By Adrian MacNair
The rise in popularity of electronic cigarettes has prompted medical health officers throughout the country to call for restrictions in their usage.
Fraser Health chief medical health officer Paul Van Buynder said B.C.’s chief medical health officers met recently to discuss the topic of e-cigarettes and their largely unregulated usage in public places.
Nova Scotia’s health ministry has proposed to ban e-cigarettes from bars and restaurants, whether the devices are loaded with nicotine or just flavours.
“We’ve taken enormous efforts to stop smoking in buildings, parks, hospitals, schools and so on, and our current guidelines don’t address these,” Van Buynder said. “So, we have situations where children may feel that they can use these in a school ground.”
Worse still, Van Buynder suggested non-nicotine flavoured e-cigarette vaporizers could be a gateway to smoking tobacco.
He said flavoured e-cigarettes are clearly aimed at the teenage market and pose a danger to the progress made against smoking cessation.
“It’s going to make children used to holding cigarettes, sucking on cigarettes,” he said. “This is a very retrograde step and a huge risk to our tobacco control programs.”
Tsawwassen father Joe Braico was recently surprised to find how accessible they are to children when his 11-year-old son bought a $10 blueberry-flavoured electronic cigarette from a local retailer.
The boy decided they were “pretty cool” when one of his friends bought one and decided to get one himself.
The product, called eZee Cig, is a disposable electronic vaporizer replica cigarette with an advertised 600 puffs. It glows when the person inhales and then releases a realistic puff of smoke.
“The concern we have, besides our child trying to emulate smoking, is the lack of morals or common sense when it comes to the sale of such items,” Braico said.
The eZee Cig’s packaging says it is not a smoking cessation device, is not associated with any health claim and is not intended to be used with nicotine. Although the package states it is “intended for use by persons of legal smoking age,” it is not regulated under the Food and Drug Act by Health Canada.
Ezee Cig comes in flavours of blueberry, cherry, chocolate, grape, menthol, and tobacco.
E-cigarettes with nicotine delivery meant for smoking cessation are regulated under the Food and Drug Act and restricted to use for adults over the age of 19. But replica cigarettes like these remain legal for sale to minors.
Van Buynder said health authorities are working to pressure the federal government to regulate e-cigarettes in the same way as other tobacco products, including vaporizers like eZee Cig.
“We want to make sure that all of our tobacco legislation – whether it’s municipal or hospital-based – changes in order to make it clear that we’re not interested in having e-cigarettes, with or without nicotine or tobacco or any other form available within our sites,” he said.
In 2010, Health Canada made it illegal for retailers to sell some types of flavoured tobacco in products weighing less than 1.4 grams.
The federal prohibition didn’t cover menthol and the Canadian Cancer Society says producers skirted the other flavour restrictions by making cigarillos slightly larger.
The society is urging B.C. to ban candy or fruit-flavoured tobacco products in a bid to protect children, citing a poll finding broad support in the province.
“We are urging the B.C. government to protect children from the predatory marketing practices of the tobacco industry and the products which, through their packaging and appearance, are aggressively targeted to youth,” said cancer society’s Kathryn Seely.
The group wants to ban all flavoured cigarillos, water pipe tobacco, smokeless tobacco and menthol cigarettes.
Seely said flavours like chocolate, peach, cherry and strawberry appeal to youth and reduce the harsh effects of cigarette smoke, making it easier for youth to experiment and become addicted.
She cited a previous national youth survey that found 53 per cent of youth tobacco users in B.C. – 30,500 students – had used flavoured tobacco.
– with files from Jeff Nagel