E-cigarette users insist a public ban on the devices will make it harder for smokers to quit, especially if they're not allowed to try "vaping" in stores.
On Monday, thirteen e-cigarette shop owners and users appealed to the community services committee to change a proposed ban, which would see the devices banned anywhere tobacco is forbidden.
Mark Belcourt told councillors e-cigarettes helped him quit smoking after 28 years. He said trying the device in the store was a vital part of transitioning from smoking to "vaping."
"If you don't know how to drive a race car and all of a sudden you're put into a Formula One race car, you're going to crash," Belcourt said.
He said he learned to use his e-cigarette in a shop, where consultants helped him determine the right dose of nicotine. Without that experience, he doesn't believe he would have been able to kick his smoking habit.
"I don't really care about smoking in a restaurant or bar," he said. "As long as we can go into those vape shops."
The ban, which has not yet been approved by council, would forbid the use of e-cigarettes in public buildings, within 5 metres of doorways, on business patios, on transit, or within 10 metres of a playground — the same restrictions the city has on tobacco cigarettes.
Adeel Aziz, an e-cigarette shop owner, told council he agrees some regulation is needed, but urged them to use "common sense" and allow vaping in shops like his.
Councillors briefly considered allowing vaping in stores that sold e-cigarettes when they last debated the issue in April, but ultimately decided against it.
Coun. Bryan Anderson hopes to reignite the idea before the bylaw goes to a final vote next week.
"I really, really do believe that this assists smokers in quitting smoking," Anderson said.
While he said he would like to see vaping continue in shops, he doesn't believe he'll have the support of the rest of council.
Coun. Michael Walters expressed concerns about exempting shops from the ban.
He said allowing vaping in shops "sanctions something no health authority has sanctioned."
Although there's no scientific evidence to suggest the vapor from e-cigarettes is dangerous, Walters said council may want to take precautions, just in case.
Walters said he supported the ban in April after receiving advice from medical advisors for the province, who urged council to err on the side of caution when it comes to the devices.
Councillors will debate the ban again next week.