April 25, 2014 2:04 pm

U.S. officials want to regulate e-cigarettes – is Canada following?

WATCH ABOVE: The U.S. is leading the way on regulating electronic cigarettes, but will Canada follow suit? Mike Le Couteur reports.

TORONTO – Group e-cigarettes along with regular tobacco products so only adults can buy them (and they’ll have clear warning labels): That’s what the FDA is proposing in an attempt to regulate the booming e-cigarette industry.

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For the first time since e-cigarettes first appeared on the market, the FDA said it’s looking into laying the groundwork for new rules. It wants to ban selling to minors, get rid of vending machine sales and would slap warning labels onto the devices so that users are informed about the risk of nicotine addiction. The rules will have sweeping implications for the quickly growing industry.

“At the present time the FDA does not have the authority to regulate e-cigarettes and some have characterized it frankly as the Wild Wild West and certainly we feel at the present time it is let the buyer beware,” Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, FDA Commissioner, said.

READ MORE: How will new U.S. rules change e-cigarette business?

Unlike the U.S., Health Canada hasn’t approved e-cigarettes with nicotine, so the e-cigarette device and any liquids that containe nicotine can’t be sold in Canada until products obtain approval. The federal agency wouldn’t say how many applications have been filed by vendors to approve the products.

It isn’t saying if it’s looking to regulate e-cigarettes in Canada, just that it’s watching what other jurisdictions do. For now, it’s reviewing research and health and safety data collected domestically and abroad.

“To date there is not sufficient evidence that the potential benefits of e-cigarettes in helping Canadians to quit smoking outweigh the potential risks,” Health Canada spokesperson Gary Holub told Global News in a written statement.

“A company would have to provide evidence of safety, quality and effectiveness in order to have its product authorized.  Without this scientific evidence, Health Canada continues to advise Canadians against the use of these products,” he said.

READ MORE: Are e-cigarette poisonings on the rise in Canada?

The Canadian Cancer Society also doesn’t promote e-cigarettes to consumers, according to senior policy analyst Rob Cunningham.

“We would only recommend nicotine replacement products approved by Health Canada,” he said. So far, that only includes five products: gum, the patch, lozenges, an inhaler and mouth spray.

But that’s not stopping Canadians from getting their hands on e-cigarettes with nicotine.

“Some consumers are obtaining e-cigarettes with nicotine despite the fact that they’re not approved yet. Some stores are selling them or they’re purchased online,” Cunningham said.

Because Health Canada doesn’t track adverse effects stemming from an unapproved product and there isn’t a national database documenting calls, recording the number of poisonings linked to e-cigarettes is spotty.

A CDC report released this month said that U.S. poison control centres went from receiving a single e-cigarette call per month to nearly 200 calls about poisonings in 2014.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© Shaw Media, 2014

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