MONTREAL, Feb. 21, 2023 /CNW/ – The Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control is drawing attention to an emerging phenomenon linked to the sale of vaping products, namely the transformation of specialized vaping stores where the minors are barred from entering into businesses that welcome minors and specialize in selling vaping products and exotic candies.
In a complaint addressed to Health Minister Christian Dubé, the Coalition explains that at least two vaping stores chains in the greater Montreal area and some stores in Quebec City have replaced their displays of vaping product with displays of exotic candy and beverages which, under Quebec law, renders them into ordinary outlets like convenience stores. While these retailers continue to advertise themselves from the outside as vape stores, they can welcome minors in an environment that combines an array of colourful and exotic candy flavours alongside the sale of vaping products, although vaping products cannot be openly displayed.
This transformation came about shortly after the Quebec Court of Appeal rejected the vaping industry’s challenge to several measures in the Quebec law, including the ban on displays of vaping products as well as the ban on the sale of products other than e-cigarettes in vaping specialty stores.
“The transformation of specialty stores that offer only vaping products into businesses that also specialize in offering candy is clearly a business calculation. They obviously believe that there would be greater financial benefits in exposing young people to the offer of vaping products surrounded by candy flavors compared to simply serving a clientele of adult vapers,” says Flory Doucas, spokesperson for the Coalition.
Indeed, promotional displays of exotic candies provide a youthful and colorful atmosphere that promotes the temptation to indulge and have fun. “We already know that flavors minimize health risks in the eyes of consumers and potential consumers. Even though these businesses no longer display their vaping products on shelves inside, their names and outdoor signage clearly indicate that they are specialized in selling electronic cigarettes. However, preventing minors from entering stores specialized in selling vaping products was precisely what the legislator had in mind when Quebec strengthened its law in 2015.“
While one solution could be to tighten up sections of the law that deal with the sale of e-cigarettes, the Coalition believes that this would not be sufficient. Indeed, the history of tobacco control shows that measures aimed at preventing sales to minors are among the least effective and cost-effective.
“In other words, if young people want to smoke or vape, they will find ways to get these products. The key is to prevent situations and circumstances that encourage the temptation and the desire to vape. This first and foremost requires a framework that prevents the trivialization of such products. This is why we are reiterating our call to the Quebec government act quickly and decisively to ban flavours in vaping products, especially in light of the federal government’s slow-paced actions to adopt such a measure as of yet,” adds Ms Doucas. The Quebec government has recently underlined that “the consumption of vaping products among youth is growing rapidly in Quebec” after having recognized the importance of banning flavors, although this was more than three years ago …
“What are our governments waiting for to protect youth from vaping nicotine? The transformation of vape stores into flavour festivals is just one more element amongst many that have long demonstrated the need for action,” adds Ms. Doucas.
In addition to the ban on flavours (including menthol) the Coalition also advocates in favor of the following measures
- limit nicotine levels to 20 mg/ml for non-certified electronic cigarettes (which would allow provincial inspectors to ensure compliance)
- impose a maximum volume for liquids in bottles and cartridges,
- standardize the appearance of devices and liquids – including packaging,
- require comprehensive and up-to-date warnings about the health risks of vaping,
- prohibit any technology that allows information to be communicated from a non-certified device (“smart” devices),
- introduce a fee-based licensing system for the sale, distribution and importation of vaping products, and
- delineate names of specialty stores to limit their promotional value.
Certification route ignored
Adult smokers who want to quit could easily have access to flavoured vaping products without jeopardizing the health of young people: it is simply a matter of manufacturers’ applying with the necessary documentation for the certification of their vaping products as therapeutic cessation aids, like all nicotine replacement therapies (NRT). To date, no vaping product manufacturer in Canada has applied for Health Canada‘s approval of their products. A certified vaping product would be exempted from the very restrictions the industry opposes. “If manufacturers want to sell flavoured vaping products to adult smokers who want to quit, they need only submit them to Health Canada’s certification process – with evidence of their effectiveness. But as long as governments allow flavoured products to be sold over-the-counter, the industry has no incentive to submit its products to the certification process, and youth will continue to be exposed to enticing flavours,” the spokesperson says.
“It is important to know that commercial interests are behind most of the opposition against stricter rules for vaping products. Some groups openly represent the interests of importers, distributors and sellers of vaping liquids and devices, such as the Canadian Vaping Association, but there are also entities that present themselves as grassroots movements whose campaigns are financed by electronic cigarettes manufacturers, including Big Tobacco,” says Ms. Doucas.
For example, the financial agent for the federal election for Rights4Vapers/DroitsDesVapoteurs (also the Quebec Coalition for Vapers’ Rights – QCVR/CDVQ) was the president of the Vaping Industry Trade Association (VITA), which was founded by cigarette companies like Imperial Tobacco and JTI-Macdonald. Although Rights4Vapers presents itself as a citizen movement, the group has close ties to the tobacco industry, libertarian trade groups and the Canadian vaping industry. Its leaders include a professor funded by Philip Morris‘ Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, the head of the World Vapers Alliance which is funded by the Atlas Network (the anti-regulation network of the billionaire Koch brothers), and the head of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (a front group for the Atlas Network).
Nova Scotia’s vaping flavour ban did not increase smoking
The QCVR/CDVQ claims that the smoking rate in Nova Scotia increased following the implementation of its ban on flavoured vaping liquids in April 2020. This is false. In fact, the most recent and robust survey on smoking (the Canadian Community Health Survey) indicates that the smoking rate (current smokers) in this province has decreased from 18% in 2019 to 13.2% in 2020 and 13.5% in 2021, specifying that the change between 2020 and 2021 is not statistically significant. The temporary increase in legal cigarette sales observed in the Maritime Provinces is explained by the decrease in smuggling due to the confinements and travel constraints during the first waves of the COVID pandemic and by the closure of businesses and smoke-shacks on native reserves located in Quebec, which were deemed to be sources of contraband cigarettes for more distant territories and provinces.
SOURCE Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control