The Canadian Vaping Association says NDP Health Critic France Gélinas’ vaping bill is out of touch with regulatory realities

BEAMSVILLE, Ontario, May 01, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Ontario NDP Health Critic France Gélinas is reintroducing a bill titled, ‘Vaping is not for kids.’ The bill would prohibit the promotion of vaping products, restrict sales to specialty vape shops, increase the minimum legal age from 19 to 21, and ban online sales of vaping products. The bill would also require Ontario Health to prepare an annual report on vaping usage and fund research and awareness campaigns.

The promotion of vaping products is already prohibited federally. The Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (TVPA) and Vapour Product Promotions Regulations (VPPR) prohibit promotions of vaping products where they could be seen or heard by young people. Additionally, federal regulations prohibit the use of flavour names and labelling that could be appealing to youth. Characters, cartoons, spokespeople, and lifestyle images are strictly prohibited from use in labelling and advertising.

The Canadian Vaping Association (CVA) says it doesn’t oppose the bill’s proposal to restrict sales to specialty vape stores. Specialty vape stores are the only age-restricted retailer of vaping products, requiring patrons to be at least 19 years old to enter the premises. Limiting sales to specialty stores would be in line with the province’s distribution model for cannabis products and would significantly reduce access points.

Though the CVA is not opposed to limiting sales to specialty stores, though the association cautions that this proposal could be seen as hypocritical and out of step with the distribution of other adult products. Youth usage of alcohol is more than double that of vaping and yet the province recently opened distribution to grocery stores where alcohol is in plain sight and easily stolen by youth. Vaping products reduce the harm caused by cigarettes, while alcohol has no public health benefit. Youth are prohibited from entering specialty vape stores, while youth can enter LCBO stores and view beer and wine products at grocery stores.

“We welcome reports on vaping usage, vaping research and awareness campaigns. The CVA has called on all levels of government to increase the frequency of usage data and to accurately educate youth on the dangers of vaping for non-smokers. The fact that the bill does not include additional funding for Ontario enforcement agencies demonstrates how out of touch these solutions are with how youth access age restricted products. Criminals are probably thrilled by the bill and planning their market expansion,” said Darryl Tempest, Government Relations Counsel to the CVA Board.

Regarding the bill’s proposal to increase the legal age to buy vaping products to 21, the CVA says that age of majority should be consistent across all adult products.

“If the legal age to buy adult products is not consistent across all products, it will be legal to purchase cigarettes at 19, a product known to kill half its users, but illegal to switch to a harm reduction product until 21,” said Tempest.

Data from the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey finds that youth usage of alcohol and cannabis is markedly higher than youth usage of vape products. All products listed within the survey are known to negatively effect brain development, however alcohol carries greater external risks such as car crashes, falls, drowning, and other accidents, suicide, violence and becoming the victim of a crime. Despite much higher youth usage rates, the alcohol industry continues to have permissive advertising regulations and can sell alcohol online with minimal restrictions.

The vaping industry strongly opposes a ban on online sales. Restricting sales to physical locations will limit access to rural Ontarians and those with mobility issues and disabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly shifted buying patterns. Statistics Canada found that e-commerce sales doubled during the pandemic and continued growth in the sector is expected. This shift to e-commerce has been seen across many industries, but is likely higher for the vape industry because most vape product users are former smokers who are more prone to respiratory illnesses that would be exacerbated by COVID-19. Online sales from Canadian vendors pose no additional risk to youth due to the requirement that all online sales be shipped through an age-verification service. Recipients of online orders must produce valid identification and sign for the shipment.

It is nonsensical to ban online sales in Ontario. The internet is accessible to everyone, from anywhere in the world. Youth survey data consistently finds that youth are most often accessing products through social sourcing, but are also acquiring products online to a lesser extent. The products being purchased online are often from foreign vendors that offer discounted pricing, free shipping, and child appealing packaging. The Canadian Border Service Agency is not equipped to track the tens of thousands of improperly declared retail shipments coming into Canada. Banning online sales will not prevent youth access, but it will result in the closure of Ontario’s small businesses.

Ontario’s vaping regulations have been used as a model in several provinces across Canada and have been championed globally as a balanced approach to youth protection and adult harm reduction. The CVA agrees that Ontario’s regulations could be strengthened, but through increased enforcement of the existing regulations and harsher penalties, not further regulation. Ontario has gotten vaping regulation right. MPP Gélinas’ bill is a transparent attempt by an opposition member to capitalize on vaping misperceptions and gain political points. Industry advocates and stakeholders plan to reach out to their Members of Provincial Parliament to discuss their concerns.

Contact Info:
Darryl Tempest
Government Relations Counsel to the CVA Board