September 21, 2018 4:52 pm
Updated: September 21, 2018 6:21 pm

‘Vape away’: N.B. PA candidate apologizes for controversial comment to students

WATCH: A candidate in the upcoming New Brunswick election is apologizing for seemingly encouraging teenagers to use e-cigarettes. Callum Smith has more.

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The People’s Alliance candidate vying for the seat in the Riverview, N.B., riding is apologizing after a comment made about vaping.

Heather Collins, who spoke with Riverview High School students at a debate with the Liberal and Progressive Conservative candidates, says she apologizes for saying “vape away” to the students, most of whom were under the age of 18.

“I’m a ‘vaper.’ Don’t do it anymore. I’m a smoker, trying to give it up. But you know, vape away,” she said to the crowd Thursday.

The comment came during closing remarks of the debate, part of a mock election organized by a group of political science students.

“I do apologize,” she said Friday. “I don’t advocate for any child to smoke.”

Collins is running for the seat in the Riverview riding.

Callum Smith/Global News

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READ MORE: All our New Brunswick election 2018 coverage

Brent Mazerolle, the Liberal candidate for the riding, took the chance during closing remarks to discourage the idea, leading to Collins’ response.

“I’m just going to steal this opportunity while I’m talking to you. I don’t care if you vote for me or not. This was great; this was a good exercise,” says Mazerolle. “But while you’re here, please stop vaping, for goodness sake.”

Collins says she meant to indicate that she will “vape away.”

“I said that I was a smoker and a vaper, and I think [what] I meant to say at the end was ‘I vape away,’ but I think I just said ‘vape away.'”

Hundreds of students took in the debate, applauding and cheering after the comment.

Collins says she’s been seeing comments online since; some people defending her, and while others question why it was said.

WATCH: What should governments do to prevent kids from vaping?

Students are not allowed smoking of any kind on school property, including e-cigarettes or vaporizers. You must be 19 years of age to purchase e-cigarettes and e-juices, according to the province’s Department of Health.

You must be 19 years old to purchase e-cigarettes or e-juices in New Brunswick.

Callum Smith/Global News

The president and CEO of the New Brunswick Lung Association says while there still isn’t a lot of studies on e-cigarettes, they shouldn’t be consumed if you don’t already smoke tobacco.

“They contain a lot of toxins,” says Barbara MacKinnon. “They contain carcinogens, heavy metals and a whole host of chemicals that are not in clean air.”

Collins says she agrees with the concerns.

“Even though things probably haven’t been 100 per cent proven, there’s still risk factors,” she says. “There’s still health factors. Absolutely.”

Global News reached out to Riverview High School, but no one was made available for comment. The leader of the People’s Alliance, Kris Austin, also declined to respond.

New Brunswickers head to the polls Monday.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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