Ontario to ban ads for vaping products in convenience stores

In an effort to curb vaping by youth, Ontario convenience stores and gas stations will no longer be allowed to display ads for vaping products, beginning in January.

Ban announced amid growing concerns about health effects of vaping

Under the new rules, vaping products will only be allowed to be promoted inside specialty vape stores or cannabis retail stores. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

The province will ban ads promoting vaping products in Ontario convenience stores and gas stations beginning in January.

In a release from the Ministry of Health on Friday morning, the province says the new rules will mean that vapes and vape accessories can only be promoted inside specialty vape stores and cannabis retail stores — both of which are only open to people who are 19 and older.

"Restricting the promotion of vapour products will help prevent youth from being exposed and influenced by promotion in retail settings," Health Minister Christine Elliott said in the release.

The ban also comes amid rising concerns about the health effects of vaping. In the U.S., more than 1,600 cases of vaping-related illnesses have been reported, and at least 34 deaths have been linked to vaping. Reports of illness have also started to trickle in from the provinces after Health Canada issued a public warning last month.

Friday's release says the shift comes after consultations, and is based on "new and emerging research from health experts that indicate vaping among Ontario's youth is on the rise."

It says that between 2017 and 2018, there was a 74 per cent increase in vaping among Canadians aged 16-19. 

The new rules will also bring vape products in line with the rules around promoting tobacco in the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. 

The ban comes over a year after a similar one proposed by the former Liberal government was set to come into effect. 

Ontario 'catching up' to other provinces

Most other provinces already have regulations in place around the promotion of vaping products. 

With Ontario now in the fold, "there are eight provinces that have e-cigarette legislation. The two that don't are Alberta and Saskatchewan," said Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society.

Nunavut also has no rules in place, he said, while legislation in the Northwest Territories and Yukon has yet to come into force. 

"Ontario's catching up to what other provinces have done," said Cunningham, adding that most provinces moved to restrict vape advertising and displays in 2015 and 2016. 

"This is an important measure to protect Ontario youth," he said. 

'This should not be the final step' 

Health advocates had called on the Ontario government to take this step, arguing that it was one way to curb the growing trend of young people vaping and becoming addicted to nicotine.

Among the organizations pushing for the ban was the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, and its director, Michael Perley. 

"This is very helpful, we applaud the minister for doing this," Perley told CBC Toronto on Friday. "This should not be the final step." 

Michael Perley, director of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, called the province's announcement on Friday a good first step. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

Perley said he'd like to see the province look into limiting the range of flavours for vaping liquids, restricting the sale of vape products to specialty stores, and even consider raising the age requirement for buying vapes  to 21. The Canadian Cancer Society also supports these steps. 

"Our indications from the ministry is that they are looking at further restrictions on vaping products to protect our kids, and we will encourage them to do that," said Perley.