HALIFAX – A bill introduced Friday in Nova Scotia would ban the sale of flavoured tobacco, including menthol, but leaves the regulation of e-cigarettes and e-juices to the federal government.
The ban would include flavoured rolling papers and tobacco products that are not smoked, such as chewing tobacco and snuff.
The regulations would exempt rum, port, wine and whiskey flavoured cigars that weigh five grams or more and cost more than four dollars.
It also exempts e-cigarettes and e-juice.
“By removing these products from the marketplace in Nova Scotia, we will help prevent young people from being tempted to try tobacco,” said Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine.
“In doing so, we will help prevent the health harms that come with the potential lifelong addiction to nicotine. We will also help prevent the healthcare costs and the economic productivity costs associated with chronic disease related to tobacco use.”
The Nova Scotia government tried last fall to ban flavoured tobacco but removed it at the last minute.
Former smoker Darrin White said he thinks the ban on flavoured tobacco is a fantastic idea.
White said he hopes the ban deters young people, including his two young sons, from picking up the habit.
“Quite frankly, I’m all for anything that deters smoking but it always struck me that flavoured tobacco were definitely being aimed at a youthful audience,” he said.
Bill lauded by Canadian Cancer Society
Kelly Cull, the manager of government relations for the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society, said the legislation is the most progressive in Canada.
“This positions Nova Scotia as having the most progressive tobacco legislation in Canada and we’re very pleased,” she said.
Cull said one-third of young Nova Scotians who smoke smoke menthol. The province could become the first in the country to ban menthol, which she said is “groundbreaking”.
“We want to see a different trajectory in terms of public health as it relates to youth. We do not want to see the next generation burdened by tobacco related disease.”
Future of e-cigarettes and e-juice unclear
Glavine deferred questions over e-cigarettes and e-juices to his federal counterparts, saying they fall within federal jurisdiction.
“There’s many unknowns. We do want Health Canada and the federal government to act on this. It truly is the wild west out there now.”
He said that the amendments would give the province the ability to further regulate e-cigarettes in the future however he does not intend to use that ability now.
“We have looked after as much of the provincial regulation that we can right now. We have to rely on the federal government, in particular Health Canada, to guide us on this product, where at this point they haven’t made any statements.”
Health Canada tells Global News it is reviewing scientific studies and data and is monitoring the actions of regulators in other jurisdictions.
The Opposition seems to support the bill but stopped short of calling it completely right.
“We want to review it and go through it line by line to make sure that it meets the needs of the Cancer Society and the young people of our province,” said PC MLA Alfie McLeod.
“If the bill says what we think it says then I’m sure we will pass it through the House without much trouble.”
Exemption includes flavoured cigars
Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief public health officer, said the exemption for the flavoured cigars is because those products are more popular among adults.
“Exempting those flavours strikes the right balance between protecting youth and still allowing some choice for adults,” he said.
He adds that the ban on the other products takes the province one step closer to entrenching “non-smoking as the culture in Nova Scotia”.
“This is a very good day for the public health world.”
However, there was mixed reaction from young people about whether the ban would be effective or not.
“Addiction is a pretty big thing,” said grade 12 student Carter Trenholm. “I think if they’re going to smoke, they’re going to find a way to smoke.”
“I think kids are going to find it anyway but I think it’s worth a shot,” said student KC Case.
If passed, the legislation would come into effect May 31.
Convenience stores rattled by bill
Mike Hammoud, the president of the Atlantic Convenience Store Association, said the deadline is “unrealistic” for convenience store owners.
“There has to be a transition period,” he said.
Hammoud said he supports preventing young people from smoking but said if adult customers can’t find flavoured tobacco in the stores, they may go elsewhere.
“Moving it from that regulated controlled environment to an unregulated controlled environment isn’t going to solve the problem. We believe when it’s all said and done this won’t accomplished anything,” he said.
“All that it’s going to do is upset some adult smokers and cause them to move to buying illegal products. We’re going to see a major spike in contraband tobacco.”
Glavine said the province will likely take a hit of $5 million if the bill is passed but said drop in revenue will be offset by gains through less medical interventions as a result of smoking. Hammoud argues the number is closer to $18 million.
– with files from the Canadian Press