Manitobans weigh in on debate over flavoured e-cigarette ban
A 2015 study found more than 80 per cent of underage e-cigarettes users started with flavoured vape juice
As health professionals try to understand how vaping products might trigger severe lung injuries, there are new calls for a ban on thousands of candy and dessert-like e-cigarette flavours that attract young people.
It's something Josh Halpern understands. He started vaping several years ago and his favourite flavour is lime.
"They just taste good, they don't taste like a cigarette, you know?" the 33-year-old Winnipegger said.
"If there was no flavours or nothing that tasted good, I'm sure kids wouldn't want to do it in the first place."
A 2015 study found more than 80 per cent of underage teens who use e-cigarettes started with flavoured vape juice.
American lawmakers looking at bans
The Trump administration is considering a national ban on flavoured e-juice, part of a crack-down to combat youth addiction. Tobacco flavouring would still be allowed.
"People are dying with vaping. So we're looking at it very closely," President Donald Trump said Wednesday
New Jersey and Minnesota are going even further — taking steps to ban all e-cigarette products.
The measures come as the U.S. Centres for Disease Control is reporting 380 confirmed cases of lung disease associated with vaping, and six suspected deaths.
No single device or product is to blame, although many cases involve marijuana vaping.
Canadian election issue?
In Canada, party leaders were asked for their thoughts on a ban of flavoured e-juice on the campaign trail Thursday.
"Our decisions will be made based on evidence, based on data," Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau replied. "We will have more to say as Health Canada continues to do its work of keeping Canadians safe, including from the dangers of vaping."
"I haven't seen specifically the new regulations the U.S. government has put in, but we'll certainly take a look at that," Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said.
"If we have some science and evidence that point to a problem, then we should respond. Right now that science is unclear," NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh added.
Not surprisingly, the vape industry is resisting any talk of banning flavoured products.
"There's a lot of research that says that adult smokers that have stopped smoking by using vaping also use flavours. So I'm not sure that an outright ban on all flavours is the right thing," said Eric Gagnon, head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Imperial Tobacco Canada.
Others warn a ban on fruity flavours would mean many people would return to cigarette smoking – or find what they want on the black market – raising even more health concerns.
"If we do end up banning flavours, we're going to have to pretty much pull almost every single bottle of juice off of our shelves," said Cameron Rochon, marketing manager for Flamingo Vape in Manitoba.
"You get some random guy off Facebook mixing it in the kitchen. That's going to be the only option."
Rochon is concerned that lawmakers don't understand what is making people sick. He says there are indicators pointing to vitamin E oil as the problem, not flavoured e-juice.
Last year, Ottawa passed legislation banning the sale of vaping products to anyone under 18, and restricting advertising.
Health Canada is studying potential regulatory measures to reduce youth access and the appeal of vaping products, including measures to prohibit the manufacture, sale and advertising of vaping products with certain flavours or ingredients.
The federal agency has also stepped up inspections of vape and convenience stores.
With files by Melanie Glanz and James Murray