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A woman exhales vapours while using an e-cigarette in 2019.The Associated Press

British Columbia’s new vaping regulations came into effect on Monday, making the province home to Canada’s strictest rules on e-cigarettes.

The sweeping regulations, first detailed in November, include a cap on nicotine content and restricting the sale of flavoured vaping products to adult-only specialty shops and banning the advertisement of these items from places where youth congregate.

An increase on the provincial sales tax for vaping products, to 20 per cent from 7 per cent, came into effect on Jan. 1; the rest of the rules were expected this spring but were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We forget, I think, in this period of COVID, the significant impact that [vaping] potentially has on young people,” B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday. “Nicotine in particular is highly addictive and what we have seen is an aggressive campaign over time to promote the use of vaping products among youth.”

The rules are effective immediately for new licensees, while existing retailers have a transition period until Sept. 15 to deal with existing merchandise, Mr. Dix said.

B.C.‘s regulations come amid years of aggressive marketing at young people by e-cigarette companies. A Globe and Mail investigation found companies advertising vaping products in ice cream, cookie and candy flavours, and paying social media influencers to promote items and host giveaways.

The federal government’s Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs survey found that vaping among students in Grades 10-12 in B.C. increased to 39 per cent in the 2018-19 school year from 11 per cent in the 2014-15 school year.

Under the new rules, the amount of nicotine in vapour pods will be capped at 20 mg/ml – the same standard as in the European Union. Some brands offer products with almost triple this amount.

As well, vaping products will require plain packaging with health warnings, similar to cigarettes, and advertising them is banned from places that youth may frequent, such as bus shelters and shopping malls. Flavoured products will be available only in adult-only smoke shops; convenience stores will only be permitted to carry plain tobacco products.

Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, said the society “strongly supports” the new regulations, which “will have a significant impact to reduce youth vaping, and can be expected to be considered by other provinces.”

The Convenience Industry Council of Canada (CICC), meanwhile, said the restriction of flavoured vaping products in convenience stores will not address youth vaping, citing mystery shopping tests that found that specialty vape shops are more likely to sell to minors.

“Until the government addresses the true sources of youth access to vaping products from online retailers and vape shops that continually violate federal laws, they will not address the youth vaping issue and will fail to meet their harm reduction strategy,” said CICC president and CEO Anne Kothawala.

Earlier this month, the federal government also announced measures to clamp down on youth vaping. Those regulations included banning advertising in places such as recreational facilities, in broadcast media and in print publications; and requiring retailers to store vaping products out of sight at points of sale.

In Ontario, new regulations that came into effect on July 1 restricted the sale of most flavoured vaping products to specialty vape shops and licensed cannabis stores. Other retail stores can still sell tobacco, menthol- and mint-flavoured products. Products with nicotine concentrations higher than 20 mg/ml are still allowed, but only at specialty vape shops.

Alberta passed a bill last month to introduce a minimum age of 18 and restrict advertising, but made no commitments on flavoured products or nicotine caps.

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