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‘Vape bans or buffer zones’: The call to regulate vaping the same way as cannabis

A teenage boy's jaw was broken after his e-cigarette blew up in his face.
A teenage boy's jaw was broken after his e-cigarette blew up in his face. Paolo Toffanin / Getty Images

This is Part 3 in a three-part series on the rise of vaping among students, the health risks and the call to regulate the industry in B.C.

Vaping and cannabis are two separate industries, but politicians and health advocates are calling for them to be regulated in similar ways.

This comes as deaths and vaping-related illnesses continue to surge in the United States.

Earlier this week, we talked to teens who said they could walk into a vape store in downtown Vancouver, and with $40 dollars, a vape is easily in their possession.

READ MORE: ‘Smoking 2.0’: Medical experts say not all vaping manufacturers have high quality control

In response, Surrey councillor Steven Pettigrew wants the provincial and federal governments to clamp down on vape shops.

“Those can be specific things like bans or buffer zones or things like that, but overall we need to realize as a society that there is not much benefit in vaping,” said Pettigrew, who has called for an outright ban on vape shops.

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Jack Boomer, director of Clean Air Coalition BC, agrees with the Surrey councillor.

“We would like to see [shops] a certain distance away from schools,” Boomer said. “We’d also like to see a cap on retail authorizations that are permitted, in the same way that they are likely going to be limiting the number of cannabis shops as well as locations proximity to locations to other shops, as well.”

WATCH: (Sept. 16, 2019) California governor vows to crack down on vaping

California governor vows to crack down on vaping
California governor vows to crack down on vaping

Meanwhile, Menn Biagtan with the B.C. Lung Association would like to see detailed labels on products like e-cigarettes.

“There are thousands of e-juices available, there are people who are modifying the apparatus,” Biagtan said. “There should be proper labelling, proper identification of ingredients and health warnings.”

Under current regulations, vaping ads are not allowed to appeal to youth, but health advocates say that doesn’t go far enough.

As for as banning flavored e-cigarettes like the U.S. is considering, B.C.’s health minister, Adrian Dix, says that’s largely Ottawa’s call.

“Time for them to step up and take action,” Dix said. “That’s the particular place where that part of the issue is dealt with.”

‘It’s going to kill the industry’  

Stacey White, co-owner of Vancouver based Thunderbird Vapes, isn’t opposed to tighter laws.

“Proximity to schools kind of makes sense,” White says. “When we were looking at retail spaces, we were mindful of not being too close to high schools or community centres or things that would feel uncomfortable to people.”

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READ MORE: ‘Everyone is doing it, it’s cool’: B.C. students talk about the highs and lows of vaping

But she is opposed to a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes

“It will kill the industry, because people who use the product want it to taste good,” she said. “It tastes better than a cigarette; that’s part of the reason people will pick it up and put down their cigarette.”

Cannabis advocate Dana Larsen says it’s unfair they pay less, but the answer isn’t to jack up permits for vape shops.

“I think the cannabis fees should be lower, but I don’t blame the vape shops for that,” Larsen said.

You might be surprised to know that opening a vape shop costs anywhere from $150 to a few hundred dollars in B.C.. You only need a retail permit, compared to pot businesses who pay thousands.