Toronto Public Health is urging the federal and provincial governments to consider tighter restrictions on vaping products, including limiting the sale of e-cigarette flavours and prohibiting advertisements in most public places.
Both the Ontario and federal governments have proposed or are considering new regulations around e-cigarettes, but a new report from Toronto Public Health recommends stricter rules in response to rising concerns over high rates of youth vaping in Canada.
The report, released on Monday, calls on the federal government to ban vaping ads in areas where youth have access, such as transit shelters or malls. It also proposes prohibiting the sale of flavoured e-cigarette products, with the exception of tobacco flavouring, in stores where minors have access, such as gas stations.
Toronto Public Health is also calling on the Ontario government to do more, such as introducing its own restrictions on the sale of flavoured e-cigarette products. The report will be discussed next week by Toronto’s board of health, which could then pass the recommendations onto the federal and provincial governments for consideration.
Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said these measures are needed to discourage young people from the health risks of using e-cigarettes. The long-term health problems linked to e-cigarettes is not known, but some research suggests the products can damage blood vessels and lead to other harms. There are also numerous reports of lung illness tied to nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, Dr. de Villa said.
“There’s lots of reasons to be concerned around trends in the use of these products, particularly among young people,” she said in an interview on Monday.
Dr. de Villa said that despite being touted as a safer option that could help smokers quit using cigarettes, e-cigarettes have failed to live up to that promise. Instead, she said, young people have flocked to vaping products, exposing themselves to nicotine addiction and other serious health risks.
“Frankly, we’re not seeing the harm-reduction benefit being realized from this product,” Dr. de Villa said, adding that vaping companies “seem to be quite successful at attracting a new generation, a young generation of users of the product.”
Members of the vaping industry say that they do not market or promote their products to young people and that they only target existing adult smokers.
Ontario recently announced that it would no longer permit vaping advertisements from appearing in gas stations and convenience stores as of Jan. 1. A number of other provinces have also announced crackdowns on the industry, including British Columbia, where officials say they will restrict where flavoured vaping products can be sold, cap the nicotine content in e-cigarettes and introduce a new tax on the products.
Dr. de Villa said recent surveys showing major increases in teen vaping rates in Canada suggest more needs to be done. She said the ideal approach would be for provinces to work with the federal government to create one harmonized set of rules.
The federal government said earlier this year it is considering new restrictions on vaping advertisements, but it’s unclear when or if those new rules would take effect. A coalition of health groups, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society, have called on the federal government to take immediate action to prohibit vaping ads and stop the sale of flavoured products.