Vancouver could become the next city in B.C. to take major steps towards cracking down on vaping, including eliminating advertisements and supporting an outright ban on the product.
A motion set to be debated by council on Tuesday asks staff to explore banning vaping ads on city-owned land and properties, including transit shelters and benches, and limiting the proximity of vape shops to schools, parks, libraries and other facilities “frequented by youth.”
It also directs Mayor Kennedy Stewart to write to the province in support of a ban on flavoured vape products and tighter retail controls, including stiff penalties for non-compliance, as well as further educational resources.
If approved, the motion would also direct Stewart to urge Ottawa to make vaping ad restrictions Canada-wide by amending the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act.
The motion was put forward by Vancouver councillors Lisa Dominato and Rebecca Bligh, who say vaping is becoming a concerning trend, particularly among young people.
“The culture is just going backwards when it comes to not just vaping but nicotine tobacco products,” Bligh said. “We’ve got so much research about the harms and the dangers.”
The motion comes as more municipalities call on the province to act in the wake of B.C.’s first probable case of a vaping-related illness, which was announced earlier this month. Six other cases are also being explored for links to vaping.
Some of those cities are taking action on their own. Richmond became the first to ban vaping ads in all public spaces, while city councils in Coquitlam and Surrey have asked staff to look at restricting products and shops.
School boards and trustees across B.C., including in the Fraser Valley and Okanagan-Similkameen, have also called for immediate action on vaping restrictions.
Advertisements for vaping are technically allowed under Health Canada laws as long as they convey health risks. TransLink has so far refused to take down ads in SkyTrain stations amid public outcry, citing free speech legislation.
The B.C. government has promised additional rules around vaping, especially linked to access to young people, but has not provided any details yet.
Health Minister Adrian Dix has repeatedly said an action plan will be released “soon” while calling on the federal government to establish restrictions on nicotine levels for vaping products and flavouring.
In B.C., around 6,000 vendors are permitted to sell tobacco products, compared to around 90,000 points of sale for vaping products.
Under Vancouver Coastal Health’s tobacco enforcement program, 479 retailers are licensed to sell tobacco products. Of those, 330 sell vaping products, either exclusively or alongside other tobacco products.
Bligh and Dominato’s motion also asks the city to offer support for coordinated efforts from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Union of B.C. Municipalities to call for further actions from the provincial and federal governments, including more resources for the enforcement of stricter regulations.
If approved, the motion directs staff to report back to council with its findings and recommendations before the end of the first quarter of 2020.
Hundreds of cases if illnesses linked to vaping have already been confirmed in the U.S., which has seen at least 26 deaths.