by Stephen Dafoe
Vape shop owners in Alberta had a few hours of added stress on Monday when they found themselves briefly removed from the province’s list of essential services.
The category was included in Friday night’s list of essential businesses; however, an updated list on Monday completely removed vape businesses from the list of essential services. A further update to the list a few hours later included them once again.
Locally, the addition, removal and subsequent re-addition to the list caused some stress and confusion for Thomas Kirsop, owner of Alternatives & Options Vapourizers and E-Liquids Ltd., which operates a location in Morinville and St. Albert.
“When the government first announced the retail curtailment, there wasn’t a list, so I shut down for 30 minutes, built some signs and taped them up for curbside service,” Kirsop said. “That night, I took them down and reassured our customers that they would not be in a position where it was easier to go back to smoking. This afternoon I had all those signs back out and ready to go back on the windows. The stress was quite acute. Aside from the impact on my family as a small business owner, I was very concerned that the many folks we have helped escape combustible tobacco will slip back to it.”
It is a sentiment shared by Danielle Rowland-Dow, co-owner of Daawgs Vape house and T Daawg Labs, which operates several vape shops in Alberta and Saskatchewan as well as a manufacturing facility.
Rowland-Dow said there was no notice from the government. Just someone posting a screenshot on Facebook that the government list of essential businesses had changed.
“[The] post that announced we have been removed caused great panic. Customers panicked, business owners panicked. We were all scrambling as to why and how we could readjust our businesses again on no notice,” Rowland-Dow said, noting that she had sent emails to the province but got no reply back.
Above: Screen shots of the essential business list show the inclusion, removal, and subsequent inclusion of vape shops as essential businesses.
Both small business owners are relieved that the province reinstated the category to the list of essential services a few hours later.
Kirsop said his customers are smokers and former smokers, many of whom go to nicotine in times of stress. “Right now, everybody in the country is under a tremendous amount of stress. This is not an atmosphere that is going to be supportive of stopping nicotine use cold turkey.”
On Monday, the Vaping Industry Trade Association (VITA) applauded the Government of Alberta for recognizing vape shops as an essential service and called on other provinces to do the same.
“Without access to vaping products, adult vapers could turn back to smoking cigarettes,” said VITA Executive Director Allan Rewak on the association’s website Monday. “During this current unprecedented state of emergency, it is vitally important that we preserve all access points for adults through both convenience and dedicated adult-use vape stores. We’re grateful for the government of Alberta for recognizing this.”
VITA went on to say it believes that all provincial governments should follow Alberta’s example and deem both convenience stores and dedicated vape stores as essential services.
“As an industry built around reducing harm, we are prepared and eager to work with governments at all levels to preserve access to harm-reducing vape products while keeping consumers and industry members safe,” VITA President Daniel David said in the same release.
Whether the removal and subsequent addition was intentional or done in error is currently unknown. Morinville News has reached out Monday to the Government of Alberta’s communication department, who passed the question on. As of our publication deadline at 1 p.m. Tuesday, we have not yet received a response to our inquiry from government officials. If a reply is received, we will update this article with that information.