Canadian convenience stores campaign against vape shop competition

Convenience store owners are fighting to protect cigarette sales

Radu Bercan /

A convenience store association is backing an astroturf campaign to convince Canadian lawmakers to pass harsh restrictions on vape shops.

The Ontario Convenience Store Association (OCSA) claims allowing vape shops to offer samples would be unfair to businesses that allow underage customers inside, and the group wants a “level playing field.” In other words, they think vape shops should abide by the rules for retailers that sell combustible cigarettes.

The association has launched a campaign aimed at gathering signatures on a petition telling the Ontario premier and health minister to “that the sale of cigarettes and e-cigarettes should be regulated to the same high standards for stores not limited to adults only.”

The website,, has a page that allows you to choose from a set of pre-written letters to the health minister and premier that change depending on whether you check the box for “concerned citizen, concerned parent, concerned retailer, or citizen concerned about public policy.” This is the one from a “concerned citizen”:

Subject: Keep Ontario’s regulation of e-cigarettes strong

Hon Eric Hoskins, Minister
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
10th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2C4

Dear Hon. Minister Hoskins:

As the Government of Ontario considers how to regulate the sale, advertising, and promotion of e-cigarettes, please do not create a separate set of standards that would allow e-cigarettes to be promoted, advertised, and sampled in stores.

I believe it’s important that we hold all smoking-related products, whether tobacco or vapour, to the same high regulatory standards. This will ensure that e-cigarettes and marketed and sold as a product for adults and don’t end up in the wrong hands of those who are underage.

Please keep this in mind as you review the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

(Your name will appear here.)

cc: Kathleen Wynne, Premier

While this initiative has all the earmarks of a tobacco industry effort, it may not be. In Canada, cigarette makers don’t have the political clout they do in the U.S., and they don’t typically engage in sneaky astroturfing like they do here.

I emailed the press contact from the website and asked who funded the campaign, but haven’t received a response at the time the story was submitted. It will be updated if he responds.

The campaign’s press release says it’s “uniting stakeholders to caution the Premier and the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care about the risks of allowing the development of e-cigarette regulations that are inconsistent with the spirit of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.”

What stakeholders? Cigarette manufacturers and the stores that sell them? Oh, gotcha.

Jim McDonald
I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.
  • Xanothos Folfius Tengetsu

    the saddest part is the OSCA is obviously super undereducated, I’m almost 25 and the moment I shave and go into even a vape shop I’ve been in and i get carded. I go to a new shop, I get carded. vape shops check their ps and qs and kick out anyone underage. So sad to see the canadian vaping industry go down the drain due to convenience stores now just because they want more money

    • Jim McDonald

      Well, the convenience store association isn’t alleging underage sales. Rather, they’re saying that being allowed to offer samples, vape shops have a competitive advantage over stores that allow underage customers (like c-stores).

      And I very much doubt that this will kill the Canadian vaping industry.

  • Asylumsix

    A disgusting move by a group that is losing money due to lower tobacco sales… Because they aren’t profiting off of death as much?!?!????

    They are horrible people and they fail to realize how many people actually vape, I know of at least 3000 vapers that are boycotting convenience stores because of this.. The question is why not profit off it? Find a reputable juice manufacturer and just stock their juice…

    Why not just sell the stuff you’re losing money to? I’ll buy a bag of chips at a convenience store for 3$ because the grocery store where I normally buy it for 2$ is closed… Why not just suck it up and stock 10$ juice but sell it for 15$?

    • Jim McDonald

      Yeah, I agree. Instead, it looks like they’re intent on making enemies of the vaping business.

  • Broony Saint

    What is stopping convenience store owners setting up their own #vape store?
    Unless Big #Tobacco Companies have threatened them.

    • melawyth

      They could, but they couldn’t really offer the guidance and advice that vape shops do, particularly for new vapers. Cstores already have irritating line-ups just before every lottery draw, as people come in to check their tickets and select new ones, and their businesses are really based on fast-in, fast-out emergency purchases. Unless they hire knowledgeable staff (knowledgeable about vaping, I mean) who will give priority to vape consultations the service will be terrible, and expensive for the stores. It’s just a bad match, but they don’t realize that.

      • Jim McDonald

        Agreed. Their only real hope on the vaping front is the pod mods that will flood the country after the pending vaping legislation passes. Until then, they’ll lose cigarette income — which is the root of this whole thing.

  • Michael Abrams

    How will they handle the heat not burn products? People trying to get advice from a convenience store? I doubt they even take back stale tobacco products.

    • Jim McDonald

      Good question! I understand IQOSes break a lot too.