Vaping industry says federal government's move to regulate e-cigarettes long overdue

As the Liberal government announced on Tuesday that it plans to introduce legislation later this fall to regulate vaping, some within the industry are applauding the move.

Restricting access to minors, manufacturing standards among suggested guidelines

The electronic cigarette. Safer than the real thing? The federal government announces plans to regulate vaping. (Nam Y. Huh/The Associated Press)

As the Liberal government announced on Tuesday that it plans to introduce legislation later this fall to regulate vaping, some within the industry are applauding the move.

Beju Lakhani, former president of the Canadian Vaping Association (CVA) and current CEO of Vape Brands International, a Canadian manufacturer and distributor of vaping products, said federal regulations are long overdue.

"The CVA, and myself as a business owner, I think we're quite pleased to see the federal government moving to regulate the industry," Lakhani said, adding that industry stakeholders like himself have been advocating for such a move.

"In the [Health Canada] statement I think some of the things that we especially appreciate are the call for a balanced approach, balancing both the need to protect youth ... while at the same time also acknowledging the need to have relatively easy accessibility for adult smokers who are looking to use the product as a less harmful alternative to tobacco."

Lakhani said the vaping industry has lacked federal oversight, and instead has been dealing with "a patchwork of provincial regulations" that have been problematic.

"In Quebec, we had almost a complete shutdown of the industry by the provincial government when they erroneously chose to lump vaping products in with tobacco without any distinction at all," he said.

Lakhani said the industry has been self-regulating, which includes a ban on selling products to individuals under the age of 19. He also noted that the Electronic Cigarette Trade Association of Canada introduced measures in 2011 — such as testing of e-liquids for various contaminants, child safety caps and proper labelling on bottles to inform people of the dangers that may be present — that have been adopted industry-wide.

"Ìt made sure consumers knew if they were dealing with a company that was abiding by these guidelines, they were dealing with a responsible company," said Lakhani. "And it also gave the government, we hope, a bit of a template in which they can follow should they choose to."

Avoiding mistakes

Shai Bekman, owner and president of DashVapes, a Canadian retailer and distributor of vape products with locations in Toronto, hopes Ottawa will adopt some of the ECTA's regulations.

"We hope that our government does not make the same mistakes that the FDA in the States did," said Bekman, who is a member of the CVA. "We hope the regulations they do introduce allow the industry to grow and for smokers to have access to an alternative."

Bekman said the FDA places restrictions on the vaping industry that deter consumers from patronizing shops.

"When a customer [in the U.S.] comes in and they want to sample a flavour, they have to pay a fee to do that and that fee is determined by the FDA," he said. "It actually discourages people from trying to come in and vape because they're like, 'What if I don't like it? Then I'm losing money.'"

Lakhani noted that a similar move was proposed in Ontario under Bill 45, but the bill has been pushed back. He hopes that if or when the bill is reintroduced, the government has also reconsidered a stipulation that would have banned vaping in all public spaces, which would have included vapour stores.

"Our view is that vaping in vapour stores is quite sensible to doing what the federal government would like to do, which is allowing adult smokers to access these products and make decisions that can allow them to use products that are less harmful," he said.​

'Safe for people to consume'

The industry would like to see the federal guidelines include consumer protections, such as manufacturing requirements so all products meet a specific safety standard.

"We want to make sure the products that are being produced in Canada meet certain requirements and are safe for people to consume," Lakhani said. 

He also supports restricting access to minors.

"We know that as an alternative to tobacco, there are very real benefits that exist," he said. "In order to make sure that those benefits are being highlighted and some of the negatives are mitigated, these type of adult-only type restrictions and manufacturing standards make a lot of sense."