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Vape advocates organize protest in Cobourg

COBOURG — Area vape stores owners and their supporters held a demonstration in Cobourg on Nov. 17 to voice their concerns about the impact new legislation will have on their industry.

Standing with a sign that read "The constitution is on our side" outside of Northumberland-Quinte West MPP Lou Rinaldi’s Cobourg office on Nov. 17, Maria Papaioannoy-Duic said the protest was organized on behalf of Vapor Advocates of Ontario (VAO).

The grassroots advocacy group, which was formed in 2015, is comprised of consumers and business owners who want the government to recognize the constitutional rights of citizens to use and sell vape products in a safe and effective manner.

This is our third time protesting against the Ontario government, and each time we’re simply asking not to be treated the same as tobacco,” she told Northumberland News.

Papaioannoy-Duic, a Cobourg resident and owner of the Ecig Flavourium vape store locations in Toronto and Port Hope, was joined by representatives of Stinky Canuck Trenton, and said both companies are staunch supporters of fair regulations to help the more than one million Ontario smokers on a path toward a smoke-free future.

While they believe in Smoke-Free Ontario and support regulations aimed at facilitating smokers in reducing their risks, she said that Bill 174 — and specifically Schedule 3 — if passed, “can destroy an industry that is comprised of more than 1,000 small business entrepreneurs and force tens of thousands of vapers to return to smoking.”

The ill-researched piece of legislation has unquestionably neglected the goal of Smoke-Free Ontario for the benefit of the tobacco industry,” she said. “Clearly now in Bill 174 — where you have cannabis, school bus safety and vaping — the importance of electronic cigarettes and the very fabric of helping achieve Smoke-Free Ontario’s goal is being ignored.”

Protesters met with Rinaldi in Brighton that morning, discussing their concerns with him for 30-45 minutes, before being met by the MPP again in Cobourg in front of his office.

One of the arguments is that they want exposure by being able to display the different types of vaping products,” he said, adding that the government is prepared to do that. “During my conversation with them this morning, they want no regulations whatsoever, and I am not sure that as a province we’re prepared to do that.

Rinaldi said he told the group that he doesn’t disagree with their arguments, but pointed out that the reality is that e-cigarettes are a new product on the market.

The government (has to) feel confident that it’s a safe product because part of the government's responsibility is protection and the safety of our people,” Rinaldi added. “My commitment is that I will keep on working with them to bring their voices to Queen’s Park.

While he said that regulations are coming, Rinaldi also stressed the government is going to be making some “huge advances to their cause to help them out as well.”
In the end, Papaioannoy-Duic said that marijuana, school bus safety and vaping should not be discussed as part of one conversation.
How do you properly debate those three issues at once?” she asked. “We’re simply asking Lou Rinaldi to go up to bat for us because he is our MPP.
She said Vapor Advocates of Ontario plans to hold a protest at Queen’s Park on Nov. 25.

Source: Northumberland News

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