Ottawa moves to restrict vaping advertisements to prevent youth exposure

Health Canada is proposing to ban advertising of vaping products in spaces where young people can see them in a bid to rein in the rise of underage e-cigarette use.

Minister Patty Hajdu put forward new rules Thursday that would prohibit vaping promotion in specialty shops, businesses and online platforms frequented by youth.

Hajdu also announced requirements that vaping packages feature health warnings and be child-resistant, as well as plans to place limits on nicotine content in vaping liquids to reduce the risk of accidental child poisoning.

“The new measures announced today will help, but there is more to do,” Hajdu said in a statement. “We are working on further steps to protect youth and our message remains clear: vaping comes with serious risks.”

Ottawa has been holding consultations this year on measures to restrict advertising for e-cigarettes in the face of growing evidence that vaping has taken off among teens.

According to the 2018-2019 Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, the number of high school students who reported vaping in the past month doubled to 20 per cent since 2016-2017.

A spokesperson for Juul Labs Canada said the e-cigarette maker is reviewing the proposed regulations.

Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, praised the government’s plan as a strong start, but said “comprehensive action” is still needed, such as restricting flavours and implementing a tax.

“Right now, youth are being exposed to e-cigarette advertising in social media, on billboards, on television, and many other places, and that’s going to end with these regulations,” he said.

However, Cunningham urged federal lawmakers to also follow their provincial counterparts in clamping down on the availability of vaping products.

“We have made such progress to reduce youth smoking, but now we’re seeing a whole new generation of kids becoming addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes. That simply shouldn’t be happening,” he said.

Earlier this month, Nova Scotia’s health minister announced the province will be the first to ban sales of flavoured e-cigarettes and juices, and Ontario is considering a similar move.

Prince Edward Island, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador have also adopted new vaping restrictions in recent months.

The P.E.I. government passed legislation last month that raised the legal age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes from 19 to 21, setting the highest age limit in the country.

In British Columbia, a 10-point plan is aimed at protecting youth from the health risks of vaping, including legislation that caps the nicotine concentration in e-liquids and hiking the provincial sales tax on such products from seven per cent to 20 per cent.

Cunningham said the issue has taken on new urgency due to mounting concern about the links between vaping and respiratory disease.

In the United States, 47 deaths have been attributed to vaping, and 2,000 cases of severe lung disease have been reported. Thirteen cases of vaping-associated lung illness had been reported in Canada as of Dec. 3. So far there have been no deaths.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2019.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

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