A new tobacco retail outlet is set to open Friday in Edmonton amid concern from anti-smoking advocates.
The store is owned by Rothmans, Benson and Hedges Inc. and instead of selling traditional cigarettes, the focus is on a new smoke-free product.
“The fundamental principle is we’re heating tobacco instead of burning it,” explains Peter Luongo, the managing director with Rothmans, Benson and Hedges.
An electronic device — a proprietary tobacco-heating system — is used in conjunction with small cigarette-style sticks filled with specialized tobacco.
“It does have nicotine,” Luongo said, adding, “It is addictive, but if you are a smoker, this is much better than continuing to use cigarettes.”
Anti-smoking advocates are concerned — first, because the effects of the new alternative are not fully understood, and secondly, they’re worried about normalizing smoking against the ongoing push for cessation.
“We do not want tobacco around and lung disease around for another generation,” says Nina Snyder with The Lung Association.
“Because you don’t have smoke, you have far fewer chemicals,” Luongo said.
In opening the store, Rothmans, Benson and Hedges stresses its commitment to a smoke-free, though not tobacco-free, future where cigarettes are eventually replaced with alternatives.
But for others, when it comes to choosing what to inhale, it comes down to one simple conclusion.
“The Lung Association believes the only thing you should take into your lungs is fresh, clean air,” Snyder said.
Due to Health Canada rules, no external store signage is permitted for the store at West Edmonton Mall. And anyone under 18 won’t be allowed in.
As for in-store product testing, city bylaw does allow for testing of electronic cigarettes if a retailer has met the criteria laid out in the rules.
Complaints will be investigated.