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Published On: Fri, Dec 20th, 2019

Vaping Needs Better Regulation in Canada

Canada is a country that understands the importance of health, they are one of the few non-European countries in the world to offer free universal healthcare. A service that has unarguably saved the lives of thousands, if not millions, through the years. But sitting so close to America, it is unsurprising that they too have been rocked by the latest outbreak of media fervour relating to the so-called ‘vaping illness’. As America primes itself to change state and perhaps even federal law, we are left wondering, what will Canada’s next move be?

The leading argument for tighter regulation, if not banning of vape products, often centres around their addictive nature. It is almost unfathomable for anyone to deny that nicotine is addictive, apart from the shocking testimony of tobacco spokesperson Andrew Tisch in 1994, but this isn’t a fact that vape manufacturers or retailers have ever denied. In fact the whole vaping industry is based on e-cigarettes being a safer alternative; designed for adults, as a less harmful nicotine delivery system (95% less harmful in fact according to Public Health England).

photo/ Sarah Johnson

This discussion, however, could be drawing to a close much quicker than we thought. As a backlash to the recent vaping-related deaths in the US, citizens are calling on the Canadian government to draw up further legislation relating to e-cigarettes, particularly relating to flavoured products. Drawing comparisons to alcopops, the infamous sugary and dumbed-down alcoholic drinks, Marvin Krank (a psychologist at the University of British Columbia) argues, “How is bubblegum flavour, watermelon flavour designed to help people quit?”. To a degree Krank is correct, but then again it’s hard to remember anyone arguing that it was solely the flavour of an e-liquid that would keep people from going back to cigarettes, it is, of course, the nicotine.

It begs the question, why does flavouring exist in e-liquid? Vaping for many is an unfamiliar experience, as much as it may seek to replicate a cigarette, an e-cigarette is not. According to Vape Club, the flavours arguably offer some degree of versatility or more often a break from the harsh flavour of burning tobacco. There is always the argument that children will enjoy bubblegum flavours, but then again, so do large portions of the adult population. It has less to do with them being children, but more to do with the fact that they have taste buds that are stimulated by sweet flavours, just as they are by savoury and salt. Enjoying flavours isn’t a trait you simply grow out of, although taste buds inevitably develop and evolve, there are still flavours which are ingrained in us from childhood. On the contrary, switching and trying new flavours has proven to be a successful way to make sure ex-smokers keep vaping and refrain from going back to cigarettes. 

Some of you are no doubt asking, ‘but what about the ingredients in these flavours, are they safe?’. This is a very good point and regulation is a key part of the vape market globally, which extends much further than just age restrictions. 

In May 2018, an amendment to both the Tobacco Act and the Non-Smokers Health Act helped establish a framework that would regulate the sale and manufacture of vape products. The Tobacco Vaping Product Act when introduced showed a great move forward in regulation, leading to rigorous monitoring of the manufacture and sale of vape products. A move which has already seen great success in countries like the UK, thanks to the introduction of the TPD (Tobacco Product Directive)

Rumours of dangerous flavours circulating have been bolstered by the growing number of reported deaths attributed to vaping in the US. As further investigation takes place, it would appear it’s not the vape products that are bought in specialist stores or supermarkets that are causing the problems, instead it’s illicit, black market products which contain THC. This finding has been corroborated by the CDC who are urging people not to use any THC-containing vape product, due to the major risk it poses to health especially in minors. 

It could be argued that increased regulation in the US and Candian market could pay dividends, turning vaping into a viable and publically favoured cessation method for smokers. This is in stark contrast to the ‘wild west’ ethos commonly associated with vaping. A ban may provide a short-term solution, yet America has already witnessed the risk associated with a burgeoning black market, the activities of which would likely only increase and gain an international foothold, if a ban occurs. 

The impact on the health service must also be considered if a vaping ban were to come into effect. Ex-smokers would undeniably be tempted to revert back to old habits, if vape kits became unavailable. The diseases relating to smoking could lead to stress on a vital public service, which will inevitably have repercussions in both the short and long term. Canada operates a world-class universal health service, but increased admissions relating to smoking would be an eventuality if a ban were to proceed.

E-cigarettes were not designed as a recreational item, and whilst many may treat them as such, in doing so it defeats their objective entirely. Vaping has and will continue to be marketed only as a solution for existing adult smokers as a means of quitting altogether. In Canada alone, 100 lives are lost each day as a direct result of tobacco consumption. It is often claimed that not enough investigation has gone into vaping to establish the long-term effects, but the effects of extended tobacco use is commonly known. Vaping undoubtedly offers a less harmful option with extended studies from research bodies around the world saying the same thing, bodies such as Public Health England.  

So where should Canada take their cue from? A growing body of research has been published by independent regulatory bodies and some of the most credible public health organisations in the world. They have stacked up more evidence on the efficacy of vaping, the declining rates of teen vapers and of course the inherently less harmful nature of an e-cigarette when compared to a cigarette. 

Other outlets, often the media at large, seem to be relying on what can only be described as shaky anecdotal evidence, fuelled by private and sensationalised opinion that has no place in scientific debate. That’s not to say the public should stop paying attention to what is being reported, as we all have a duty to ensure we are protecting ourselves and those around us. However, this focus needs to be tempered by a good deal of scepticism. Ultimately, science and facts don’t lie.

Author Bio

Josh Paine is a UK-based copywriter, specialising in technical reviews and lifestyle content. After graduating with a degree in Political Science, he worked in the field of technical certification, before committing to his love of writing full-time. He currently runs a design division for an online retailer, splitting his free time between collecting records and writing short fiction.

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