Sask. to ban vaping near schools and restrict advertising, but allow flavours
Sask. was one of two provinces without vaping laws
The Saskatchewan government is introducing new rules that treat vaping like smoking in hopes of preventing kids from using electronic cigarettes.
Saskatchewan and Alberta are the only provinces with no regulations on vaping.
On Tuesday, the province announced amendments to the Tobacco Control Act. If passed they will come into effect next spring.
The changes include:
- Restricting purchase of vaping or e-cigarette products to people 18 and older.
- Ban the display of vaping or e-cigarette products in stores where youth are allowed.
- Restricting advertising of vaping products.
- Banning vaping around schools and other public buildings.
- Prohibiting the sale of vaping products in facilities that youth frequent.
"The Government of Saskatchewan takes the health of our citizens very seriously and this legislation is an important step in protecting Saskatchewan youth in particular from the harms of vaping products," Health Minister Jim Reiter said.
The province is not banning flavoured vape products at this time. It previously announced a mechanism to ban flavoured tobacco but it was never proclaimed. Reiter said his government will continue consultations on a potential ban or restriction on flavoured vape products.
"I would view this as step one. I just felt like this is an urgent enough issue. We need to protect our kids and so we needed to get this done. I didn't want to wait until everything was perfect before we introduced the bill," Reiter said.
The Saskatchewan Lung Association applauded the government for the changes.
"By reducing access to vape products and eliminating advertising the residents of Saskatchewan can breathe easier knowing that the government is taking this issue seriously," said Jennifer May of the Lung Association.
Saskatchewan respirologist Dr. Mark Fenton was at the legislature for the introduction of the bill.
"My advice, quite simply: don't do it. Do not vape. This something that we don't fully understand how it affects the lung. We're starting to see evidence that it has negative effects on the lung both in the short-term and long-term."
The Canadian Cancer Society had advocated for the province to make 21 the legal age to purchase vape products, move flavoured products to adult-only shops and restrict advertising.
On Tuesday, Canadian Cancer Society health policy analyst Donna Pasiechnik said her organization is encouraged with the government's decision to regulate vaping.
"We're pleased to hear Minister Reiter say he will consider restricting where flavoured vaping products are sold. We'd like to see them out of convenience stores and gas stations and into adult vape shops."
Pasiechnik said she would still like to see the age increased to 19, to be in line with alcohol and cannabis.
"Kids out there now could potentially view tobacco and vaping as less harmful because the age is lower. We're really trying to prevent kids getting a hold of these products in school."
Walter Murray Grade 11 student Darshana Lanke is part of the student advocacy group Youth4Change, which lobbied the government for tougher vaping laws.
"The culture around vaping is very normalized. It's very difficult to deal with that because you're going to school to learn."
Lanke said she thinks her peers view vaping as less "risky" than smoking.
Vaping on rise in Canada among youth study shows
A recent study released by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) showed a 74 per cent increase in vaping among youth in Canada from 2017 to 2018.
Pasiechnik called the results "shocking".
She said educators in the province have told her they are seeing children as young as 10 and 11 vaping.
"We have a big problem on our hands. We risk seeing another generation of kids hooked on nicotine," she said.
"In Saskatchewan we already have the highest youth smoking rates, nearly three times the national average."
In September, the province's Ministry of Health announced it would monitor intensive care units across the province for vaping-related illness,
The move was prompted by after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported 530 confirmed and probable cases of lung injury related to e-cigarettes as of Sept. 17, including at least seven deaths.
In August, Reiter said he found it "troubling" that vaping advertising in stores was aimed at children.
"I mean bubble gum and watermelon. Those aren't targeted at adults. Those are targeted at the kids."