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Retailers, former smokers blast N.S. law that would restrict e-cigarettes

Martin Borne, co-founder of electronic cigarette retailer "Demain J'arrete", demonstrates the use of an electronic cigarette in his shop in Paris October 8, 2013.

CHARLES PLATIAU/Reuters

Business owners and former smokers voiced their opposition to a law that would restrict the sales of e-cigarettes in Nova Scotia and ban their use in indoor public places, saying it's flawed, based on misinformation and has unintended consequences.

Dozens of presenters appeared before the legislature's law amendments committee Monday, most to oppose changes that would also apply to water pipes and would see the sale of flavoured tobacco banned, including the flavoured juice used by some in e-cigarettes.

Shai Sinnis, co-owner of two stores in New Glasgow and Truro called the End Vapor Shop, said e-cigarettes aren't tobacco products and shouldn't be treated as such. She said any suggested link to cigarettes was "false and not ethical."

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Sinnis said research has shown that e-cigarettes are an effective way for smokers to quit tobacco and measures such as restricting flavours would simply drive the market underground.

"It makes no sense when many other adult designed products like nicotine replacement therapies, liquors and even condoms come fruit flavoured," she said.

Sinnis said education initiatives and a proper regulatory regime would have more success in protecting youth from nicotine addiction than a ban on flavoured tobacco.

The changes proposed last month by Health Minister Leo Glavine would also prohibit stores from selling e-cigarettes to those under 19 and retailers would also not be allowed to display, advertise or promote the devices, effectively treating them like regular cigarettes.

Heather DeLong of Pictou said she was finally able to quit her pack-a-day smoking habit of 38 years in February because of e-cigarettes. She said no other cessation product could help her.

"Nothing worked. I was so hopelessly addicted to what used to be my best friend and that's tobacco," said DeLong. "I consider the e-cigs a wild success."

Mohammad Ranjbar, operations manager for 1001 Nights, a Halifax hookah lounge, said the indoor smoking ban as proposed under this legislation has created a dilemma for his business and at least two others in the city.

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Ranjbar said he and his partner have invested more than $275,000 to start the business, which opened in March 2013. He said they spent an additional $25,000 on an air ventilation system after being told it was necessary in order to get an operational permit.

"If we knew that this was going to happen we would never have done that in the first place," said Ranjbar.

He also said it made no sense to ban his water pipes, which are herbal and contain no tobacco or nicotine. Ranjbar said his business would likely close if the changes become law, throwing eight people out of work.

Glavine has said the changes are meant to address potential health risks and to curb the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among young people.

He said the province's 1,200 retailers would be given six months to adapt from the time the legislation is passed.

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