Sask. e-cigarette legislation expected in October
Lung Association says children vaping as young as 11
Twenty-two federal e-cigarette inspectors will be visiting vape retailers across the country this fall, around the same time Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter expects to see vaping legislation introduced in the legislature.
Saskatchewan and Alberta are the only provinces without legislation around e-cigarettes and vaping.
The federal inspectors will visit Saskatchewan, though Health Canada doesn't have a count of how many will be coming to the province.
They're hitting two-thirds of the vape retailers in the country, checking for compliance to the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act.
Those retailers were sent letters in June advising them of their obligations under the act and possible enforcement if they don't comply.
Punishment for such offences include "warning letters, negotiated compliance, seizures and prosecution," according to the letter sent by Health Canada.
'Reports of kids using bleach'
Health Minister Jim Reiter said his department has watched other jurisdictions grapple with vape legislation and followed recent reports on mysterious lung illnesses — and one death — out of the United States.
Health officials in the states are looking into more than 150 potential cases of breathing illness in addition to a death reported in Illinois.
Reiter calls the possible side effects of vaping "extremely troubling."
"This was marketed as a smoking cessation tool that is supposed to help people quit smoking and in some instances I think that's true," he said
"But it's also troubling when ... it ends up being sort of an entry for youth to use nicotine."
The Saskatchewan government has been consulting with the Lung Association for five years about what they'd like to see in vape legislation.
The Saskatchewan branch has been reporting back to the ministry with research information and anecdotes collected from youth and their parents.
"Some of the big surprises for us that we didn't know without the youth input was that yes, the kids are using it in school. It's easy to hide," said Jennifer May, vice president of community engagement at the association.
"We've now had had reports of kids using bleach, kids vaping alcohol, ecstasy and many other drugs. "
The Lung Association is concerned about the ways youth are using e-cigarettes and also how vape pens are marketed.
Other jurisdictions have enacted legislation for vapes similar to tobacco regulation, but Reiter said he would like to extend Saskatchewan's potential rules to include restriction on flavours at retail locations like convenience stores.
Reiter said he sees the marketing and flavours ever time he fills up with gas in Regina.
"All the advertising at the convenience store that hit me was all about vaping and the part I find most troubling is that it seems to be targeted toward kids," he said
"I mean bubble gum and watermelon. Those aren't targeted at adults. Those are targeted at the kids."
Youth advocates concerned
The Lung Association runs a youth advocacy group called Youth 4 Change, comprised of people aged 11 to 25.
"They become our advisors," said Jennifer May.
They group worked for months to provide information to the government on what they need for protection in the province.
Youth 4 Change presented the information as they would a science fair project.
The group identified the candy flavours and marketing as priorities for any incoming legislation.
Misconceptions abound in the classroom and on the playground. Some students have been caught vaping in the restroom, or using USB-like devices their teachers wouldn't think to identify as e-cigarettes.
Their advocacy continues in a province that posts the highest number of youth and young adult tobacco users.
"We have to do everything possible here in Saskatchewan to protect kids," May said.