It didn’t take Ontario vapers long to hit back after last week’s weird sneak attack by a convenience store association.
Vapor Advocates on Ontario (VAO) — an organization of vape shop owners and vaping advocates — has reactivated its VapingIsntSmoking.com website, and is asking vapers and anyone interested to visit the site and use its automated email system to send a pro-vaping message to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Health Eric Hoskins.
The Ontario Convenience Store Association (OSCA) launched its campaign last week, asking “stakeholders” to send messages to the premier and health minister to complain that vape shops are allowed to offer samples to adult customers. Because the c-stores allow underage customers inside, they can’t allow sampling, and, in fact, have to keep tobacco products out of sight.
It all looked like a transparent attempt to protect cigarette sales. And VAO is calling them out on it. “Anyone lobbying for protection of the lethal cigarette trade should instead be looking at their responsibility for the horrendous death and disease those products have caused and seeking ways to help their customers quit rather than trying to put obstacles in their way,” said VAO spokesperson Maria Duic in a press release.
“VAO encourages all Canadians who support vaping, or simply support the fundamental right to life and to free speech of all Canadians as laid out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to go to www.vapingisntsmoking.com and follow our prompts on how to voice your concerns”, she added
VAO has a secret weapon that the c-stores can’t match: David Sweanor. The law professor from the University of Ottawa, an internationally known tobacco control expert and harm reduction advocate, is squarely on the side of vapers and the vape industry in this battle.
“Any effort to treat cigarettes no differently from massively less hazardous alternatives like vaping protects the cigarette business rather than public health,” says Prof. Sweanor. “It is akin to whiskey distillers wanting orange juice to be subjected to identical regulations.”
Sweanor has helped the group before. He spoke at a rally in Toronto’s Queens Park last year –part of VAO’s campaign against restrictive Ontario vaping regulations. That effort came too late. But VAO reacted quickly to this threat.
The convenience store group is struggling with its campaign already. The group has blocked many vapers from its Twitter feed, and at the time of this writing, its anti-vape shop website is out of commission. It’s unknown if that is temporary or permanent. It may be that they underestimated how hard the vapers would hit back.