PEI

Age to buy tobacco, vapes on P.E.I. to increase March 1

The age to purchase tobacco and electronic smoking devices on P.E.I. will increase to 21 as of March 1 of this year.

Restrictions on vape flavours to come later, province says in letter to retailers

In a letter, the province says anyone who has turned 19 before March 1 will still be allowed to purchase the products. (Nam Y. Huh/The Associated Press)

The age to purchase tobacco and electronic smoking devices on P.E.I. will increase to 21 as of March 1 of this year.

Retailers have been advised of the change in a letter signed by the deputy minister of health and wellness Mark Spidel.

In the letter the province describes a "transition period," meaning anyone who turned 19 before March 1 will still be allowed to purchase the products.

In a letter the province  also states that as of March 1, electronic smoking or vape products can only be sold in "tobacconist shops," described as an "age-restricted location" where, "at least 50 per cent of the retailer's product display space is devoted to the sale of tobacco, electronic smoking devices, or a combination of both."

In an email, a spokesperson for the government confirmed that changes will go into effect next month.

Flavour restrictions

Restrictions on vape flavours will not come into effect immediately, according to the letter.

"Due to notification requirements under multinational trade agreements, the timing of these amendments would be later in 2020," a spokesperson for the province said in a statement.

A private member's bill introduced by Montague-Kilmuir PC MLA Cory Deagle passed with unanimous support in the P.E.I. Legislature during the fall 2019 sitting. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

The province says further communication will take place with tobacconist shops "later in 2020 as the department proceeds with amendments respecting the sale of flavoured electronic smoking devices."

On Tuesday, the province posted on its website a draft copy of an amendment to the regulations for the Tobacco and Electronic Smoking Devices Sales and Access Act.

That document, labelled "consultation draft," would prohibit the sale of any flavouring agent "added to tobacco or an electronic smoking device to produce an aroma or taste other than the aroma or taste of tobacco, including the aroma or taste of candy, chocolate, fruit, a spice, an herb, an alcoholic beverage, vanilla or menthol."

That language mirrors the province's current prohibition against flavoured tobacco.

Unanimous support

A private member's bill introduced by Montague-Kilmuir PC MLA Cory Deagle passed with unanimous support in the P.E.I. Legislature during the fall 2019 sitting.

That legislation gave the province 120 days to increase the age of access for smoking and vape products to 21, and to introduce restrictions on flavours as well as where vaping products can be sold.

Deagle said he was surprised to see the age increase come as soon as it did.

"I think the sooner these changes come into effect the better. So I'm looking forward to it." 

A week after P.E.I.'s legislation received royal assent, Nova Scotia announced it would ban all flavoured e-cigarettes and juices by April 1, 2020. (Steven Senne/The Associated Press)

That 120-day deadline gives government until March 27 to enact the changes.

P.E.I. would be the first province in Canada to increase the age to access tobacco and vaping products to 21, a move supported by both the Canadian Lung Association and the Canadian Cancer Society.

Deagle said he hopes other places in Canada will follow P.E.I.'s example. 

"I think change can be good and I think this is a good change and over time I think culture will change and we can change people's mindsets," he said.

'Potential for a poor outcome'

But the Vaping Industry Trade Association has expressed concerns that limiting access to flavoured vaping products could discourage some smokers from switching from tobacco to vapes.

And Mike Hammoud, president of the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association, said restricting access to vape shops and tobacconists has a "potential for a poor outcome."

"Will adult smokers on P.E.I. that are trying to quit be OK with the fact that they can't buy from a trusted P.E.I. convenience store like Mel's … but instead have to go to one of a few, newly established, untested vape head shops or tobacconist in the city?"

But, Hammoud said his organization does applaud the government for the age increase, and the restriction of vape flavours on the Island. 

In a statement, the government said it was aware of the impact the changes will have on local retailers, and said it will offer an education toolkit, an age verification tool and visiting all retailers to discuss changes and provide updated signage.

A week after P.E.I.'s legislation received royal assent, Nova Scotia announced it would ban all flavoured e-cigarettes and juices by April 1, 2020.

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