HALIFAX—Nova Scotia stands to be the first Canadian province to issue a blanket ban on the sale of flavoured vape products, and the government promises to introduce further changes next year to clamp down on youth vaping.
As an outbreak of vaping-related illness and deaths are being recorded across North America, medical professionals and health advocates have been urging governments to address the negative health impacts.
Just last month, some Canadian provinces started responding, including British Columbia with a promise to hike taxes on vape products and reduce the cap on nicotine content. Prince Edward Island has committed to raising the minimum age from 19 to 21 and instituting a ban on some flavours.
“We’re setting a stake in the sand and setting the stage for other jurisdictions across the country with a full flavour ban,” Delorey told reporters at a news conference Thursday.
The regulatory change won’t come into effect until April 1, 2020 — a delay the health minister said is necessary to give sellers with existing stock time to come into compliance.
Delorey said more policy changes to curb e-cigarette use will be introduced in the legislature next year.
Kelly Cull, regional director of public policy for the Canadian Cancer Society, was one of a group of health advocates who pitched a suite of policy changes to reduce youth vaping at the provincial legislature last month. Speaking to reporters after Thursday’s announcement, Cull said the provincial government’s commitment was a “really excellent first step.”
“It represents an opportunity to curb one of the major drivers in terms of how and why youth are using these products in high numbers and the key driver in terms of what’s getting youth addicted,” Cull said.
Cull’s recommendations for further policy changes include raising the minimum age to 21 and restricting sales to adult-only specialty vape shops, which would mean no sales in convenience stores, at gas stations or online. Cull also suggested lowering the cap on nicotine content from 66 mg/mL to 20 mg/mL — which is what British Columbia has committed to — to reduce the addictive potential.
The federal government also plays a role in regulating vaping, and Delorey said his department is working with Health Canada to avoid duplication.
The province is also preparing to launch a public education campaign in the new year, which Cull said is “certainly an important piece of the puzzle” but should take a back seat to policy.
“Policy influences culture and, right now, here in Nova Scotia, what we have is a culture of youth vaping,” Cull said.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Hamdani, executive director of Smoke Free Nova Scotia, also welcomed the regulatory change promised by Delorey. He also has a list of policy changes that he’d like to see made, but a flavour ban tops them all.
“Flavour bans were the No. 1 recommendation that we had, and we’re very pleased to see the government is taking a step in the right direction and implementing a full fledged ban on flavours, unlike other provinces.”
Al-Hamdani surveyed youth across Nova Scotia this summer about their vaping practices and found 48 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds who vape said they would stop if flavoured vape juices were eliminated.
The Nova Scotia government cited Al-Hamdani’s findings in its news release about the flavour ban, and Delorey said that if it held true, a ban on flavours could lead to “a significant improvement over the status quo.”
E-cigarettes have been on the market for more than a decade and have largely been marketed as a tool to help smokers quit tobacco, but a furor over the potential health risks has emerged this year as popularity among youth spiked and an outbreak of vaping-related illness emerged.
According to one Canadian study, published in the British Medical Journal, youth vaping nearly doubled between 2017 and 2018.
Since April, the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded more than 2,000 cases of vaping-related illness and almost 50 deaths. Canadian health officials have recorded 13 cases of vaping-related illness in four provinces, but none in Nova Scotia.
Since the spring, the Canadian Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health have issue two joint statement voicing their concerns about vaping.
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“Canada has seen the rates of youth smoking decline significantly in recent years, but youth are now turning to vaping in large numbers,” the medical officers said in their latest statement.
“We are very concerned that a new generation of youth addicted to nicotine will lead to a resurgence in smoking — reversing decades of progress and creating new public health problems.”
The medical officers suggested stronger policies to limit the supply of vaping products, reduce the appeal and limit access for youth.
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