New tobacco legislation to regulate sale of vaping products with nicotine nationally

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Changes to the Tobacco Act, which are soon expected to become law, will formally regulate vaping at the national level as well as give Health Canada the power to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

The bill, S-5, will regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of e-cigarettes and vaping products.

The legislation, which only needs royal assent to become law, prohibits the sale of vaping products to minors and restricts certain forms of advertising for these products.

“Once Bill S-5 receives Royal Assent, vaping products that contain nicotine would be legally sold as consumer products by retailers according to provincial or territorial legislation,” Health Canada wrote in a statement.

“The Tobacco and Vaping Products Act provides a balanced framework for vaping products by protecting youth and non-users of tobacco products from nicotine addiction and inducements to use tobacco, while allowing adults to legally access vaping products as a less harmful alternative to tobacco.”

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“For vaping, everything is new at the federal level,” said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society.

Currently, vaping products containing nicotine require market authorization under the Food and Drugs Act before they could be sold in Canada, according to Health Canada. This new bill would allow them to be sold as consumer products.

Finally, regulating vaping at the federal level will change things, said Cunningham, but maybe not in the ways you might think.

“In reality, it’s not like vape stores are going to start to open. They’re already open.”

“The real thing that people will see as a change is advertising for e-cigarettes,” he said. In Canada so far, he thinks there has been relatively little. Although the legislation prohibits advertising “if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the advertising could be appealing to young persons,” he thinks we’re going to see more of it.

Health Canada notes that under the legislation, advertisers will not be allowed to call their vaping products a safer alternative to cigarettes. “Manufacturers are not permitted to promote their products by using health benefit statements or comparisons to tobacco, unless the statements are authorized by regulations.”

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At least one tobacco company appears to be welcoming the move. Imperial Tobacco, in a press release Wednesday, invited Canadian media to a “sneak peek” of their new line of vaping products at the end of May.

“With the legalization of vaping products, Imperial Tobacco Canada will launch a range of reduced risk alternatives to smoking,” reads the press release. “These products can play a critical role in reducing the harms associated with smoking and, if embraced by regulators and adult smokers, can help to achieve the Government of Canada’s target of a less than five per cent smoking rate by 2035.”

Plain packaging

The legislation also opens the door to plain packaging for cigarettes — allowing Health Canada to put together regulations on what cigarette packs would look like. This would include standardized colours, fonts and prohibitions on things like logos and brand images, said Health Canada.

Likely, this would mean something like what Australia and seven other countries have done. “Although the health warnings stay on the package, all the other brand colours, logos and graphics are removed,” Cunningham said. “The package can no longer be used as advertising to make the product more appealing.”

He expects that plain packages might start appearing in Canada in 2019. Health Canada did not provide a specific estimate of when they might appear, though noted that some provisions of the bill, like the prohibition on sales of vapes to youth, would immediately take effect upon royal assent.

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Tobacco product packaging for the same product illustrates the before, right, and after standardized rules came into effect in Australia on Friday, May 27, 2016, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

— With files from The Canadian Press

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