Liz Donovan picked up her first cigarette when she was 13 years old and didn’t put the habit back down.
She smoked a pack to two packs a day every day for 40 years.
“For at least the last 30 of those years I was smoking home-rolled cigarettes (due to the cost of packaged ones),” she said. “These are even worse because they are so much stronger.” She had tried everything from patches and gum to prescription Champix and hypnosis, to quit but nothing worked for her.
“So on Jan.16, 2014, I purchased a personal vapourizer and some flavoured e-juice.”
For the first three days she smoked 10 cigarettes in all. On the fourth day she went totally smoke-free.
She started with 12mg of nicotine in her e-cigarette juice and over time cut it in half to 6mg, sometimes even vaping juice with 0 nicotine.
“Before quitting smoking and starting vaping, I used to get up every morning and go to bed every night coughing up so much phlegm it was unspeakable,” she said. “Today I cough zero and also I have never been sick, not even a snuffle since January 2014 when I started vaping.”
While a study by the World Health Organization this summer stated there was no clear evidence whether e-cigarettes help people quit smoking, there are plenty of people like Donovan who swear by it. They contacted The News and also shared similar stories.
That’s why Donovan and others in Nova Scotia who have switched to vaping are frustrated and a bit baffled by new legislation being proposed.
When Donovan heard the second reading of Bill 60 which would ban the flavoured juices used by most e-cigarette users, she was blown away.
“These people have absolutely no idea what they are even talking about,” she said. “I believe they have not even looked at any, let alone all the studies out there. They are referring to personal vapourizers as cigarettes and tobacco. I could not believe what I was hearing.”
She like most vapers believes there should be rules. What they’re concerned about is rules so stringent that it takes away their ability to use the devices at all.
Shai Connors owns and operates The End Vape Shop in New Glasgow, which has been at the heart of the battle of e-cigarettes.
Her windows are curtained to prevent youth from seeing into the store, a sign says no one under 19 is allowed in and she makes sure she only purchases Canadian product that is stored in childproof lids.
She believes this self-regulation within the industry is working, but also says she will readily accept rules that prohibit the sale of the product to minors (which she doesn’t do anyway). She even can understand rules to prevent its use in public places. What concerns her is the ban on flavoured juices.
Those against the flavoured juices say they are targeted to minors. Connors says that’s not the case and Donovan agrees.
“I am almost 54 years old and cotton candy flavour is what stopped me from smoking and that along with my banana cream, chicken bones, vanilla custard and even bubblegum flavoured e-juice are what keeps me tobacco cigarette free today and all 283 days,” Donovan said.
“I’m a nicotine addict,” Connors readily admits. She knows if she can’t get e-cigarettes she will resort back to cigarettes. It’s for those consumers like herself that she’s concerned about with these new rules.
New Glasgow Const. Ken Macdonald, who works with students in the DARE program said it is very rare to see a student using an e-cigarette. Those who do are usually 16 or over. What is far more common is regular cigarettes.
Connors plans to speak to the legislature about her concerns. A petition with 5,000 written signatures she’s collected at her two stores will be presented as well.
“The number-one thing that’s the issue with Bill 60 is that they try to classify it as a tobacco product,” she said. “It’s ludicrous. There’s no tobacco within this whatsoever.”
She said it is an uneducated move and she’s made a point of calling as many MLAs as possible to discuss the concerns and request that the bill be amended.
“Several of them did not understand the bill they were supporting,” she said.
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SIDEBAR: Opponents say new rules needed
As much as people have personal success testimonies from using e-cigarettes, some have expressed concern though. One woman wrote The News to say:
“I am extremely happy about the new legislation coming for e-cigs. My son is in Grade 7 at the New Glasgow Academy and tells me that numerous kids have been smoking these at school recently. Apparently they were hiding them out back of the school, but several were used in the hallways. I think that kids are seeing these being used by adults everywhere and feel they are not as bad as actually smoking a cigarette,” said the woman who works as a respiratory therapist. "As a therapist, I feel they do have a place in assisting smokers to cut back or quit smoking by reducing their associations with certain activities i.e.: their am coffee, or their drive to work. But their presence should not be seen by children in every corner store and gas station.”
Smokefree Nova Scotia has also issued a release in support of Bill 60.
“Currently the safety of these devices and the vapour they produce is not known. Their usefulness to help people stop smoking has not been adequately scientifically demonstrated,” they stated. “The delivery devices and the liquid cartridges they contain (with or without nicotine) have not gone through the consumer safety-testing processes required to be approved by Health Canada. Therefore, people don’t know if what they are buying is safe to use, nor how likely it is to help them reduce or stop smoking tobacco products. Given the uncertainty around the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes or ENDS, there is a need for rigorous study by independent research organizations that are not affiliated with the e-cigarette or tobacco industry or their subsidiaries.”
Smoke Free Nova Scotia said e-cigarettes have the potential to undermine gains made in tobacco control. E-cigarette promotion and use also pose risks to public health if:
- they become a gateway to cigarette smoking by youth; - they re-normalize smoking; - smokers who would otherwise have quit smoking instead switch to e-cigarettes; - former smokers begin using e-cigarettes rather than maintaining complete abstinence.
• E-cigarettes were first developed in China and were introduced to the U.S. market in 2007.
• The process of using an e-cigarette is called "vaping."
• An e-cigarette is a battery-operated device that turns nicotine, flavourings and other chemicals into a vapour that can be inhaled. The ones that contain nicotine offer varying concentrations of nicotine.
• In July 2014, a report developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) found there was not enough evidence to determine if electronic cigarettes can help people quit smoking.