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Montrealers weigh in on e-cigarette debate

New proposed regulations on the sale of e-cigarettes in the United States are meeting with mixed reactions among store owners who sell e-cigarettes and members of the medical community in Montreal.

Store owners and doctors debate quality-control measures

Proposed regulations on e-cigarettes in the United States have Canadians debating what regulations, if any, are needed here.

New proposed regulations on the sale of e-cigarettes in the United States are being met with mixed reactions among store owners who sell them, and members of the medical community in Montreal.

Health Canada has not authorized the sale of e-cigarettes with nicotine, but that hasn't stopped vendors like Song Han, owner of the Vaporus shop on Saint-Denis Street,  from selling them.

Though he doesn’t favour heavy-handed government regulations that would interfere with innovation in the e-cigarette industry and small business owners like himself, he believes there is a need for quality and health assurances.

“There should be standards on the making of the liquid. Somethings should not be put into e-juices that sometimes gets in them,” said Han, pointing to the presence of some flavour enhancers in e-cigarettes.

“It can be perfectly safe as a food product, but as an inhalant it’s not good for you,” he said.

Dr. Gaston Ostiguy, medical director of the Montreal Chest Institute at McGill University agrees that quality control measures on vaporizer liquid are necessary.

“It can vary from one shop to another, from one supplier to another. I think people have a right to know what they’re inhaling, what it contains. If you buy a can of food, you know what’s in it,” Dr. Ostiguy told host  Mike Finnerty on CBC Radio’s Daybreak.

One of the key controversies surrounding e-cigarettes is the presence of nicotine in vaporizer liquids. Many available liquids have nicotine in them, but not in high enough doses to restrict their sale under current guidelines.

Though he technically could, Han said he does not sell e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18.

“It’s logical to us that it should not be sold to people under 18,” he said.

Dr. Ostiguy said age restrictions and other regulations are essential. However, the potential risks of e-cigarettes have to be balanced with their undeniable benefit to smokers trying to quit.

“If every smoker could switch to e-cigarettes, it will save thousands of lives,” he said, pointing out that one million people die every year from smoking-related cancers.

An added benefit of the vaporizers is the fact they allow elderly smokers to stay indoors rather than having go outside in inclement weather when they need a cigarette.

“This is not humane,” he said. “These people are 80, 85, their quality of life is poor. And there’s no second-hand smoke from e-cigarettes.”

The FDA's proposed rules would include the following measures:

  • A ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18.
  • A ban on free e-cigarette samples
  • A ban on vending machine sales except in adult-only venues.
  • Producers of vapourizer liquid must provide a list of ingredients to the FDA
  • Producers of vapourizer liquid must register with the FDA
  • Producers of vapourizer liquid must open their facilities to its inspectors.

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