Last week, the B.C. government announced legislation that not only bans the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, it also aims to tighten regulations on their use in workplaces, restaurants and other indoor public spaces.
Health Minister Terry Lake said the changes he introduced in the legislature last Thursday will treat the battery-powered devices like tobacco products, meaning they may not be displayed in stores or used in enclosed spaces where others are present, including private vehicles with children inside.
Don Parkes, a manager at CEV Solutions in Langford, which specializes in vaporizers and e-juices, agrees with some aspects of the legislation, but not others.
“One thing I really don’t like is that they’re classifying (it) as a ‘tobacco product,’ when it’s not,” he said.
He argued that the nicotine in most electronic cigarette juice is synthetically manufactured, so it doesn’t have any connection to tobacco, other than being the single chemical contained in both products. He wholeheartedly agrees with the ban on sales to minors, however.
It’s generally accepted by retailers of the products that they shouldn’t sell to anyone under 19, Parkes said, but because it hasn’t technically been illegal, some do it anyway.
“Legislation is definitely needed. (Not selling) to anyone under 19 is something that the majority of stores are already doing on their own … Once you’re 19, then you can make the decision yourself if you want to try these products or not, and that’s pretty much the standard across the industry. There may be some store clerks that say, ‘there’s no legislation there, so I’ll go ahead and sell it to you.’ But if it is happening, it’s a very small percentage and most likely it’s going against the owners’ wishes.”
Lake said that while the legislation is not an overall ban on the products, it will mean “that children are protected from the sale and from being exposed to e-cigarettes, and those who don’t want to be subjected to the vapours from e-cigarettes are protected as well.”
Parkes said if that’s the goal, the legislation doesn’t go far enough. He would prefer to see a “bootlegging-type charge” introduced relating to these products, similar to ones in effect for those caught supplying tobacco or alcohol to minors.
He agreed with regulating where people are allowed to use the product at this point, but believes the science will eventually show that the health impacts of the product are not substantial enough to warrant it. When that happens, he said, the regulation should be re-examined.
“Until there is more research to satisfy the medical side of things, the ‘no indoor vaping’ rule is probably a good thing,” he said. “Once the research comes out and disproves the concern about there being hazards due to second-hand vapour, it could always be reversed.”
The advertising aspect of the legislation could prove challenging for retailers, however.
“Depending on how they actually word it, it could be a problem. If it’s ‘no visibility to youth,’ it could mean having to black out the shop windows, which affects the natural light in the shops, or everything will have to be hidden, which will be an issue,” Parkes said. He laughed, looking around the shop with bottles of e-juice lining all the walls in bins and hardware filling the display cabinets to prove his point.
He said other provinces have gone so far as to ban all advertising of the products in any way, which includes being able to demonstrate or teach customers how to use the product. He feels it would be a mistake to include such a restriction.
“It’s very beneficial for new users to have a salesperson show them how to use it. For those who are using vaporizers as a smoking cessation tool, proper use is integral to their success.”
Lake said that while e-cigarettes may have the potential as a smoking cessation aid, the fact that they were, until now, unregulated was a problem that needed addressing, because they contain chemicals with known health risks.
Though he admits there is little science available at this point to show vaping can be successfully used as a smoking cessation tool – as the practice is in its infancy relative to other methods – he sees it doing just that for people.
“Personally, I’ve been off cigarettes for over two and a half years,” he says. “I ran the whole gamut of the recognized smoking cessation products. None of them worked. And I know from first-hand experience that it’s worked for a lot of others, as well. I see them every day.”
The health minister says that while e-cigarettes may have the potential as a smoking cessation aid, the fact that they were, until now, unregulated was a problem that needed addressing, because they contain chemicals with known health risks.
Parkes says it’s time for the government to do more in terms of research in determining those risks for themselves by studying the product itself.
“Europe is about five years ahead of us in their research, for some reason. They’re pushing harder than we are to ensure they are keeping their populous safe,” he says, pointing out that the majority of the recent studies being published are coming out of the E.U.
The new regulations are expected to be in effect within a year, giving retailers and industry time to be consulted and adjust to the new rules.
Cancer Society applauds new provincial regulations
The regulations announced last week in the legislature by Heath Minister Terry Lake received a ringing endorsement by one of Canada’s major cancer prevention organizations.
“The society has serious concerns that e-cigarette use, and the marketing of e-cigarettes, will renormalize smoking and undermine years of tobacco control efforts,” said Khairun Jivani with the Canadian Cancer Society after the announcement. “We congratulate the government of B.C. and the Ministry of Health for this important legislation which will positively impact the health and well-being of our youth.”
Jivani hopes this round of regulation will lead to more policies so the gains made in the past in regards to lowering the numbers of those addicted to tobacco products.
“Over the last 50 years we have seen substantial advances in tobacco control and B.C. currently has the lowest smoking rates of any Canadian province,” she said. “This amendment is an important first step toward protecting our youth, and potentially paving the way for future opportunities to regulate smoking and vaping use in outdoor public spaces like beaches and parks.”