Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu to create new rules to stop vaping companies from promoting their products to young people, highlighting the growing urgency around the rapid rise of youth vaping in Canada.
Mr. Trudeau named vaping as one of the priority files for Ms. Hajdu, who was sworn in as the new Health Minister last month. His mandate letter to Ms. Hajdu, which was published online on Friday, asks her to draft regulations “to reduce the promotion and appeal of vaping products to young people, and public education to create awareness of health risks.” The letter also encourages her to explore “additional measures” to deal with the issue of youth vaping.
Current federal regulations prohibit companies from advertising to minors or promoting candy, dessert or other flavoured e-liquids that could appeal to teens. But a recent Globe and Mail investigation found that many companies are flouting those rules by targeting young people, which is contributing to rising rates of youth vaping.
“I think this is very positive news for the prospect of quick action by the federal government on an extremely serious public-health issue,” said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society.
A recent national survey found that about one-third of high school students in Alberta and Quebec have vaped in the past month, compared with one in four in Ontario and one in five in B.C. Many health organizations say that e-cigarette companies are promoting their products to young people through advertisements that position vaping as cool, as well as the use of appealing flavours.
Several provinces have recently announced new regulations aimed at reducing youth vaping. Earlier this month, Nova Scotia became the first province to ban flavoured e-cigarette products under a new law that takes effect April 1. Ontario, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec have also announced new policies designed to restrict youth access to vaping. For instance, B.C. has said it will prohibit the sale of e-cigarette flavours that could appeal to minors and will only allow flavoured vaping products to be sold in specialty shops, starting next year. And Ontario said it’s considering reducing the number of e-cigarette flavours permitted for sale.
Ms. Hajdu’s mandate letter also highlights numerous priorities that were part of the Liberal campaign platform, including increased access to family doctors, creation of national standards for access to mental-health services and expanded community-based services available to address the opioid overdose crisis.
The letter also instructs Ms. Hajdu to ensure compliance with the Canada Health Act on matters of private delivery and extra billing. Earlier this year, the former federal health minister sent a letter to the provinces ordering them to remove barriers to abortion access. In New Brunswick, abortions are only covered in a hospital setting, meaning women in Fredericton and other cities without hospital-based abortion services available must pay out of pocket to terminate a pregnancy. The only abortion clinic in Fredericton recently announced it will close, which became an issue during the federal election campaign.
Ms. Hajdu’s mandate letter also asks her to ensure that Canadians “have access to the full suite of reproductive services and medications across the country.” Earlier this year, The Globe conducted an investigation that found women across the country routinely face challenges getting a prescription for the abortion pill.
The letter asks Ms. Hajdu to continue implementation of a national universal pharmacare program and create the Canada Drug Agency, as well as a new national formulary and a rare-disease drug strategy.
Other priorities include studying the possibility of a national dental plan, working toward a national autism strategy and ensuring cross-Canada access to reproductive services and medications.