Nova Scotia

Liberals reject opposition calls for stiffer N.S. vaping legislation

As legislation intended to reduce youth vaping rates in Nova Scotia makes its way through Province House, government MLAs rejected opposition amendments aimed at adding more teeth to the bill.

Health minister says desired changes will come through regulations

Health Minister Randy Delorey believes his government's steps will drive down youth vaping rates. (Marshall Ritzel/Associated Press)

As legislation intended to reduce youth vaping rates in Nova Scotia makes its way through Province House, government MLAs rejected opposition amendments aimed at adding more teeth to the bill.

Debate topics at the legislature on Monday included bills that will add a new tax system to vape products and require anyone who sells them to be licensed. The government has already said it will ban flavoured products, as it has already done with tobacco, as of April 1.

But opposition MLAs proposed a series of measures they said would be even stronger steps toward reducing youth vaping rates, which have spiked in recent years.

The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats both proposed amendments that would have, among other things, added caps to nicotine content in the legislation and restricted the sale of vape products to adult-only specialty shops, a step that would have removed them from gas stations and convenience stores.

There were also calls for a different tax structure, one that would see products taxed based on nicotine content as opposed to the total volume of liquid in a given package. The proposed changes followed concerns expressed by people in the industry and users that the government measures will be bad for business and drive some people back to smoking cigarettes.

Trying to reduce access points

But government MLAs were not interested in any of the proposed amendments and the Liberals used their majority to defeat all of them.

Tory MLA Brad Johns, who was visibly frustrated at times, criticized the government for not giving more consideration to "well-thought-out" amendments he said were aimed squarely at reducing access for young people.

Ahmed Milleti, 22, vapes at Dalhousie University in Halifax in this undated photo. (Robert Short/CBC)

"Numerous studies show that the first time a youth buys a vaping product, it's at a convenience store or a gas station," he said in an interview at Province House.

Johns noted that such products also tend to have the highest nicotine concentration of any on the market, which means young people who use them are at a greater risk of becoming addicted.

New Democrat MLA Lisa Roberts shared his concern.

"I cannot understand why the government would not restrict the sale of these products at gas stations and convenience stores where it's very easy for youth to access them," she said.

Minister comfortable with government plan

Even if store clerks are checking identification, Roberts noted that there are far more gas stations and convenience stores than there are specialty vape shops, many of which do not allow minors inside even when accompanied by an adult.

Representatives for the Canadian Cancer Society and Smoke-Free Nova Scotia have also called for a reduction in the number of places where people can purchase vape products.

But Health Minister Randy Delorey said he believes steps the government will take as it develops regulations to go with the legislation will have the desired effect of bringing down youth vaping rates.

Limiting nicotine content

Those regulations, which will only come after the legislation is passed, will include limitations on nicotine content in products and Delorey said his department would consult best practices used in other jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, where content is capped at 20 mg/ml.

The minister said he thinks requiring vendors to be licensed, regardless of how many there are, will improve monitoring and enforcement options.

"I think we're comfortable with these pieces and the bundle that we've brought forward and, again, as we continue to monitor these anticipated positive impacts, if more steps need to be taken we can look at doing that."

The legislation is expected to pass on Tuesday.

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