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Canadian Activist Lobbies For Vaping Despite Difficult Hearings

Canadian Activist Lobbies For Vaping Despite Difficult Hearings


Vaping activists have struggled to argue against legislative bills in North American countries due to under-representation of the vaping industry in public testimony delivered to committees that decide a country’s policy towards vaping. These changes to important legislation come as countries like Canada grapple with regulation and reform to smoking bills that will have a widespread effect on how vaping is perceived by both government agencies and by the populations at large.

The difficulties surrounding representation by the vapor industry hasn’t stopped or slowed down. Sherwin Edwards, the Founder, President, and CEO of Canadian supplier Vap Select. Edwards testified on February 14, 2018, against a piece of legislation in Canada, Bill S-5, an Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-Smokers’ Health Act so that it includes vaping in the same classification as tobacco products.

In a hearing for the bill, there were 12 witnesses that testified on behalf of anti-smoking groups, while only 3 witnesses testified on behalf of the vaping industry. To Edwards, this constituted a biased approach to democratic governance.

“This is not a balanced consultation process,” stated Edwards. “Where is the democracy?”

Sherwin Edwards

Edwards’ argument opposing Bill S-5 is familiar to vapers. He believes that lumping vaping in with the tobacco industry ignores important forward-thinking scientific studies and results that show vaping is a safer and preferred alternative to combustible cigarettes. He also argues that the bill in question threatens to hand over a grassroots campaign by the vaping industry to the health ministry in Canada.  

Additionally, the vaping advocate blamed a persistent flow of misinformation for being used as a tool to attack vaping and influence the bill. For Edwards, smoking and vaping should be debated on separate bills instead of being treated as a single practice in a sweeping amendment for an already-existing bill designed to regulate smoking cigarettes.

“There has been a fair amount of serious misinformation, omissions, and non-disclosure of possible conflicts of interests in some agendas of the presenters from both sides regarding the clauses regarding vaping,” Edwards said. “Eliquid vaping products and tobacco products are two entirely different products and should not be debated within the same piece of legislation.”

Anti-Smoking Advocates

The point that Edwards makes about the witness list heard by legislature being stacked with a disproportionate amount of anti-smoking advocates is subtle but important. Those anti-smoking advocates, while nominally sympathetic with the vapor industry's goal to reduce the harm of smoking, still came to see Bill S-5 as necessary to broadly combat nicotine addiction in general.

The other argument that came from anti-smoking advocates during testimony was the argument that “bad habits” should not be encouraged. However, it’s unclear in these testimonies how treating all habits as equally bad is a good strategy for working towards a larger health goal of reducing the amount of disease and deaths specifically associated with combustible cigarettes.

“I fully support Bill S-5 because we need to show people that bad habits are never a good thing,” said Sylvie Boucher in her testimony. “People are replacing cigarette smoking with vaping because it becomes a habit. I have never smoked, thank goodness, but my mother smoked for many years and it had become a habit for her to have something in her hands, like the pencil I am holding right now.”

Operating under a blanket assumption that nicotine is inherently bad (rather than the toxic chemicals usually ingested along with nicotine) or that any nicotine products are a gateway to smoking is a myth that has been used against the vaping industry for years. The logic behind this type of anti-smoking advocacy is not helpful for smokers that are trying to quit smoking combustible cigarettes.