Anti-smoking groups call for tougher restrictions in Nova Scotia on e-cigarettes
Nova Scotia politicians warned youth vaping has reach 'epidemic' levels
Groups at the forefront of the fight against smoking have told members of the Nova Scotia Legislature's health committee that a crackdown on e-cigarettes is needed to fight an "epidemic" of youth vaping.
Both the Lung Association of Nova Scotia and the Canadian Cancer Society are calling for tougher restrictions on e-cigarettes.
Robert MacDonald, president and CEO of the Lung Association of Nova Scotia, accused vape shops of targeting young people.
He told the all-party committee on Tuesday that vape shops have opened around junior high and high schools.
MacDonald said the proliferation of "candy flavours" and social media advertising has "culminated in an epidemic."
"Nova Scotia has twice the national average of youth who have vaped in the last 30 days," he said.
Kelly Cull, regional director of public policy for the Canadian Cancer Society, used similar language to describe the problem.
"The youth vaping epidemic is resulting in a new generation addicted to nicotine with dire consequences," she told provincial politicians.
She put part of the blame squarely on the tobacco industry and governments unprepared to deal with e-cigarettes.
"Aggressive marketing, youth enticing flavours, innovative design and highly addictive levels of nicotine on the part of industry, combined with a lack of sufficient oversight and regulation on behalf of successive government," she said.
Both groups are calling for more restrictions to try to and reduce vaping by young Nova Scotians, including:
- Restricting sales for people younger than 21 years old.
- Limiting the number of flavours permitted.
- Banning the sale of e-cigarettes except in adult-only specialty vape shops.
- Requiring a license to sell e-cigarettes and associated products.
- Banning sales on the internet.
- Setting standards on appearance, including a prohibition on using pink or "other stylish colours" for vape products.
- Limiting nicotine concentration.
Speaking to reporters following her appearance, Cull said her group has been lobbying the health department for the past nine months.
"Urgent action is needed," she said. "We've seen a dramatic increase in youth vaping rates right across Canada and here in Nova Scotia, particularly over the last three years."
Dr. Mohammed Al-Hamdani, director of health initiatives at the Nova Scotia Lung Association, echoed that sentiment, and suggested the province would pay a steep price for not acting swiftly.
"The most clear implication that we will see if we do not act has to do with how many people start smoking following vaping," he said. "We (will) have 20 more per cent worth of smokers that we have to worry about, at least.
"And with that comes a host of... conditions, from lung cancer to all kinds of lung effects and physical effects that are quite harmful."
Backbench Liberal MLA Margaret Miller said she was convinced her former cabinet colleague Health Minister Randy Delorey would act.
"If we're looking at this as a crisis and we're saying this is epidemic with our young people, then it only makes sense that the department looks at that and moves forward with some kind of action," said Miller.
She said she wasn't privy to how soon the McNeil government might be ready to move ahead, nor could she say whether a comprehensive strategy was in the works.
Delorey has said his department was looking at changes impacting the flavours of e-cigarettes. He has also refused to say when action might be coming.
Imperial Tobacco and the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association both requested a chance to testify at the committee hearing.
A representative acting on Imperial's behalf wrote the committee clerk last Saturday evening suggesting the company could offer insight as "the world's largest manufacturer of vapour products" on what regulations work and which one's don't.
The committee members declined both requests