Health Canada tackling youth vaping with new rules and awareness campaign

by Stephen Dafoe

Canada’s Minister of Health, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, announced new measures to address youth vaping this week, including additional advertising restrictions and a new public education campaign targeted at youth.

The Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, passed late last year, already heavily restricts advertising and product packaging that appeals to youth.

The 2016-2017 Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey indicates that 10 per cent of students in Grades 7 to 12 reported having used an e-cigarette in the previous 30 days. Those numbers were a 6 per cent increase from 2014-15 survey numbers.

The feds new Notice of Intent outlines the Department’s plans for new advertising rules that would restrict where advertisements could be displayed to limit their visibility to young people.

The proposed rules would also require health warning messages on permitted advertisements, and restrict the display of vaping products at points of sale.

“I am deeply concerned about recent reports that youth vaping is on the rise,” Petitpas Taylor said in a media release. “This includes stories coming out of schools across Canada, and emerging data suggesting that young Canadians are taking up vaping at an alarming rate. I am hearing from parents, educators and the health care community that they share my concerns about youth vaping. We cannot allow these products to threaten the hard-earned gains we’ve made in tobacco control. The proposed regulatory measures and our public awareness campaign will drive home the message: if you don’t smoke, don’t vape.”

Thomas Kirsop, the owner of Alternatives & Options, which has a location in Morinville and St. Albert, has long been on the leading edge of regulations in his industry. As a board member with Electronic Cigarette Trade Association of Canada (ECTA) and the face behind Shop Talk, an educational vlog on the sector, Kirsop has spent lots of time learning the regulations and instructing those in his business about them.

Kirsop notes that while some of the studies Health Canada is referencing have yet to be published, his own observations give him no reason to doubt the preliminary data.

“Effectively addressing youth usage of tobacco and vaping products is an equation with more than one variable,” he said. “My concern is that by exclusively focusing on regulating legitimate supply channels we neglect both illicit supply chains, and actual procurement, possession and use of tobacco and vaping products by minors. If we don’t want minors to use a product, at some point, we have to directly tell them they are not supposed to use that product.”

Kirsop has found an Ohio State Ordinance that prohibits youth purchase, possession, and use of both tobacco and vaping products, and sets out accountability measures for violation.

“Perhaps we need to rethink how we get the message across to minors that we’d really rather they didn’t take up these habits.”

Morinville’s FCSS Community Program Coordinator Melonie Dziwenka has seen first-hand concern from Morinville youth.

“When it comes to vaping, it was actually our Junior High students who thought that was going to be a bigger issue for them than cigarettes or alcohol exposure because vaping in their mind was being promoted as a healthy alternative,” she said. “Our Youth Leadership at that time was looking at making a presentation on having vaping included along with tobacco and cannabis within those five-metre zones. They felt that all of that was inclusive and that vaping in front of open areas was promoting to youth that it was an acceptable behaviour.”

Health Canada will take 45 days to consider comments received through consultations concerning the new proposed regulations.

In March, Health Canada will post another consultation looking for input on added measures under consideration to reverse recent trends of youth vaping. These additional measures could impact flavours, nicotine concentration and product design in combating vaping products appealing to youth and non-smokers.

The Government of Canada has also launched a new public education campaign to raise awareness, particularly among youth, to consider the consequences, harms and risks of vaping.

The government video is below.

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