When electronic cigarettes arrived in Canada about a decade ago, no regulations existed. This left manufacturers, vape shops, and Vapers themselves, free to behave as they saw fit. It wasn’t long, however, before the federal and provincial governments in Canada began to put into place legislation which regulates e-cigarettes, both for the industry as a whole and for individual Vapers. In 2016, the Canadian Government renamed ‘The Tobacco Act’ as ‘The Tobacco and Vaping Products Act‘. As of September, 2017 this Act has not been clearly defined and there are plans for more debate in the near future. The specific regulations which are currently in place are mandated provincially and these vary, depending on the province. Some of the regulations are sensible. But some are not. What happens moving forward must be based on fact, not fear. And this depends on having an informed and involved public. It’s critical that the vaping industry stays involved to ensure regulations are fair – for Vapers and non-Vapers alike.
What is fair and reasonable laws for e-cigs?
While there is legislation in place (The Tobacco and Vaping Products Act), little has been officially decided at the federal level regarding e-cigarettes in Canada, although debate is slated to continue. Currently, the provinces are charged with determining and enforcing the regulations for vaping. As things stand now, most provinces are without any legislation (Alberta, B.C., PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon) while they await federal guidance. Manitoba and New Brunswick have some restrictions in place. The same is true in Ontario, where currently, the only law in place is a fair and reasonable one; anyone under the age of 19 cannot purchase or use an electronic cigarette.(1) This may soon change, however. The premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, declared, “We have made a determination that smoking whatever it is — whether it’s vaping, whether it’s medical marijuana, whether it’s cigarettes — that there should be restrictions on that … And so the rules will apply to marijuana, to medical marijuana, and to vaping as they do to cigarettes.” (2))
Vapers face regulations described as over-reaching
Things are quite different if you happen to reside in either Nova Scotia or Quebec. Vapers living in these provinces face regulations which can only be described as over-reaching. In Nova Scotia, no signage is allowed in stores, and every law in place for cigarettes now applies to e-cigs. And in Quebec? Quebec is considered to have the most restrictive rules anywhere in North America. No advertising is allowed, online sales is forbidden, all vaping products must be kept hidden from public view in stores.(2) These are just a few of the examples; here’s a link to the English version of Quebec’s Bill 44 which includes everything: http://www2.publicationsduquebec.gouv.qc.ca/dynamicSearch/telecharge.php?type=5&file=2015C28A.PDF
In some cases, vaping rules are set out municipally. Calgary and Saskatoon stand as two examples of this. Although there is no provincial regulation currently in place for e-cigarettes in Alberta and Saskatchewan, vaping is prohibited wherever smoking is not allowed in these cities.
Where’s the evidence that e-cigarettes serve as a gateway to smoking?
Many of the vaping regulations currently in place in Canada are based on flawed assumptions. There is no evidence, for example, that second-hand vapour is in any way harmful. (3) There is no evidence to support the idea that e-cigarettes serve as a gateway to smoking either. Yet this argument is often used – particularly to support regulations which forbid flavoured e-juices – candy flavours for instance. You can certainly find information that will tell you regulations like these are justified. But these arguments don’t stand up to scrutiny. Either the information is opinion-based or the studies cited are proven to be false when honest and vigorous scientific methods are applied. (4) And did a memo go around saying that once you turn 19 you’ll no longer have a sweet tooth? If it did, many of us didn’t get that memo.
And what logic supports the legislation currently in place which dictates vape shops cannot display their merchandise? And cannot educate customers on how to properly use the small premium vaporizer they’re buying – especially those making their first purchase? Or that juice flavours cannot be sampled because there’s to be no vaping in e-cigarette stores? Reasonable expectations concerning vaping etiquette – with no expectation that it’s fine to vape anywhere at all – are valid. But who would be offended by vaping in the very stores that sell e-cigarettes? Nevertheless, these regulations exist in a densely populated province (Quebec) and are felt by some influential advocates to be justified for inclusion in others. (5)
Marijuana ok, but not nicotine……Oh the Irony!
Whatever your views on it, you can’t miss the irony when contrasting Canadian vaping laws with the laws for marijuana. Not only is marijuana legal for medical use; legislation is in place to decriminalize its personal use.(6) Yet in the same country, the fact that e-cigs MAY contain nicotine is arguably the most often-cited reason for why e-cigarettes are unhealthy, and must therefore be carefully controlled. (7) Even a cursory check of facts makes clear the truth: while highly addictive, nicotine is no more dangerous to the health than caffeine. (8)
It matters too much to get it wrong!
There’s no doubt that there is an overall lack of clarity around vaping which will likely remain for some time to come. Many vape shops continue to advertise and display their products even if they aren’t following the rules by doing so. And thus far, there is limited administration of the regulations by officials; which is understandable given the fact that the rules continue to shift and there’s a general sense (in both the industry and within law enforcement) that no one is clear about what is allowed and what is not. Until the dust settles, the sense of ‘who knows?’ is likely to continue. And rushing to enforce ill-advised legislation is no solution. Quite simply, vaping has grown from a niche enterprise to an industry which is expected to grow exponentially and reap billions of dollars in profit while helping to resolve a serious health problem.(9) And it’s easy to understand WHY it continues to grow – the significance of e-cigarettes cannot be overstated. To many former smokers, it’s not inaccurate to say they’ve gone from feeling helpless to give up an addiction they know is killing them, to suddenly being free of it and KNOWING they’ve beaten the habit. E-cigarettes are saving lives.
So while it may be frustrating, it’s important that we get it right. Some regulation is important. But much of what is in place (or that our government would like to have in place) is, frankly, absurd. It matters too much to get it wrong. And there’s good reason to feel optimistic. The facts are surfacing. If e-cigs had come into being before the existence of the internet, it might have been easy for those who profit from the sale of tobacco to keep the facts away from the public. Thankfully, that’s no longer possible. As more experts come forward to speak truth to authority about the relative SAFETY of e-cigarettes, the rules which serve nothing good must be challenged.
Is FEAR driving the more unreasonable regulations?
Some regulation is not a bad thing. Feeling confident that the e-juice you’re buying contains what it SAYS it does is good. So is safety as it applies to the way e-cigarettes are made. If the government wasn’t experiencing pressure from the vaping community, legislation would likely already be locked into place. Scare tactics worked for a while. But they won’t last. Reliable, scientific information telling us what we’ve known (or are fast learning) continues to surface. Nicotine is not some killer drug. And it’s just a fact – vaping is NOT the same as smoking. To blow clouds of vapour at others is not okay simply because it isn’t full of poison. Etiquette matters.
But the fear driving the more unreasonable regulations will not go unchallenged as the truth continues to emerge. A little patience goes a long way and that’s certainly applicable here. But complacency cannot be permitted. Educating yourself and getting the word out is important. If you’re a Vaper? This is YOUR community. Stand up for it. To passively allow government (and other industries that see vaping as a threat to their bottom line) to prevail would be a colossal mistake. How we do it matters. THAT we do it is imperative.