With growing concerns over the health implications, Toronto is making moves to ensure all retailers selling vaping products be required to apply for a license to sell them.
A report before the city’s General Government and Licensing Committee said regulation of all vape products is done through the provincial government’s Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA). But it also said there is no reliable system in place for Toronto Public Health to track and inspect retailers to ensure they are complying with the rules.
The SFOA was created in part to reduce youth access to tobacco and vape products. Recently, there has been a spike in respiratory illnesses among vaping users in both Canada and the United States. The report said many of the cases of reported illnesses were from unregulated vape products, while noting those cases are still under investigation.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said evidence has shown the best way to avoid harm from legal substances is through regulation.
“Vaping is no different,” said Dr. de Villa. “Making sure that those products are strongly regulated, appropriately regulated so as to mitigate harm, that’s the best approach.”
Carleton Grant, the city’s executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards, said the growth in the vaping industry is what has made this move necessary.
“We need to know where (the retail locations) are, so we can do spot checks to make sure people aren’t targeting youth or selling to youth,” said Grant.
Grant said the new licenses will affect the approximately 78 vape specialty shops operating in the city the most. Each will be required to apply for the new license before being able to continue their sales.
Of the roughly 1,400 other locations in the city that sell vape products, including gas stations and tobacco shops, Grant said it will be a different process. The locations that already have licenses to sell tobacco will be required to register with the city that they are selling vape products at no additional cost.
If city council opts to go the licensing route, retail locations would have to get the proper paperwork by April 1, 2020. Grant said once that date hits, the city would try to educate locations operating without a license before issuing fines.
The license recommendation was passed at committee and would need to be adopted by city council. If approved there, retail licenses would be issued to retailers for a fee of $645.53 and a renewal fee of $315.17. With the 78 specialty vape product retailers the report has already identified in the city, the report said the license would generate more than $50,000 a year in revenues for the city in the first year.
Shai Bekman is the president of DashVapes, which has one location in downtown Toronto that would be affected by the licensing change and said he supports the introduction of licensing for vape product sales.
“We believe it’s a fantastic way to raise funds so the city can better enforce existing provincial and federal regulations to successfully reduce youth access to these products,” said Bekman in an email.
Bekman is also a board member of the Canadian Vaping Association and said the organization shares his view.