Health Canada Keeps Admitting That Its Vape Policies Could Increase Smoking

On June 19, Health Canada, the agency responsible for the country’s health policy, released a proposed regulation that would ban flavored vaping products, with the exception of tobacco, menthol and mint.

It’s yet another blow for tobacco harm reduction (THR) advocates, who now see Canada—once considered a promising model on nicotine policy—to be a disappointment. The country has been open to other harm reduction measures like safe consumption sites and safe supply programs, and has considered decriminalizing drugs in an effort to curb overdose deaths. For a short time at least, advocates had believed the nation would adopt a THR-oriented approach similar to the United Kingdom.

At the moment, however, that could not be further from the case. Because tucked into the analysis statement by the government on the intended flavor ban, Health Canada acknowledges that its legislation could lead to an increase in smoking.

“A startling admission.”

“It is anticipated that some dual users who currently use flavored vaping products would not substitute their purchases with tobacco- and mint/menthol-flavored vaping products,” the statement reads. Instead, “they would choose to purchase more cigarettes.”

“The statement is very direct,” David Sweanor, an industry expert and chair of the Advisory board for the Centre for Health, Law, Policy, and Ethic at the University of Ottawa, told Filter. “It’s basically saying, ‘We’re Health Canada, and we’re going to do something that kills Canadians.’”

No other national government, as far as the THR advocates and tobacco control experts Filter spoke with could remember, has issued such a caveat. And it’s also not the first time in recent months that Health Canada has made what Amelia Howard, a consumer advocate and sociology PhD student at the University of Waterloo, called “a startling admission.”

In December, Health Canada released proposed regulations on a nicotine cap, which would set a limit of 20 milligrams per milliliter (mg/mL) for all vaping products. The agency likewise stated that, with a nicotine cap in place, “it is anticipated that some dual users who currently use vaping products above 20 mg/mL nicotine would not substitute their vaping product purchases with lower concentrations of nicotine.” Rather, “they would choose to purchase more cigarettes.” (It’s expected that the nicotine cap could be enacted any day, too, and the industry will only have 15 days to comply.)

“The fact that a government can brazenly admit their policy will lead to more smoking and death is wild,” Matt Culley, a board member of the US-based CASAA, a consumer advocacy nonprofit that promotes smoke-free alternatives to combustible tobacco, told Filter. “It really goes to show how demonized vaping remains.”

This is despite the fact that Canada has stated it intends to reduce its smoking rate to 5 percent by 2030. If the ultimate aim is to end combustible cigarette use, this is obviously not the way to do it.

“Our policies have not aligned with the country’s goals,” Darryl Tempest, the executive director and chief advocate of the Canadian Vaping Association (CVA), told Filter. “It is not a public policy that relates to adults or harm reduction or small businesses.”

Canada amended its tobacco laws to include vaping products in 2018, and like certain states in the US, some Canadian provinces have already enacted their own flavor bans . And just as major public health organizations in the US, like the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, tend to harp on the perceived risks of vaping nicotine rather than the enormous benefits of replacing smoking with vaping, the Heart and Stroke Foundationthe Canadian Lung Association, and the Canadian Cancer Society have followed suit. Consequently, Health Canada’s position remains seemingly caught up in the moral panic around youth vaping that consumed the US in late 2019.

This is the situation even as thousands of vapers, vape shop owners, lawyers, scientists, public health experts and consumer advocates have written comments to the government expressing their concerns. Some of them, like Tempest, have emphasized increasing evidence that neither bans nor nicotine caps will benefit public health: One study, published in The Lancet, perhaps the world’s best regarded peer-reviewed medical journal, suggests that smokers given higher-nicotine vaping products consume fewer dangerous carcinogens; another, in JAMA Pediatricsfound that after San Francisco’s ban on flavored vapes and tobacco products, teens in the city’s high schools were more likely to take up smoking than teens in other US school districts.

THR activists have seen their hopes on Canada largely diminished since 2019, when BMJ, a medical journal published by the trade union of the British Medical Association, put out a controversial paper about youth vaping and smoking rates in the country. The paper concluded that, in Canada as in the US, there was an uptick in youth vaping between 2017 and 2018. Unlike in the US, however, the authors claimed that there had been a noted increase in youth smoking as well—validating the often-debunked and contested idea that there was a “gateway” effect from vapes to combustible cigarettes.

THR proponents like Clive Bates, a public health consultant and the former director of Action on Smoking and Health in the UK, wrote about how those figures were wrong. And almost a year later, the journal published a correction without much publicity. The damage, it appeared, had already been done.

“We have a good history of our courts throwing out bad drug policies on constitutional challenges.”

Tempest isn’t giving up. He said that his organization is currently in conversation “with a little more than 80 members” of the Canadian Parliament, nearing a third of the federal legislature’s 338 members. Data in hand, he remains worried yet hopeful that he can persuade enough lawmakers to look at alternative policies.

“There is absolutely no question that this can be a charter challenge,” Tempest said. Under Section Seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, he explained, “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

“We have a good history of our courts throwing out bad drug policies on constitutional challenges,” Sweanor echoed. “That’s how we ended up with safe injection sites. That’s how we ended up with medical marijuana. It’s certainly possible.”

 

Canadian Vaping Association’s response to the 2020-2021 Youth and Young Adult Vaping Project

Beamsville, ON, June 22, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Lung Association of Nova Scotia and Smoke-Free Nova Scotia, with funding from Heart and Stroke, released the report “The 2020-2021 Youth and Young Adult Vaping Project.” The study claims that the results of the survey are evidence to support policy changes including a flavour ban, taxation, stronger enforcement of sales regulations, increasing the minimum legal age, and increasing awareness of the potential for vaping to translate into cigarette smoking.

The report aims to address youth uptake and claims that its survey data is evidence to support the need for Canada to adopt its policy recommendations. Throughout the analysis of the survey data and policy recommendations, there is an established pattern of withholding relevant information to substantiate the reports recommendations.

The report uses dated data to support the false claim that youth vaping rates continue to rise, while the current data finding a steep decline in youth vaping rates is completely omitted. Additionally, the survey did not ask youth in Nova Scotia questions pertaining to flavours. At the time of the survey, Nova Scotia had implemented a ban on flavoured products. If researchers believed that the ban on flavours had been effective in reducing youth use and the results may have skewed the national data, the findings should have been collected and reported as two figures – one inclusive of the findings in Nova Scotia and a second excluding Nova Scotia with an explanation as to why. It is curious that the report chose not to collect this data and that no study has been conducted on youth vaping or flavour use in Nova Scotia since the flavour ban.

Despite there being no data to suggest Nova Scotia’s flavour ban has been effective at curbing youth use, the report proposes a flavour ban as the only solution to address youth vaping. Adults were not the focus of the survey, but without any context as to how the youth data compares to the adult population, it misleads its audience to believe youth prefer flavours to a greater extent than adults. Market research and industry sales data indicate that flavour use is comparable among youth and adults. About 90% of adults use a flavoured product. If flavours were banned, a percentage of youth may stop vaping, but this is also true for adults. Most adult vapers are former smokers, and a flavour ban will push many vapers back to smoking. The policy recommendations within the report are solely focused on youth prevention with no consideration for the health and lives of adult smokers.

Moreover, the reports own findings do not support its recommendation of a flavour ban. The survey found that the strongest influence to start vaping for the whole sample were peers, followed by the desire to quit smoking and social media exposure. Interestingly, the second greatest influence to start vaping was to use the product as intended – to quit smoking. The survey finds that the majority of users surveyed were former tobacco users (64%). This indicates that, while measures to protect youth may be warranted, vaping has reduced harm and, in most cases, transitioned combustible tobacco use to a less harmful nicotine delivery system.

“There are many examples of carefully curated supporting research within the survey discussion. While misleading, none of these examples are as egregious as the reports claim that the United Kingdom has restricted flavours. The UK has taken no action to ban or restrict flavoured vape products. Certain additives have been restricted, but the UK has implemented no restrictions on flavours. Public Health England is so confident in vaping’s relative risk and efficacy that it has run many campaigns encouraging smokers to switch to vaping and have even opened vape stores within the country’s hospitals. Whether the researchers are misinformed or knowingly included false information to persuade legislators, this oversight should call the legitimacy of the survey’s findings into question,” said Darryl Tempest, Executive Director of the CVA.

A full review of the survey can be found here.

Canadian Vapers Unite for World Vape Day

TORONTOMay 30, 2021 /CNW/ – Despite ongoing threats of flavour bans, nicotine limits and increased taxes as well as a persistent misinformation campaign, Canadian vapers are undeterred in their fight to ensure that vapour products remain available, accessible and affordable from coast-to-coast.

“This is the fight for our lives,” said Maria Papaioannoy, spokesperson for Rights4Vapers one of Canada’s vapers right organizations. “We are grateful that we have a day where we can talk about our lived experiences as vapers without the filter of cynicism and doubt that permeates media coverage of vaping.”

Vaping is a proven less harmful alternative to smoking. Public health authorities around the world have made it clear that vaping can be an effective tool to help smokers quit smoking. But only if the right regulatory and societal frameworks are in place.

Canada must be more forward looking in its approach to vaping. We are seeing restrictive regulations pop up in every province, including a flavour ban in Quebec,” said Christina Xydous, spokesperson for the Coalition des droits des vapoteurs du Québec. “Vapers from every province must stand up and speak out about the infringements on their rights with these kinds of draconian regulations. Vapour products can help save lives.” 

Flavours are an important component to the vaping experience for adult smokers. Flavours help smokers migrate from traditional cigarettes to vapour products. In 2019, Parliament conducted hearings on amendments to the Tobacco Act (Bill S5). Experts told the federal government that flavoured vapour products are important. It’s time that all governments listen.

Vapour products are the best hope for hundreds of thousands of Canadians who smoke and are looking for an alternative to cigarettes. Earlier this year, Public Health England released its latest review of vapour studies. It found that “the best thing that a smoker can do is to stop smoking completely and the evidence shows that vaping is one of the most effective quit aids available, helping around 50,000 smokers quit a year.”

The Federal Government introduced a proposal late last year to restrict the options for vapers by capping the nicotine content at 20 mg/mL. Nicotine caps represent one more infringement on a product that has helped thousands quit smoking.

“Nicotine caps may not seem like a big deal, but to vapers they are. Many vapers start at high nicotine levels and wean themselves to lower levels over time. A wide range of options is critical. And, any restrictions would result in vapers going back to smoking,” said Ms. Papaoiannoy.

According to research published by the Consumer Choice Center, there are upwards of 1.5 million adult Canadian vapers in Canada. Approximately 955,000 of those adult consumers currently use flavoured vape products. A full ban on vaping flavours would likely push most of those consumers back to smoking.

SOURCE Rights 4 Vapers

For further information: Rights4Vapers : [email protected]; CDVQ : [email protected]

Related Links

https://www.rights4vapers.com/

New Saskatchewan vape regulations draw mixed reaction

Youth vaping rates in Saskatchewan are among the highest in Canada.

Against this backdrop, the province is introducing new measures in an attempt to curb those rates.

One measure coming into force on Sept. 1 is a ban on the sale of vape flavours, with the exception of tobacco, mint and menthol flavours, anywhere but in licensed specialty vape stores.

While there is consensus within organizations that youth vaping needs to be curbed, some are questioning if the government has gone too far — or not far enough — with the measures.

The Lung Association of Saskatchewan was looking for a full ban on the selling of all vape flavours, with the exception of tobacco, in convenience stores.

“We know that that flavoured products absolutely target kids,” said Jennifer May, vice-president of health promotion and government relations with the Lung Association of Saskatchewan.

May pointed to a study from Heart and Stroke on youth vaping. That study states that “nine in 10 ( 92%) young people cite flavours as an important reason why they started vaping and the same number (90%) say it is an important factor for continuing to do so.”

Anne Kothawala agrees that something needs to be done about youth vaping.

However, she calls the ban on flavours in convenience stores a “red herring” that will do nothing to reduce youth vaping rates.

“If you look at when the minister made the announcement, he specifically talked about flavours like ice cream. Flavours like ice cream or cotton candy or unicorn flavours are not flavours that you could ever purchase at a convenience store,” said Kothawala, the president and CEO of the Convenience Industry Council of Canada.

“To be clear, we want a restricted number. We’re not asking to be able to sell hundreds of flavours of vape. We just know that there are a few select, maybe five, six, maximum eight flavours that we know our adult smoking customers, who choose to make that transition, want to be able to buy.”

The Canadian Vaping Association, on the other hand, applauds the decision to restrict flavoured vape to specialty vape stores.

The association’s executive director, Darryl Tempest, said this is not an attack on convenience stores.

“What Saskatchewan has done here is they said, ‘OK, we’re trying to balance regulation, we’re trying to ensure that adults have access while restricting the access points,’” said Tempest.

“Trying to ensure that you don’t get access to this product is really important.”

That included taking measures to restrict access to youth before any regulations were brought in, Tempest said.

“It was the vape shops that in advance of any regulation said ‘age-of-majority only,’” he said.

“Restricting access will be key over the short term.”

Kothawala said while the CVA makes a valid argument, she said vape stores don’t have the same track record as convenience stores in selling restricted products, citing tobacco and lottery tickets as examples.

She said there is no evidence pointing to convenience stores as the problem for youth accessing vape products.

“Nobody has presented that evidence, not one single government, nobody has said we have a problem with you,” Kothawala said. “We know what we’re doing and our business depends on it. We are responsible businesses operating in our communities.”