NEW GLASGOW – The End Vapour Shop owner Shai Connors says she’s not a criminal. She’s a vaper.
A “vaper” is a person who uses electronic cigarettes. The electronic cigarettes use liquid, which may or may not contain nicotine.
Connors says the device helped her switch from tobacco cigarettes and now she wants to offer the same to others. With hazy laws and little long term scientific knowledge surrounding the devices, however, the New Glasgow business has found itself rolled up in a debate over the electronic cigarettes that has ignited conversation across the province about the safety and laws (or lack there of) surrounding the devices.
While proponents of the battery powered devices say they are a good alternative to tobacco cigarettes and that using them has made the feel healthier, opponents say there are still risks associated with the nicotine used in the devices and much is still unknown about the long term effects of using them.
Connors has been selling electronic cigarettes since August, but just this week received a Cease and Desist order from the National Department of Health.
She said the letter was not unexpected since she had been warned by other vendors that have received similar.
“I was wondering what took them so long,” she said.
The order cites information from the Health Canada Public Advisory on March 27, 2009.
It states that although these smoking products may be marketed as a safer alternative to conventional tobacco products and, in some cases, as an aid to quitting smoking, electronic smoking products may pose risks such as nicotine poisoning and addiction, the letter states.
Connors makes it very clear that she isn’t advertising vaping as a way to quit smoking, simply an alternative.
“If you’re looking for cessation, go see a medical professional,” she says.
But she does believe it is safer because it doesn’t include the other ingredients included in tobacco.
“I’m not saying it’s safe. I’m not a scientist, I’m not a physician I can’t make those claims,” she said. “But you remove one ingredient from a tobacco cigarette, it becomes safer.”
Her customers attest to her product.
Bonnie MacDonald says she had a heart attack in August and turned to the electronic cigarettes as a way to quit smoking tobacco.
“If I didn’t have these I’d still be smoking, and I’d be probably down to Halifax having more stints put in,” she said. “That’s why I don’t understand why Health Canada isn’t jumping on this because of the health benefits. I don’t take puffers any more for my lungs. I don’t take stomach medication for acid reflux, all because I’m not smoking cigarettes.”
Mason Campbell, says it only makes sense to him that vaping would be better than smoking.
“It changed my life,’ he said. “I used to smoke over a pack a day every day of my life. The first day I was on this without having a cigarette in my lungs I felt totally different right then and there.”
According to the letter from Health Canada, electronic smoking products fall under the scope of the Food and Drugs Act, which they say require market authorization before they can be imported, advertised or sold.
Connors however says that Food and Drugs Act which states that an exception in which nicotine can be sold is in a “form to be administered orally by means of an inhalation device delivering 4 mg or less of nicotine per dosage unit.”
“There is absolutely no law. That’s the thing, I’m fully compliant as per the laws.”
She says she is going to ignore the letter and continue to provide her product to the approximately 5,000 people who shop at her store.
“I’m not breaking the law so there’s no reason why I should close.”