Forget the cotton candy or melon lush, kids. B.C. brings in strict new vaping rules

VANCOUVER — Restrictions on flavoured pods and some of the most stringent limits on nicotine levels in Canada are among new B.C. regulations aimed at stopping young people from vaping.

The proposed changes, expected to be in place by the end of summer, are garnering praise from health advocates. They would immediately stop all retailers from selling non-nicotine or nicotine-cannabis-blended vapour products.

Health Minister Adrian Dix told a news conference Monday that the sale of flavoured nicotine vapour products, which are attractive to youth, will now be restricted to adult-only shops.

“We have the power to restrict flavours,” he said. “Only tobacco flavours will be allowed.”

As well, retailers will only be allowed to sell vapour products plainly packaged with health warnings.

The new changes are particularly aimed at discouraging youths from taking up vaping. The province initially made promises to tighten its vaping regime last fall.

A survey on Canadian student tobacco, alcohol and drug use found youth vaping among students in grades 10 to 12 increased in British Columbia from 11 per cent in the 2014-15 school year to 39 per cent last year. Across the country, the increase was from nine per cent to 29 per cent.

Chris Lam, president and CEO of the B.C. Lung Association, applauded the regulations, saying there’s major misunderstandings among young people about what they are inhaling when vaping and how harmful it could be.

“We really want to focus on getting vaping out of the hands of our kids,” Lam said. “The effects are so incredibly scary on our youth that that has to be the primary focus.”

The amount of nicotine allowed in a vapour pod will also be restricted to 20mg/ml, which Lam praised as an aggressive measure.

Other jurisdictions, including Ontario, have limited the nicotine content levels to 20mg/ml but speciality stores are still allowed to sell the higher levels.

Nicotine content is a particular concern for youth, Lam said, as research has shown it has negative effects on developing brains.

“Anything that we can do to get a vape device out of the hands of a child, we should be doing that wholeheartedly,” Lam said.

Nicotine will be treated under the Public Health Act as a “public health hazard,” which allows the government to make the regulations, Dix said.

“Vaping is of course, for some people, harm reduction. And if you are a lifetime smoker, it can have that impact, it can reduce the harm from smoking,” he said.

“But if you are a young person, if you are under 19, it is not harm reduction, it is just harm.”

Dix said the changes introduced are in accordance with European Union standards, which has seen a significant success in limiting the use of vaping products by young people.

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Health Canada set out new rules earlier this month banning the promotion of vaping products in places young people can access and preventing dessert, cannabis, soft drinks and candy flavours.

The Canadian Cancer Society welcomed the announcement saying the new regulations will have a significant impact.

In B.C. and in Canada, youth vaping has more than tripled over a four-year period, a statement from the society said.

“The high levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes are an important factor contributing to skyrocketing rates of youth vaping in Canada,” it said.

“It is hoped that the action by the B.C. government will prompt the federal government to establish the same maximum nicotine level for all of Canada.”

The Convenience Industry Council of Canada said the proposal to reduce nicotine concentrations could force adult customers of vaping products back to cigarettes.

These regulations, while allowing specialty vape shops and online retailers to continue to operate unchecked, will not address youth vaping, the council said in a statement.

Most of the changes, including the nicotine and flavouring regulations, will be immediately enforced, Dix said. The remainder of the regulations will be implemented starting Sept. 15.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said while vaping is a relatively new public health concern, it’s a repackaging of the “old and deadly enemy,” nicotine and tobacco.

“What makes these vaping products especially dangerous is that they disguise toxins with harmless sounding flavours, things like cotton candy or melon lush, and those harmless sounding flavours have directly targeting youth as consumers for way too long.”

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