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'Rights 4 Vapers' bus touches down in Thorold to fight vape flavours ban

Says Tina Brink, owner of Quitters vape shop on Pine Street, "It’s been so frustrating over the years because they don’t listen. It’s so hard for our small voices to be heard.”
The 'Rights 4 Vapers' crew with Tina Brink (middle), owner of Quitters vape shop on Pine Street.

Last Saturday the ‘Rights 4 Vapers’ tourbus touched down in front of vape shop Quitters on Pine Street in Thorold. The bus is travelling around Quebec and Ontario to raise awareness and advocate for the rights of vapers, especially now that Health Canada has started looking into a banning flavours in vaping products.

Says Maria Papaioannoy-Duic, the organizer of the bus tour, “Rights 4 Vapers is the largest consumer-based organization that is trying to protect the rights of Canadians who have switched to vaping products and smokers who still not have been able to find the perfect tool to quit.”

Health Canada wants to ban flavours because they say it entices minors to vape and it’s this possible ban that has Rights 4 Vapers worried. Says Papaioannoy-Duic, “Their goal is to make this as bad as smoking. The question that we always ask is: why is Health Canada wanting to create a disgusting harm reduction product? Why are they coming after the solution in stead of the cause? If we’re trying to keep this out of the hands of minors then why has Health Canada not fined a single person in Canada on the federal level for selling to a kid.”

For Tina Brink, the owner of Quitters vape shop, which also has a location in Stoney Creek, it’s a personal fight. Says Brink, “35 years I was a heavy smoker. My father had ammonia, he was in the hospital in Niagara and he always hated that I smoked. While he was on his bed having trouble breathing I would go out and have a cigarette and the guilt was just (immense). When he passed away I made a promise to myself and to him that I would put my best effort into quitting.”

Brink started vaping and she was so taken with the results that three months later she opened her own vape shop in Stoney Creek. Says Brink, “I wanted to share it with every smoker, I couldn’t believe it.”

The worry of vape rights organizations and vape shops is that a ban will make people go back to smoking. Says Papaioannoy-Duic, ”We’re looking at 1.25 million people in Canada who vape currently. About 83% of them use flavours so we’re looking at over 800.000 people returning to smoking.”

Papaioannoy-Duic says she launched her bus tour two weeks ago as a way to reach more people and to educate them. “The idea came big because I think big. We can get out to people to educate them because when you educate someone they feel empowered. And when someone feels empowered they will feel engaged. That’s kind of where the idea came from.”

Brink, for her part, says she will never give up advocating for the rights of vapers. “There’s a passion behind it because it’s a life change. When you can move away from smoking cigarettes you sleep better, you feel better, you breath better and you feel good about that decision of adding years to your life. It’s been so frustrating over the years because they don’t listen. It’s so hard for our small voices to be heard.”