Health

Health Canada plans new measures to curb vaping by young people

Health Canada says it intends to introduce new measures to curb the rising amount of vaping by young people.

New rules would require health warning messages on advertisements

Health Canada wants to limit vaping ads aimed at young people. (Steven Senne/Associated Press)

Health Canada says it intends to introduce new measures to curb the rising amount of vaping by young people.

The Tobacco and Vaping Products Act already prohibits sales of vaping products to those under 18, but Health Canada said it aims to strengthen the rules, such as limiting the visibility of ads to young people. 

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor announced new measures on Tuesday including:

  • A proposal for more advertising restrictions on vaping.
  • A new public education campaign targeted at young people.
  • Limits on places where advertisements can be placed, such as no signs at shopping malls, parks, public transit vehicles and stations where youth have access.
  • Limits to the content of advertisements.
  • Limits on the display of vaping products in certain retail locations.

The proposed rules would also require health warning messages on permitted advertisements.

"I am deeply concerned about recent reports that youth vaping is on the rise," Petitpas Taylor said in a statement.

"This includes stories coming out of schools across Canada, and emerging data suggesting that young Canadians are taking up vaping at an alarming rate."

There will be a 45-day public consultation period on the proposed regulations.

New concerns are being raised about the number of young people using e-cigarettes with some evidence suggesting that vaping could bring youths one step closer to smoking. 2:36

Health Canada also plans to post another consultation document in March to seek comments "on further measures being considered to address and reverse the recent trends of youth vaping. Some of these additional measures could include examining the role of flavours, nicotine concentration and product design in making vaping products appealing to youth and non-smokers," the department said. 

The proposed regulations are needed and should be adopted as soon as possible and strengthened, said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society.

"In particular, there should be a complete ban on e-cigarette advertising on TV and Radio," Cunningham said.

The suggested ban covers youth-oriented programming. Cunningham questions whether that includes NHL and professional football games.

'By being too late, it'll be too little'

"They do signal that they're going to ban advertising on social media platforms, and that's important," he said.

"Some of the companies are paying social media influencers to promote their brand on social media where youth have a lot of access."

All provinces except Alberta and Saskatchewan have e-cigarette legislation. Ontario's government weakened legislation to allow ads in convenience stores and gas stations, Cunningham said. He noted the federal government has the power to ban the practice, as it does for advertising of cannabis for medical and recreational uses.

The federal government is recognizing "we have a crisis of vaping among our youth and is taking steps to do something about it," said Neil Collishaw, research director at Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. "However, there are some problems."

Collishaw is concerned the new regulations would take two years or more, especially given the upcoming federal election. 

"Well that's two more years of exposure of children to these advertisements and we're afraid by it being too late, it'll be too little. Instead, what we would like to see is parliamentarians all getting together and passing an amendment" that would treat e-cigarettes more like tobacco products with prohibitions on almost all advertising.

When Juul Labs launched in Canada last year, it said its product is for adult smokers and should be kept out of the hands of minors and non-smokers.

Imperial Tobacco said its vapour products are targeted at adult smokers.

The federal government's YouTube ad asks young people to consider the consequences of vaping. The public service announcement highlights how nicotine addiction from vaping alters teen brain development and contains harmful chemicals linked to lung damage and unknown long-term health effects. 

With files from CBC's Amina Zafar

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