Over the Canada Day weekend, 2018, Ontario vape shop owners and other Ontarians interested in Bill 174 were informed that the bill’s regulations would be paused in order for the newly-elected provincial government to re-examine the laws on vaping. At that time, Bill 174 had already received Royal Assent and was set to come into effect on July 1, 2018. The surprising announcement made it clear that the Ontario Conservative government intended to consult with experts, businesses, and the public to ensure that the regulations served the best interests of Ontarians.
Fast-forward one month, and there have been no further updates relating to the review of these regulations, or a timeline for their implementation. However, we can make some speculations about the future of Bill 174 based on the Conservative government’s previous opinions on the subject.
In general, the Ontario Conservative Party has made vaping less of a priority and focused their concerns on the school bus and highway safety portion of Bill 174, a document which also covers cannabis legalization. In a Toronto Star article published in November 2017, Conservative MPP Michael Harris claimed that by combining the unrelated topics into one bill, the Liberals were attempting to “trap” Conservatives into voting in its favour. Conservative MPP and vaping advocate Randy Hillier was not quiet on the subject either, stating that by creating an omnibus bill, the Liberals were attempting to “abuse the legislative process.” Although these statements may seem positive towards vaping, it’s difficult to know whether the complaints were in support of e-cigarettes or simply made as a disapproval of Kathleen Wynne’s governance. Still, it is clear that the Ontario Conservative Party would rather have vaping in its own regulatory category, a change that the majority of vapers and vape-related businesses have been advocating.
Considering the ignorant views held by many of the government officials who participated in the development of Bill 174, it was a good call for the Conservatives to have more expert, business, and public consultation before putting the regulations into effect. The pause may also have been in response to the Federal government’s recent legalization of vaping and legitimization of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation tools.
Whatever the reason for pausing the bill, it seems that vapers and shop owners have nothing to lose and much to gain. The most industry-stirring regulations set out in Bill 174 as it was when submitted for Royal Assent were arguably the banning of sampling e-liquid indoors, and the restriction of display and advertisement in-store, online, and on the products themselves. Although these regulations certainly wouldn’t kill the vaping industry, they would put a damper on the population of adult smokers in Ontario who are still yet to try vaping as an alternative. In-store displays and e-liquid sampling allow smokers who are curious about vaping to be able to to touch and taste the products before committing to a purchase. Perhaps these and other regulations stated in Bill 174 will be reconsidered and amended before the laws come into effect.
So when will we start hearing more about the developments coming from this re-examination? Unfortunately, no one can say. In a City News article published in early July, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath criticized Premier Doug Ford for conducting business “behind closed doors.” And while she was most likely speaking to the sudden change of direction with the laws that were assumed to be set in stone, her statement also embodies Ontario vapers’ question: “What is happening with Bill 174?”
In the meantime, we can continue to enjoy vaping as it currently is. Let’s just hope that the Conservatives really do have the best interests of Ontarians in mind.