If smoking is banned from civic spaces, so should vaping, according to Island Health, which has asked Nanaimo politicians to consider changes to its smoking ban bylaw.
Smokers have been banned from lighting up in city-managed recreational spaces like plazas and beaches since 2011, but there are no rules against puffing on e-cigarettes.
Island Health now wants the city to consider covering electronic delivery systems under its smoking ban bylaw, with the aim to have tobacco and vapour products treated equally.
Regulatory changes to the Tobacco Control Act introduced by the B.C. government include ensuring retailers are not selling to minors and banning the use on public and private school grounds, indoor public spaces and workplaces.
Dr. Paul Hasselback, medical health officer for Island Health, says there are things the legislation doesn’t include, from e-cigarette use at bus stops to parks and playgrounds. He’d like the city to consider a bylaw update which includes the addition of electronic devices, arguing that while the devices aren’t as bad as tobacco, they are an issue when it comes to demonstrating appropriate public behaviors to youth and are a gateway device into the use of other tobacco products, he said, adding that treating them the same “makes sense.” He anticipates the health authority could make a formal request in the next year or two.
But Nanaimo resident Sarah Dickinson and Rob Gemmell, a senior salesman with Vapour Solutions in Langford, say the products are not the same and shouldn’t be treated as such.
“I sit in restaurants all the time with friends who aren’t even aware I am vaping at the table with them because there’s so little vapour coming out of my mouth,” said Dickinson, who believes the products are unlike cigarettes in every way except that they deliver nicotine. “But so does the patch and so does nicotine gum.”
Dickinson turned to e-cigarettes because she likes to smoke and wasn’t prepared to quit. She sees it as a healthier alternative and uses them regularly, taking a hit once or twice an hour.
If banned, she said it would limit her ability to do activities and enjoy the reasons she moved to Nanaimo, including taking her children to the park, simply because she uses her e-cigarette so regularly.
While cigarettes burn organic material treated with chemicals, e-cigarettes heat a liquid to create vapour and nicotine is optional, according to Gemmell, who says people turn to the devices because they know cigarettes are bad for them and want something less harmful.
He’s OK with regulating the e-cigarettes, including limiting or preventing access for minors, but not bans.
“You don’t treat a bicycle the same way as a car … there are differences between modes of transportation, so consider e-cigarettes as a mode of nicotine delivery for people who wish to use it that way that doesn’t create harmful chemicals in the process,” Gemmell said.
Randy Churchill, the city’s manager of bylaw services, said this seems to be an emerging issue and something that would be reviewed once the city gets information from the health authority. The bylaw is currently only based on the smoking of tobacco.