New Brunswick

Canada must act fast on branding of vape products, cancer group says

The Canadian Cancer Society is calling on the federal government to move quickly on tougher regulations surrounding the labelling of vaping products.

Fredericton child treated in hospital after drinking sweet-smelling e-cigarette fluid called Unicorn Milk

A Fredericton girl was taken to hospital after she tasted e-cigarette fluid from a vial she found in a school playground and thought was a sugary treat.

The Canadian Cancer Society is calling on the federal government to move quickly on tougher regulations surrounding the labelling of vaping products.

The push comes after a Grade 5 student at É​cole des Bâtisseurs in Fredericton was taken to hospital after drinking an e-cigarette fluid called Unicorn Milk.

The nine-year-old and her friends discovered the fluid at their school playground this week. The friends all tasted drops from a vial of the concentrated nicotine, which is used for electronic vaping of cigarettes.

Lea L'Hoir, the girl's mother, said the children were tempted to try the strawberry-flavoured fluid because it smelled good, and its container was decorated with a brightly coloured image of a unicorn.

"We don't want kids using these products," Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, said Wednesday.

"We have to have proper labelling. Consumers have to be informed of the ingredients."  

Health Canada doesn't regulate the labelling of vape products, but the sale of the products to people 18 or under is banned.

Would restrict flavours

A federal bill that would regulate the manufacture, sale and labelling of vaping products awaits approval in the Senate.

The bill would also give Health Canada the regulatory authority to enforce policies on childproof caps and to restrict certain flavours that critics say are aimed at a younger market. 

Many of the flavours are attractive to kids. There's probably a thousand e-cigarette flavours.- Ron Cunningham, Canadian Cancer Society

"Unicorn milk is not really a flavour ... obviously this is a market approach," Cunningham said. "This is something Health Canada would want to be dealing with." 

He said governments around the world have been dealing with the issue for some time.

"Many of the flavours are attractive to kids," he said. "There's probably a thousand e-cigarette flavours."

Nicotine poisoning has been increasing in North America because of the emergence of e-liquids. 

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. reported in 2014 that the number of calls to poison centres involving e-cigarette liquids rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014. Almost 52 per cent of the calls involved children under the age of five.

The first four months of this year, poison centres in the U.S. reported 795 calls about exposure to the liquids.

Nausea a symptom

Most children are poisoned by either ingesting, inhaling or absorbing the concentrated nicotine through their skin or eyes, the CDC said. The most common symptoms of exposure are vomiting, nausea and eye irritation.

Cunningham applauded the New Brunswick government for banning the sale of vaping products to minors and prohibiting retail displays everywhere but in vape shops, but he said there's still a gap in federal policy.

"No government yet has really come up with the body line of what you allow and what you don't," he said. "Clearly, there's a concern and we don't want youth using e-cigarettes." 

With files from Maritime Noon