Health groups call for more vap­ing reg­u­la­tions

The Prince George Citizen - - Money - Chris­tian PAAS-LANG

OTTAWA — Fed­eral of­fi­cials have to act right away to avoid fur­ther risks of se­ri­ous ill­ness from vap­ing, eight Cana­dian health or­ga­ni­za­tions said Thurs­day.

The groups are ask­ing for an in­terim or­der from Health Canada to curb the mar­ket­ing of vap­ing prod­ucts, re­strict the flavours avail­able and reg­u­late their nico­tine lev­els.

Vap­ing prod­ucts, the or­ga­ni­za­tions say, should be treated the same way as to­bacco prod­ucts.

“Youth vap­ing has be­come a pub­lic-health cri­sis,” Dr. Sandy Buch­man, pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, said at a news con­fer­ence in Ottawa.

Thurs­day’s call comes af­ter news of a se­ri­ous vap­ing-re­lated ill­ness in Lon­don, Ont., as well as hun­dreds of cases in the United States, in­clud­ing seven deaths re­port­edly linked to vap­ing.

Au­thor­i­ties are still strug­gling to de­ter­mine what ex­actly has made vapers sick.

And on Thurs­day, Health Canada is­sued a state­ment ad­vis­ing vapers again to mon­i­tor them­selves for coughs, shortness of breath or chest pain and to seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion if they are con­cerned.

The coali­tion of health groups said an in­terim or­der would al­low the gov­ern­ment to put in place reg­u­la­tions for up to 12 months while per­ma­nent ver­sions were drafted.

“Wast­ing time on this can only in­crease the risks to Cana­di­ans,” Buch­man said.

The or­ga­ni­za­tions are ask­ing for all fed­eral par­ties to com­mit to is­su­ing such an or­der within 60 days of form­ing gov­ern­ment af­ter the Oct. 21 elec­tion.

The group in­cludes the Cana­dian Can­cer So­ci­ety, Cana­dian Lung As­so­ci­a­tion, Coali­tion que­be­coise pour le con­t­role du tabac, Heart & Stroke, On­tario Cam­paign for Ac­tion on To­bacco and Physi­cians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

The or­ga­ni­za­tions rec­om­mended re­stric­tions on ad­ver­tis­ing sim­i­lar to those on or­di­nary to­bacco, a ban on most or all flavoured prod­ucts, and a nico­tine re­stric­tion of 20 mg/ml of vap­ing fluid in line with Euro­pean Union stan­dards.

The groups shied away from call­ing for a full ban on vap­ing prod­ucts, in­stead fo­cus­ing on the surg­ing rate of vap­ing among younger Cana­di­ans.

A sur­vey done for Health Canada and pub­lished this year found that one-fifth of high school aged stu­dents re­ported us­ing vap­ing prod­ucts, as well as one-sev­enth of chil­dren aged 13 and 14.

Cyn­thia Cal­lard, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Physi­cians for a Smoke-Free Canada, said vap­ing prod­ucts have changed to be­come more ad­dic­tive, at­trac­tive and ac­ces­si­ble to youth.

“In short, to­bacco com­pa­nies are hook­ing kids on vape prod­ucts in the same ways they used to hook their par­ents and grand­par­ents on cig­a­rettes,” Cal­lard said.

Im­pe­rial To­bacco Canada is­sued a state­ment Thurs­day say­ing the so­lu­tion to re­cent health con­cerns over vap­ing was “en­force­ment of ex­ist­ing re­stric­tions on sales to youth and pro­hi­bi­tions on flavours ap­peal­ing to youth” as well as reg­u­la­tions en­sur­ing higher prod­uct qual­ity and safety.

David Ham­mond, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Water­loo who has stud­ied vap­ing in Canada, said the state­ment from the health groups em­pha­sizes a con­sen­sus that “some­thing has to be done” on vap­ing, espe­cially on ad­ver­tis­ing, flavours and ac­cess for youth.

He said vap­ing can clearly be harm­ful, though less harm­ful than smok­ing – which is not say­ing much, he added.

Still, Ham­mond said there is some room for vap­ing as a means of help­ing peo­ple quit smok­ing.

“Can they help peo­ple quit? Yes. Are they an ab­so­lute game-changer? Not right now,” he said.

There is no doubt that the rate of vap­ing in Canada has in­creased “on ev­ery mea­sure,” Ham­mond said.

He noted that leg­is­la­tion al­low­ing the sale of vap­ing prod­ucts co­in­cided with the en­trance of the com­pany Juul into the mar­ket. That com­pany “changed the chem­istry to make it eas­ier, more palat­able to in­hale very high lev­els of nico­tine,” he said.

At the same time, the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment “clearly opened (the door) too wide for ad­ver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion,” espe­cially to younger Cana­di­ans, Ham­mond said.

He said re­stric­tions on ad­ver­tis­ing, on at least some flavours and on sales were a good place to start, but cau­tioned that vap­ing will be a tough chal­lenge for gov­ern­ments.

“These are here to stay,” he said, flag­ging the vap­ing of cannabis as the next is­sue.

Juliet Gui­chon, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary, echoed the view that Cana­dian leg­is­la­tion does not ad­dress youth vap­ing with enough se­ri­ous­ness.

“I think (the gov­ern­ment) didn’t re­al­ize at the time what was go­ing to hap­pen,” she said.

She floated a few ways of re­duc­ing vap­ing among mi­nors, in­clud­ing re­quir­ing re­tail­ers to ask for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion from pur­chasers, and po­ten­tially rais­ing the age re­quired to buy vap­ing prod­ucts to 21.

On Wed­nes­day, Health Min­is­ter Ginette Petit­pas Tay­lor said Health Canada would look at sev­eral kinds of reg­u­la­tions for vap­ing, but had not yet com­mit­ted to any changes.

AP FILE PHOTO

A man ex­hales va­por as he demon­strates the use of his elec­tronic cig­a­rette. Eight Cana­dian health or­ga­ni­za­tions are call­ing on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to im­pose greater reg­u­la­tions on the vap­ing in­dus­try.

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