Orillia vape shops are fearing for the future of the industry after the province announced it is planning to add a tax as a way to reduce the prevalence of vaping, particularly among young people.
Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy's fall economic statement contained an announcement that Ontario will be adding a provincial excise duty to vaping products, which would double the current federal duty rates.
The combined tax would see manufacturers and importers paying $2 per two millilitres of vaping liquids for the first 10 millilitres, then $2 per 10 millilitres for volumes beyond that.
Justin Jones, the owner of E-Volve Vape Supplies on West Street South, says the provincial government is going to drive a lot of local vaping shops out of business.
"They get 70 per cent of every pack of cigarettes sold and that's why they hate vaping," he said. "I don't know if I will survive because this is going to send so many more people back to cigarettes."
Jones says he stands by the government’s decision to cap vaping product buyers to 20 milligrams, but the tax is taking things too far. He says the government is making a mistake by turning people away from vaping, especially those who use it as an alternative to smoking cigarettes.
"Vaping is better than smoking but worse than nothing," he said. "It is a less harmful alternative to smoking."
Vape juice doesn't include cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, or other harmful chemicals that are in cigarettes, Jones says. He also states that around 35 percent of the clientele at E-Volve Vape Supplies is made up of 19- to 25-year-olds.
"If this was actually to keep vaping products out of the hands of children, they would take it away from them and give them a fine as they do with booze and drugs," he said. "They want smokers. When they get a 14-year-old addicted, they have a 40-year customer."
Krunal Pastagia, the owner of Lucky Vape Orillia on Memorial Avenue, says the provincial tax could shut down the entire vape industry in Ontario.
"The customers can't afford this kind of thing," he said. "I don't know what is going to happen."
The clientele at Lucky Vape Orillia is made up of 85 percent younger people, Pastagia says. He believes the government will succeed in taking vaping products away from youth.
"If they cannot afford it, how can you use it," he said. "With the provincial and federal taxes products that are $15 are going to jump to $25, who can afford that, especially while we are in a crisis."
Pastagia is hopeful that there is a chance the vaping industry could prevail despite the drastic price increases that are on the way.
"Cigarettes used to be six to eight dollars a pack," he said. "Now some of them range from $22 to $24 dollars and people are still using them."
Like Jones, Pastagia speculates that the provincial government is taxing vaping for all of the wrong reasons.
"They see that business is booming," he said. "They want to get their money from us as well."
-- With files from Allison Jones, The Canadian Press