British Columbia

Strict new rules on vape products coming into force in B.C. this summer

B.C.'s new E-Substances Regulation was announced last November and caps the nicotine content in vapour pods and liquids at 20 milligrams of nicotine per millilitre, while requiring plain packaging with health warnings.

Regulations limit nicotine content, packaging, advertising, access to flavoured product

Rules introduced last year for vaping products in B.C. include higher taxes, restrictions on sales and advertising, limits on nicotine content and constraints on packaging. (Steven Senne/The Associated Press)

The B.C. government says sweeping new regulations on sales and marketing of vaping products will be in full effect by the end of the summer.

Health Minister Adrian Dix and Education Minister Rob Fleming spoke to the media about the province's "action plan" on vaping Monday morning, when they also announced a new youth advisory council that will come up with ideas to reduce vaping among young people.

"We heard from young people across the province that vaping companies are targeting them with a product that poses real and serious health and addiction risks," Dix said in a news release.

"We know youth are eager to get involved in this action, and I've seen promising work through early youth engagement to help influence their peers and stop this dangerous trend of addiction."

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, vaping among young people rose by 74 per cent between 2017 and 2018. Dix said that while vaping is an important form of harm reduction for adults with nicotine addictions, it is simply harmful for children and teenagers who are introduced to tobacco through vape products.

The new council will launch in September. 

Some say getting parents involved is crucial to protecting children from the harmful effects of vaping.

"We have at Clayton a number of parents who gave their kids vapes because they said it's not as harmful as smoking," said Baljit Ranu, a parent at Clayton Heights Secondary in Surrey and the principal of Semiahmoo Secondary

The new E-Substances Regulation was announced last November and caps the nicotine content in vapour pods and liquids at 20 milligrams of nicotine per millilitre, while requiring plain packaging with health warnings. It also prohibits non-nicotine or nicotine-cannabis blended vape products.

Meanwhile, changes to the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Regulation mean that flavoured products can only be sold in adult-only stores, and no advertising is permitted in public spaces like bus shelters or parks where young people gather. 

New retailers will be required to comply immediately with the new rules, while existing retailers will have until Sept. 15 to comply.

Many of them are forecasting their business will be severely reduced as a result.

"It is going to have a very large impact on us because a large portion of our stock is going to become obsolete," said Stacey White, co-owner of Thunderbird Vapes.

While she supports measures to protect children, she says she doesn't want vaping products to become inaccessible to people who use them for harm reduction.

Other parts of the province's plan are already in effect. Beginning on Jan. 1, the provincial sales tax on vaping devices and substances jumped from seven to 20 per cent.

The new rules were announced after a series of respiratory illnesses connected to vaping were reported across North America. 

Vaping-related illness is an inflammation of the lungs, with symptoms that include coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain. 

As of April 7, 19 cases of the illness had been identified in Canada, including five in B.C.

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