Groups want vape product displays banned in stores
Increasing number of teens turning to e-cigarettes sitting alongside candy
The province should not allow vaping products to continue to be advertised and displayed alongside the candy at convenience stores, public health advocates say.
Several organizations asked a legislative committee studying Bill 36, Ontario’s cannabis act, to ban the display and promotion of vape products at stores.
Bill 36 already does that, but allows the government to make exceptions in regulations. That loophole should be closed so vaping products are treated the same as tobacco, said Rob Cunningham, a senior analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society. Tobacco products are sold from behind the counter and store promotions are not allowed.
Cunningham brought along photographs taken at convenience stores of vaping displays, advertisements and flyers.
The promotions are helping lure an increasing number of young people into vaping, said Cunningham and other public-health experts who testified Thursday and Friday.
The displays and promotions “normalize” vaping because the devices are treated as regular products, sold alongside chocolate bars, magazines and drinks, Cunningham said. Kids need to be protected, he said. Some of the e-liquids, which come in a wide variety of flavours, contain nicotine, which is addictive.
Many young people consider vaping safer than smoking and aren’t aware of the possible health risks, several presenters said.
Teen vaping has increased dramatically, said Sarah Butson of the Ontario Lung Association. It’s now more common than smoking cigarettes. In Ontario, 10.7 per cent of students in grades 7 to 12 said they used electronic cigarettes (vape pens) in 2017, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which does a biannual survey of drug use. That compares to seven per cent of students who reported smoking a cigarette, 19 per cent who used cannabis and 42.5 per cent who used alcohol.
Vaping may be less harmful than smoking cigarettes, several presenters acknowledged.
However, people who don’t smoke should not be encouraged to vape, Butson said.
There is evidence teens who use e-cigarettes are at higher risk of smoking cigarettes, she said. “We are talking about more than hooking a generation on a new product, which is vaping, but potentially a new generation of people who smoke.”
The Citizen checked out some convenience stores Friday and found that five out of six sold vape pens. Several stores had displays on the counters near the checkouts, while two stores had the displays behind the counters.
One store carried JUUL, the small, sleek vape pens popular among high schoolers in the United States, behind the counter in a box that concealed the product. JUUL advertises the pen as a “satisfying alternative to cigarettes” for adults.
Some of the candy-flavoured vape liquids are attractive to youths, said Liz Scanlon of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. It can be difficult to know the substance people are vaping because there isn’t a lot of odour emitted, she said.
Some types of vape pens can be used to consume cannabis, but those devices are typically sold at headshops and specialty vape stores. Loaded cannabis vape pens are illegal and can only be obtained in the black market.
Two delegations at the committee hearings said e-cigarette advertising and displays should be allowed in stores to educate adult tobacco smokers.
When smokers visit a corner store to pick up cigarettes, they should know that an alternative is available, said Jaye Blancher of the Tobacco Harm Reduction Association of Canada.
Blancher said she started smoking cigarettes at age 12 and tried unsuccessfully for years to quit. Since 2016, she has been vaping instead.
The provincial act “positively reflects that vaping is less risky by categorizing tobacco and vaping separately,” she said. “I’d rather see a youth vaping than smoking.”
However, flashy ads aren’t necessary, Blancher said.