before was now vaping and they were seeing benefits including an improved sense of taste, heightened endurance, better breathing and less congestion.
Mark Tyndall, executive director of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, has spoken publicly about the need to look at e-cigarettes as an alternative for chronic smokers to dramatically increase their health outcomes.
Joan L. Bottorff, professor at the UBC Okanagan School of Nursing and director of the Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention, said some people use e-cigarettes as a way to kick their tobacco addiction.
“It is a harm reduction tool because you’re not getting those 4,000 chemicals into your body anymore that are in those comercially prepared cigarettes,” she said.
Bottorff said it is not clear whether vaping helps people quit smoking entirely as the cravings and some smoking-related behaviours such as inhaling and hand-to-mouth movement continue with vaping. If people who vape gradually reduce and eliminate the nicotene they smoke, she said, then it can be a way to kick the addiction.
Experts in the medical community are divided on how to treat e-cigarettes. A lot of the division stems from a lack of long-term studies on vaping.
The federal and provincial government have chosen to regulate e-cigarettes in the same way cigarettes are. In B.C. they are governed under the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act.
Health minister Terry Lake said in 2015 the goal of including e-cigarettes was to protect young people from potential dangers of vaping.
The dangers, Fraser Health noted, are how vaping can model smoking behaviour for youth who have easy access to e-cigarettes and whose use of them has risen since 2013.
“We find that an increasing number of…kids in grades seven to 12, so kids in school, are saying that they’ve tried an e-cigarette,” Bottorff said. She pointed to a recent study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine which found middle- and high-school students who vape were twice as likely to try cigarettes.
Stratus Vapor Shop IDs people as soon as they enter the store, Renes said, minors have to leave immediately. The shop windows facing Wallace Street are also blacked out, following legislation, shielding curious kids from the merchandise inside.
While their shop is following the law and ensuring their products are safe, Renes said youth can easily purchase vape supplies which are not regulated online.
Renes and Coates appreciate the district needs to follow the province’s lead when putting in place their own bylaw. Ideally, Coates would like to see the general understanding of vaping include those who are doing it for health reasons.
In the meantime, Renes is hoping sales don’t drop because of the bylaw.
“Sales may drop some, because they’re not vaping in as many places or as often or as much,” she said.
“But I believe that the health benefits will outweigh that. And if they’re wanting to quit smoking they will still look to us as a possibility, as a choice.”
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