E-cigarette displays will likely be leaving Saskatchewan’s convenience stores in the near future. The provincial government is looking to bring rules for vaping products in line with other tobacco products.
Health Minister Jim Reiter announced amendments to The Tobacco Control Act on Tuesday, which are expected to take effect in the spring if the legislation becomes law.
“The government of Saskatchewan takes the health of our citizens very seriously and this legislation is an important step in protecting Saskatchewan youth in particular from the harms of vaping products,” Reiter said.
“If you don’t smoke there is no need to vape.”
The proposed legislation includes a number of rules for vapes, similar to what is already in place for tobacco products. These include:
- Prohibiting the display of vape/e-cigarettes in retail businesses where young people have access;
- Restricting use in and around public buildings, including schools;
- Prohibiting sales in businesses frequented by young people, like arcades, amusement parks and theatres;
- Providing the ability to restrict the sale of flavoured products by regulations;
- Expanding the authority of tobacco enforcement officers to include enforcement of vapour/e-cigarette product restrictions; and
- Prohibiting the sale of vape products to people under the age of 18.
Previously, the government said these regulations would be coming in an effort to restrict the amount of teens vaping.
Reiter said the province wants to look further at restricting the sale of flavoured vape products exclusively to specialty stores. However, they want to do more stakeholder consultation before moving ahead with any changes. This is a potential move supported by the Canadian Cancer Society.
Saskatchewan’s vaping industry is welcoming the legislation, after calling on the government for tighter regulations.
“We do want regulations in order to help keep these products out of the hands of youth,” said Mike Smider, Canadian Vaping Association provincial chair.
Smider, who is also the owner of Regina’s Queen City Vapes, said taking e-cigarette displays and advertising out of convenience stores is an important first step.
While the province prohibits sales to people younger than 18, Smider said he wants the legislation to go one step further.
“There is currently no legislation in Saskatchewan that prohibits minors from entering a vape shop; however, in my case, I do have a store policy where we do not allow minors in.”
Smider added he has one concern about the new rules regarding flavoured products. Depending on how the government decides to restrict flavours, Smider said it could be “dangerous for the vaping industry in Saskatchewan.”
“Banning flavours altogether would be detrimental; it would destroy the industry,” Smider said. “Flavours are a very important mechanism behind why this product is so successful in getting smokers off of combustible tobaccos,”
Smider added stores aren’t necessarily to blame when it comes to kids getting their hands on vaping products.
“It’s also social channels that are a big problem with youth getting their hands on these products albeit friends that are of age, parents, Snap Chat and social media,” Smider said.
Peer pressure in schools
Darshana Lanke said she felt a lot of peer pressure to vape or smoke when she reached Grade 9 at Walter Murray School in Saskatoon. Now in Grade 11, she said vaping is very common at school.
Lanke is part of Youth 4 Change, an advocacy group that was consulted on these proposed changes.
In her experience, Lanke said it seems like most kids are getting their hands on vapes through social sources.
“For me personally, I would find it hard but I know lots of people get ti from social sources like their older brothers and sisters or their friends. So to some people it might be easier to access it,” she said.
There is also talk of a greater need for education on the effect of vaping, especially for people using it without the intent of quitting smoking.
“I find people think that vaping is safer than smoking, so I feel like they don’t think it’s as risky,” Lanke said.
Effects of vaping
A study published by the British Medical Journal earlier this year found the amount of Canadians vaping between the ages of 16 and 19 grew from 8.4 per cent to 14.6 per cent between August/September 2017 and the same months in 2018.
The study also found the amount of 16- to 19-year-olds smoking cigarettes grew from 10.7 per cent to 15.5 per cent in the same time period.
While these are Canadian figures, it is worth noting Saskatchewan typically has higher smoking rates than the national average.
The most recent Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs Survey found the national average for people over the age of 15 smoking is 15 per cent of the population. Saskatchewan and Newfoundland are tied with the highest smoking rates at 22 per cent.
Dr. Mark Fenton, a respirologist and director of Saskatchewan’s lung transplant program, said the exact health risks of vaping are still unknown. However, there has been an outbreak of lung injuries associated with vaping.
“We’re starting to see that data accumulate now in Canada. I’m aware of at least two cases in Canada of possible or probable lung injury related to vaping,” Fenton said.
Fenton said he is unable to share information regarding the age, location or other potentially identifying factors of the patients, but the lung injuries were both recently diagnosed. He added that the outbreak of lung injuries in the U.S. appears to also involve people vaping THC products.
Common e-juices and other vape products may contain ingredients that appear to be linked to health conditions. Fenton said some contain diacetyl, which has been linked to a lung disease called “popcorn lung” — a disease that damages the lung’s airways causing coughing and shortness of breath.
He added propylene glycol, found in some vape products, can damage your lungs and impair immune function.
Fenton said he believes these conditions are showing up more in young people because they tend to vape more than older adults.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, evidence exists that points to youth who vape nicotine having a higher chance of becoming smokers.
Prior to this announcement, Saskatchewan and Alberta were the lone provinces yet to introduce provincial vaping regulations. The Alberta government plans on reviewing the issue this month.
With files from Global News’ Allison Bamford.