A convenience store association is backing an astroturf campaign to convince Canadian lawmakers to pass harsh restrictions on vape shops. The Ontario Convenience Store Association (OCSA) claims allowing vape shops to offer samples would be unfair to businesses that allow underage customers inside, and the group wants a “level playing field.” In other words, they think vape shops should abide by the rules for retailers that sell combustible cigarettes. The association has launched a campaign aimed at gathering signatures on a petition telling the Ontario premier and health minister to “that the sale of cigarettes and e-cigarettes should be regulated to the same high standards for stores not limited to adults only.”
The website, VapingRegulation.ca, has a page that allows you to choose from a set of pre-written letters to the health minister and premier that change depending on whether you check the box for “concerned citizen, concerned parent, concerned retailer, or citizen concerned about public policy.” This is the one from a “concerned citizen”:
Subject: Keep Ontario’s regulation of e-cigarettes strong Hon Eric Hoskins, Minister Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care 10th Floor, Hepburn Block 80 Grosvenor Street Toronto, Ontario M7A 2C4 Dear Hon. Minister Hoskins: As the Government of Ontario considers how to regulate the sale, advertising, and promotion of e-cigarettes, please do not create a separate set of standards that would allow e-cigarettes to be promoted, advertised, and sampled in stores. I believe it’s important that we hold all smoking-related products, whether tobacco or vapour, to the same high regulatory standards. This will ensure that e-cigarettes and marketed and sold as a product for adults and don’t end up in the wrong hands of those who are underage. Please keep this in mind as you review the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. Sincerely, (Your name will appear here.) cc: Kathleen Wynne, Premier
While this initiative has all the earmarks of a tobacco industry effort, it may not be. In Canada, cigarette makers don’t have the political clout they do in the U.S., and they don’t typically engage in sneaky astroturfing like they do here. I emailed the press contact from the website and asked who funded the campaign, but haven’t received a response at the time the story was submitted. It will be updated if he responds.
The campaign’s press release says it’s “uniting stakeholders to caution the Premier and the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care about the risks of allowing the development of e-cigarette regulations that are inconsistent with the spirit of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.” What stakeholders? Cigarette manufacturers and the stores that sell them? Oh, gotcha.