PEI

Mixed reaction after vaping bill passes 2nd reading in P.E.I. Legislature

The private member's bill would restrict where vaping products can be sold, ban certain flavours and raise the legal age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes from 19 to 21.

'We're really happy to see the three parties working together and pushing the agenda forward'

If the vaping bill passes third reading and becomes law, P.E.I. would have the highest age restriction in the country. (CBC)

A private member's bill that would place stricter rules around tobacco and e-cigarettes has been met with mixed reactions from community groups and industry stakeholders.

The P.E.I. Lung Association says it's excited about the potential effect the bill could have on curbing vaping among Island youth. 

"We're really happy to see the three parties working together and pushing the agenda forward," said Julia Hartley, association co-ordinator with the organization.

The private member's bill would restrict where vaping products can be sold, ban certain flavours and raise the legal age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes from 19 to 21.

The bill passed second reading in the P.E.I. Legislature Tuesday.

Hartley said with so much marketing targeted to youth, she believes raising the minimum age to purchase vaping products will help stop under-age Islanders from having friends 19 or older buy the products for them.

Julia Hartley, with the P.E.I. Lung Association, believes the bill is an important step in curbing youth vaping. (Laura Meader/CBC )

She said she's also pleased to hear about the prospect of a flavour restriction. She said flavours like mango and cotton candy are designed to appeal specifically to youth. 

"We see that 95 per cent of youth are choosing flavours, and we think that by reducing these flavours, it will help with this cause," said Hartley.

Industry reaction

Those in the industry have a different opinion when it comes to the flavours.

The Vaping Industry Trade Association called the latest development "disappointing," in a news release. It said the banning of certain flavours "could undermine the switching rates of adult smokers towards less harmful alternatives."

Shamus Kelly, the owner of this Charlottetown vape shop, says that if flavours are eliminated, it will impact his business. (Laura Meader/CBC )

The association also said it was concerned that limiting access to the products "reduces the likelihood that current adult smokers will make the switch."

"Governments must also strike the right balance so we save the public-health-benefit vaping products present for adult smokers, while keeping nicotine products out of the hands of young people," the release said.

'I'm all for that'

Some Island business that sell vaping products are on board to raise the age to 21, in support of keeping it out of the hands of youth.

"I'm all for that. Anything they're doing to try and make it unappealing for children, I am going to back that up" said Shamus Kelly, owner of Eastern Vapes in Charlottetown.

"I'm trying my best to be really strict in here with the IDs and everything like that because there is a lot of kids getting their hands on this stuff. They are not coming in and buying it themselves, but they are getting other people to buy it for them."

Shamus Kelly, owner of Eastern Vapes in Charlottetown, says vaping helped him quit smoking — but agrees with raising the age limit. (Laura Meader/CBC )

Kelly said that the one part of the bill that does concern him is the flavour limitations. He said that vaping helped him quit smoking and he worries what impact the limited selection could have on others who are trying to break their habit.

He also worries that aspect of the bill will impact his business most.

It's very exciting to see P.E.I. as the first.— Kelly Cull

"If they do ban the flavours and they take the flavours away, that is what is going to take the hit on business," Kelly said.

"A huge hit because there is a lot of people that vape as a hobby. They don't do it to quit smoking or anything like that. They don't even use nicotine in their juices."

'Very exciting,' says cancer society

The Canadian Cancer Society was one of the organizations advocating to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco and vaping products, among other measures.

"What we have seen here in P.E.I. and across Canada is really an explosive rise in the number of young people who are using vaping products," said Kelly Cull, regional director of public policy with the society.

MLA Cory Deagle, who tabled the bill, and Kelly Cull with the Canadian Cancer Society after Bill 112 passed second reading on Nov. 19, 2019. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"Specific here to P.E.I., we have a youth smoking rate that is double the national average. It's 16 per cent for those aged 15 to 19 versus eight per cent in terms of the national average."

Cull said the issues around vaping have pushed other jurisdictions to look at ways to curb youth use.

"But here in P.E.I., 21 would be the first in Canada," she said. "There are 18 U.S. states that have implemented 21 for tobacco and e-cigarettes, but this is the first time this particular policy has come to Canada. It's very exciting to see P.E.I. as the first."

The private member's bill will still need to pass third reading in the legislature before it becomes law.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Laura Meader

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