Tories propose ban on all flavoured vape products in Nova Scotia
Premier Stephen McNeil says province already looking at ways to restrict flavoured products
The Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party wants to ban all flavoured vape products and restrict people under the age of 19 from possessing tobacco.
Leader Tim Houston introduced proposed amendments to the Tobacco Access Act in the Nova Scotia Legislative Wednesday afternoon, saying it's an effort to stop young people from vaping.
He said although vaping started out as a way to move away from cigarettes, too many young people have taken it up.
"No doubt it probably does still help some people move from smoking to vaping, but the discussion has really changed. We know that there's a lot of health risks associated with vaping," Houston said.
"I think when you talk about the flavours, they're something that attracts youth in many ways. And we need to we need to address that."
Public health officials in Ontario reported last month the first case of severe respitory illness linked to vaping in the country. Health Canada has urged those who vape to be cautious and warned young people, pregnant women and non-smokers not to do it at all.
Officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been looking at more than 200 possible cases in 25 states of severe illness associated with vaping.
In 2015, Nova Scotia was the first jurisdiction in the world to ban the sale of flavoured tobacco including menthol. But while electronic cigarettes or vapes mimic the act of smoking, they don't contain tobacco.
Instead, the vaporizers use a liquid solution that is heated and inhaled. The liquids are regularly marketed with bright colours and can contain nicotine or flavours.
People under the age of 19 are currently not allowed to buy tobacco products in Nova Scotia, but there are no restrictions on them possessing it. The changes proposed by the Tories would impose a fine similar to cannabis and alcohol fines.
Houston said young people are likely getting tobacco products through their social circles, not necessarily retailers.
"We're never going to stop it, in that sense. But we need to be talking about it. We need to take action to try to stop it," he said. "When I was growing up we were always afraid we'd get caught and what would the ramifications be of getting caught for something. So I think kids today are no different. But the public education portion is key."
The PC amendments also propose a public school program related to the risks of electronic cigarettes.
Premier Stephen McNeil said the province is already looking at the possibility of banning flavoured vape products through regulations, so legislative changes wouldn't be needed to do that.
But he said other changes such as retail and advertising restrictions might be required. Unlike with tobacco, retailers don't need a licence to sell vaping products.
"We're looking at does that make sense? Because we know in cases where they're selling both, the product is actually hidden. The product is restricted," McNeil said.
The premier said he worries young people who vape are then turning to tobacco, and he said pricing is one way to limit its use.
"We need to make sure that this product, if it is sold in this province, is a point like tobacco where is becomes prohibitive," he said.
Health Canada regulates vaping products and McNeil said his government thinks "they need step up in terms of the content of this product."
"We're hearing stories that people are making this without the scrutiny that I believe would be required," he said.
Houston and McNeil agree the impact of vaping products could have long-term financial consequences in the form of increased health-care costs.
"The risk to the health of individuals, and then ultimately to the province — it'll be a big impact on the health budget. We know this is going to cause health problems for a lot of people," Houston said.
Houston suggested the education component could be a campaign similar to the "This is your brain on drugs" ad campaign in the U.S. to reinforce that vaping is dangerous.
Several American states have already banned flavoured vape products.
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With files from Michael Gorman