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Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro provides details on a new initiative intended to distribute non-medical masks to Albertans to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in Calgary, on May 29, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Alberta has introduced new legislation on vaping that would include a ban on anyone under 18 from using e-cigarettes.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says there is mounting evidence on the health risks of vaping and statistics show more young people in Alberta are indulging.

“Strong action needs to be taken to address significant increases in youth vaping,” Mr. Shandro said Tuesday prior to introducing the bill in the house.

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Mr. Shandro’s ministry says that in the past five years, vaping rates among high-school students has risen to 30 per cent from 8 per cent. It also says evidence continues to show health risks, including lung damage and nicotine poisoning.

Alberta is the only province without vaping legislation.

“No one fully knows yet all the health harms from vaping, but the recent emergence of vaping-associated lung illnesses and deaths is a warning,” Mr. Shandro said.

“Vaping is not a harmless behaviour without short- or long-term consequences.”

If the bill passes, there would be restrictions – matching those in place for traditional tobacco products – on displaying and promoting vaping products in stores. Specialty vape stores would be exempt.

The province said it does not intend to ban or restrict flavours for e-cigarettes, but the bill proposes cabinet be allowed to make such restrictions once the law is passed and proclaimed.

The legislation would also expand the list of places where traditional smoking and vaping would be banned – adding playgrounds, sports fields, skateboard and bicycle parks and public outdoor pools – to further avoid exposing youth to products and second-hand smoke.

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Vaping would also be banned in places where smoking is already forbidden, such as hospitals, postsecondary schools and stores where pharmacies are located.

If the bill passes, the new rules are expected to take effect some time this fall.

The legislation follows a review of vaping that began last year. The government said 250 people were consulted and another 9,500 provided online comments.

NDP health critic David Shepherd said the legislation is necessary and sends the right message, but it could be improved.

Mr. Shepherd wants flavoured vaping products sold only in age-restricted specialty stores.

“We know that flavouring is a way of attracting young users,” Mr. Shepherd said.

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The issues of flavoured products remains up for debate.

Nova Scotia recently banned the sale of flavoured vaping products. Prince Edward Island has indicated it plans to do the same.

In B.C., the sale of vape flavours will only be allowed in age-restricted shops.

Alberta joins the majority of other provinces and territories in Canada that have set 18 as the minimum age for buying and using tobacco and vaping products.

PEI recently raised the minimum age to 21.

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