Serving Toronto's most liveable community with the Annex Gleaner

NEWS: Should vape stores be near high schools? (May 2024)

June 14th, 2024 · No Comments

Vape World on Bloor parks itself on pathway to Central Technical High School 

By Ammara Khan and Meredith Poirier

High school students stroll past Vape World location.

Central Technical High School is conveniently located about a 5-minute walk from Bathurst Station in downtown Toronto. Many students commute to the school via subway. On their walk from Bathurst Station to school each morning students will pass by Vape World. Vape World, located on the corner of Bloor Street West and Bathurst Street, is one of 350 vape stores in Ontario. Toronto is littered with vape shops. It seems every corner you turn there’s somewhere to get your vapes. Vape World is open from 8:00 am – 2:30 a.m. which coincides nicely with when high school students would be heading to school to beat the morning bell. 

Central Tech High School students were interviewed for this story, and they say that it is not uncommon for their peers to be vaping. The familiar shapes and bright colours of vape pods fill garbage cans around the school.

Paupers Pub, located very close to Vape World, at 539 Bloor St. W., is managed by Chris Haslett. He has two teenage sons aged 15 and 17, and he has strong opinions about the product being retailed so close to a high school. 

“We are in a truly terrible place,” said Haslett. He feels that the federal government made a mistake legalizing these products. “I think the fact that there are flavours geared exclusively towards children and people that are in high school, we should adopt the same policies as Quebec has now, where it is only tobacco flavoured products and nothing else. I just think that our governments have failed us completely on this product,” he said.

Though the federal government legalized vaping products as a cessation strategy, it left the provinces and municipalities to regulate their sale. Nothing in Ontario or City of Toronto regulations prevents a specialized vaping retailer, such as Vape World, from putting itself near a high school. Something interesting to note is that there are restrictions around vape shops within university and college settings. One cannot sell tobacco or vapour products in areas that are owned or leased by a postsecondary institution. As many postsecondary schools span large areas of the cities they are in, this leads to vape stores being further from a university or college than they are from high schools, as we see with Vape World.

The NDP, which is the official opposition party in Ontario, has strong feelings about the regulations surrounding vaping in Ontario; in fact, NDP Health Critic France Gélinas reintroduced a bill in May of 2023 titled Vaping is not for kids. There are a few different aspects to this bill, but of note is that it would change the minimum age from 19 to 21, and it would prohibit the promotion of vaping products. 

According to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine 2022 Survey, 30 per cent of youth (aged 15-19) have tried vaping once in their lifetime. Vaping has been prevalent among youth, and the numbers have stayed consistent since 2021. 

The Preventing kids and teens from smoking and vaping section of the Government of Canada website lists the dangers of vaping for adolescents. While vapes are a healthier substitute for  the more dangerous tobacco cigarettes, they contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance which can lead to physical dependance, especially for youth. It also can interfere with the healthy development of a teen brain. Once a person grows physically dependent on the substance, it becomes extremely difficult to quit. At Vape World they carry both nicotine and non-nicotine products. They offer pods with 0mg, 10mg, or 20mg of nicotine. 

Vape World does not break any regulations as set out by the City of Toronto for a vapour product retailer. They have a sign outside the entrance that clearly states shoppers must be 19 and over to enter, and they do not display their products in display windows or outside the building. If it weren’t for the large Vape World sign, passersby likely wouldn’t even notice the store. However, even though the store doesn’t break any regulations, there’s leniency around the rules depending on who’s working. Upon entering the store, the writers of this story (who could easily pass for “school age” individuals) were not asked for ID. Attempts to reach Vape World head office for comment on this story were not successful.

Students outside Central Tech said that some of their peers do manage to make purchases from retailers when they are not asked for identification. In addition to vape stores, students also described the ease with which they can access weed shops, some of which are on Bloor Street West near their school. 

While vape product companies do not intend to market their products to youth, the products have become attractive due to the colourful packaging, the interesting flavours, and the lack of education and warning surrounding the dangers of its use. 

It can’t help but be noted that not only do the flavours and the packaging appeal to youth, but also the convenience with which they can access weed shops, some of which are on Bloor Street West near their school. While vape product companies in theory do not intend to market their products for youth, the products have become attractive due to the colourful packaging, the interesting flavours, and the lack of education and warning surrounding the dangers of its use.

Tags: Annex · News