Vape shops will be able to advertise more freely, thanks to Quebec court ruling

Quebec Superior Court Justice Daniel Dumais ruled on Friday that the province has the right to legislate vaping, but that a provision banning the demonstration of products in shops or smoking cessation clinics goes too far.

Sections of Quebec's Tobacco Control Act will have to be re-written in the next 6 months

Linda Boyer-Fawcett owns a store called Vape Solution in Lachute. She was a smoker for 20 years and couldn't quit - until she started vaping. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Quebec has the right to legislate vaping, but a provision banning the demonstration of products in shops or smoking cessation clinics goes too far, Quebec Superior Court Justice Daniel Dumais ruled on Friday. 

Dumais also struck down a portion of the law prohibiting the advertising of vaping products to smokers who want to kick the habit.

This is good news for Linda Boyer-Fawcett, the owner of a shop in Lachute called Vape Solution.

She said the judge's decision will ease restrictions put on her business.

"Our windows will not have to be frosted anymore," she said. 

"From the outside, if you don't what I'm doing inside, it looks like a trap house... It looks like a place you wouldn't let your husband go."

Boyer-Fawcett says she understands that her product comes with health risks, but she sees it as a better alternative for smokers than cigarettes.

"I was a smoker from the age of 13 to 33," she said. "The vaping — as soon as I tried it, I haven't smoked after that."

She says the majority of her customers are in their thirties, and want to try vaping as an alternative to smoking. 

"My first job is definitely to discourage non-smokers to use it," she said.

Linda Boyer-Fawcett says she has the opportunity to help smokers quit traditional cigarettes and make the switch to vapes. (Lindsay Fox, CC Attribution 2.0)

For business owners, it's a boon. But for the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control, it's a setback.

"For this ruling to come and invalidate some of these measures, specifically the ones that speak to advertising, I think it's really upsetting," said Flory Doucas, a member of the lobby group.

She said vaping can act as a gateway to cigarettes, as it appeals particularly to younger users because of its flavourings and bright packaging.

"I think that the most worrisome thing is that kids who use these products are two to four times more likely to become smokers of conventional cigarettes."

Boyer-Fawcett, who also speaks on behalf of the association representing Quebec vape shops, disagrees.

She said she "can't imagine a kid vaping, and then after going to smoking."

"I don't believe in the gateway at all. I have too much experience in the market to believe in it."

30 days to appeal

Now that these specific elements of the province's Tobacco Control Act have been deemed invalid by the court, lawmakers have six months to rewrite the sections.

The Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control wants the province to appeal the court's decision.

Quebec Justice Minister Sonia Lebel said she's analyzing the judgment. The government will have 30 days to appeal.

With files from CBC's Simon Nakonechny, The Canadian Press