Vaping lobby group says feds making it harder for Canadians to quit smoking

by Stephen Dafoe

The Government of Canada has announced a proposal to lower the allowable levels of nicotine in vaping products from 66 milligrams per millilitre to 20 mg/ml in an effort to curb youth vaping. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced Friday that a public consultation would be in effect for 75 days, closing Mar. 4, 2021.

“Our work to protect Canadians from the harms of vaping products continues,” Hadju said. “These changes will help reduce the appeal of vaping products to youth.”

The proposed reduction is a move vaping advocates say will minimize their value to adult smokers looking to transition way from cigarettes.

The Vaping Industry Trade Association (VITA) says smokers having access to sufficient nicotine levels in an alternate product is essential to the effectiveness of vaping as a harm reduction product.

“A limit of 20mg/mL is simply too low for many smokers,” said Allan Rewak Executive Director of VITA of Canada in a media release Friday. “Adult smokers need access to higher nicotine vapour products at the beginning of their journey from smoking to vaping. Lowering this limit is just going to keep more smokers smoking.”

The feds are following a move by Nova Scotia, who in April of this year, instituted a 20mg/mL nicotine cap as well as a flavour ban. VITA says that change in the rules saw a 25 per cent increase in legal cigarette sales increase, an increase four times higher than surrounding provinces. The regulations also resulted in half of the province’s specialty vape shops closing their doors.

“Considering the disparity of harm between vaping and smoking, we don’t understand why the federal government would be using Health Canada resources during a global pandemic to explore making it harder for adult smokers to switch to a reduced risk product,” said VITA President Daniel David.

Enforcement the real problem

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The Government of Canada has previously put some measures in place to address youth vaping. Those changes include public education campaigns and banning the advertising of vaping products in public spaces if the ads can be seen or heard by youth.

Thomas Kirsop, owner of Alternatives & Options, a vape store in Morinville and St. Albert said he believes the government is taking the wrong approach with the nicotine reduction to handle the rise in youth vaping.

“A 60% reduction in commercially available nicotine concentration will impede my ability to assist the heaviest smokers,” Kirsop said. “It is a federal offence to knowingly sell vapour products to minors or for members of the adult population to provide these products to underaged consumers. In practice, however, I find this law poorly enforced. I think enforcing the current law would yield more significant gains than destroying the efficacy of a less harmful solution.”

Health Canada says restricting flavours in vaping products, and requiring the vaping industry to provide information about their vaping products, including sales, ingredients, and research and development activities are under consideration.

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