Soon to be the only province in Canada with no provincial regulations around e-cigarettes and vaping, Alberta Health says it will review the issue in November.
Saskatchewan announced in late August it is planning to introduce vaping legislation in the fall, making Alberta a lone holdout.
According to spokesperson Steve Buick, Health Minister Tyler Shandro is “committed to developing appropriate regulation of vaping and related products as part of a review of Alberta’s legislation on tobacco and smoking beginning in November.”
Buick added that Alberta Health was monitoring the experiences of other provinces, and was looking into recent reports of serious respiratory illnesses in the U.S. that have been linked to vaping.
Les Hagen, the executive director of advocacy group Action on Smoking & Health, said he has been urging the province to introduce vaping legislation for years.
“Every single province except Alberta is moving in this direction or has already adopted legislation. So, it’s about time,” Hagen said.
Hagen believes one of the most important areas to consider when introducing new regulations involves the promotion and advertisement of vaping products.
“We’re all being bombarded by hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of vaping advertising. Kids are particularly vulnerable to those ads so that has to come to an end,” he said.
“You go into a retail store in B.C. or Manitoba and you are not bombarded with ads or displays that promote vaping products. It’s more like the tobacco environment where advertising is limited and the display is very limited.”
Juliet Guichon, an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Cummings School of Medicine, believes bumping up the legal age to purchase vaping products could help keep the materials out of young Albertans’ hands.
“A lot of young people are obtaining their vaping products from persons over the age of 18 who buy them lawfully and then resell them or give them to people under the age of 18,” Guichon said.
Guichon also believes using “secret shopper” methods — underage customers trying to buy products at retail locations, then reporting to government — is an effective way to ensure compliance.
According to the province, Alberta’s existing legislation, the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act (TSRA), does not explicitly address vaping.
“The TSRA itself requires a review beginning no later than this November, and (Minister Shandro) has publicly committed to doing that review as required, with a priority on vaping,” Buick wrote in a statement.
A timeline for when the review would be completed and when legislation might be tabled was not given.