Vaping Industry Association Warns of Potential Harm as Health Minister Revives Flavour Ban Proposal

Vaping Trade Industry Association (VITA) Managing Director and Morinville business owner displays two of the few vaping liquids that would be available if the federal government bans flavours. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

by Stephen Dafoe

The Vaping Trade Industry Association (VITA) has issued a stark warning in response to Health Minister Mark Holland’s revived proposal to ban flavoured vaping products. VITA, representing stakeholders in the industry, expressed concerns over the potential consequences of such a ban on public health.

VITA says the proposal, picked up three years after its 2021 abandonment, will not achieve the desired public health objectives. In fact, Canada’s largest trade association representing the industry’s manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers believes the proposal could “seriously harm a significant number of Canadian adult ex-smokers.”

If approved, the proposal would prohibit the use of all sweeteners in vaping products, restrict the use of flavoured products to tobacco, mint, and menthol, and prohibit the use of all but 84 chemical compounds in vaping liquids in the three categories. 

 VITA says it attended some meetings with Health Canada in late March that were held without notice to adult users of flavoured vaping products, previously vocal on the matter back in 2021.

“This appears to be [a] personal legacy project for the Minister of Health, supported strongly by his former peers at the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Lung Association, and some smaller anti-smoking N.G.O.s,” said VITA Managing Director and Morinville business owner Thomas Kirsop. 

In late March, Minister of Health Mark Holland issued a government statement on nicotine replacement therapies, stating he was “incredibly concerned” about the growing popularity and recreational use of nicotine replacement therapies, particularly nicotine pouches, among youth. 

“Nicotine is a powerfully addictive substance, and children and teenagers are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of nicotine,” Holland said in the statement. “Excessive amounts of nicotine can cause overdose or acute poisoning, which can lead to respiratory failure and death.

“Nicotine replacement therapies serve an important purpose in helping adults quit smoking; however, we must be clear: these are health products with serious consequences when misused or used by those who do not smoke. Any company that misleads consumers about the purpose of these products, or which markets them toward youth and non-smokers, will face consequences.”

On Mar. 21, the government gave notice of its intent to address what it sees as risks of youth appeal to nicotine replacement, stating that “Protecting the health of young persons from exposure to and dependence on nicotine is an important objective for Health Canada and a priority under Canada’s Tobacco Strategy.”

Flavours out, cigarettes up?

Citing a 2023 paper on the effects of flavour bans in the U.S., VITA argues that 12 additional cigarettes were sold for every 0.7 ml pod of vaping liquid not sold. 

After consulting with independent businesses in the industry, VITA estimates the specialty vape store market of approximately 1800 Canadian stores, which does not include over-the-counter materials sold in gas stations and convenience stores, sells 38.4 kilograms of nicotine a day. If banned, they estimate the potential for the sale of 10.9 million extra cigarettes a day in Canada or four billion per year.

The lobby group believes a flavour ban would set Canada’s Tobacco Strategy back by years. 

 “If he [Holland] forces this poorly thought-out regulatory package, Minister Mark Holland will certainly leave a legacy,” Kirsop said. “It will be easily identifiable as it rises to prominence on a resurgent wave of smoking-related morbidity and mortality.” 

A final decision on new regulations is expected sometime over the next 60 days.

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