By Luc Martial
Why does the vaping industry keep “applauding” the government for its emerging regulations on vaping products? No amount of professionalism, politeness or patience will ever earn the goodwill sought. Government is not a friend or a partner to the vaping industry. We can all dream for a better tomorrow, but this is not our current reality.
The proof is already sufficiently abundant that many smokers trying to quit tobacco have successfully turned to vaping products as an alternative to smoking and that such products are much more effective than other nicotine products long present in the marketplace (e.g. gums, patches, etc.). In terms of this alternative being a well documented, evidence-based “healthier” one – well that’s another story that has yet to be accurately told. As for recreational vapers – how is vaping different than any other similar personal consumption (e.g. consuming flavoured alcohol products) and why should they be bullied into submission through the government’s arbitrary encroachment in their personal lives and individual freedoms?
But the focus of recent regulatory events in vaping is the “youth vaping epidemic” at play here – so let’s get to it.
The “youth vaping epidemic” did not exist in Canada prior to 2018. It was at that time, for still unknown reasons, that Health Canada decided to allow legal entry of not only nicotine but of extremely high concentrations of nicotine in vaping products into Canada (65mg/mL or 6%) – coinciding with the entry of JUUL (59 mg/mL or 5%). Prior to this time (and interesting coincidence), Canadian smokers trying to quit were more than satisfied with the domestic products which contained between 0% and 1.6% nicotine (well below the 20mg/mL the government is now proposing as a cap). If kids in Canada are now hooked on nicotine, through vaping, it is entirely Health Canada’s doing – and provincial governments, parents and the kids themselves should consider legal action against the federal government for the harm inflicted on them. What Health Canada did back in June of 2018 was intentional and they were fully aware of what these high concentration nicotine products would do to Canadian kids – as the U.S. experience with these products and kids was already quite well known to everyone. And that a former Canadian federal Health Minister was subsequently appointed to JUUL’s Board is also something that is part of the story. Isn’t it interesting that the newly proposed federal flavour ban is in keeping with what JUUL had previously and proactively done in the U.S. – to the benefit of its own mint and menthol skus (flavours exempted under the proposed Canadian federal regulations).
Now Health Canada wants people to forget their culpability in all of this while promoting itself as the savior of the kids they arguably victimized. And If the flavours in these products are, according to Health Canada, what clearly and so overwhelmingly draw kids to these vaping products (and the nicotine which subsequently addicts them) – then why not simply keep allowing all of these flavours but only in 0% nicotine vaping products? Wouldn’t it make sense to use the same allegedly “powerful” flavours to now incentivize these kids away from the nicotine skus? But such a government strategy would miss the necessary political mark as targeting “flavours” is largely meant to shift the attention and blame away from Health Canada (for having caused this youth epidemic in the first place) onto the industry.
But what do I know?
Luc Martial is a tobacco control expert and a 30-year veteran of the tobacco file in Canada – having held key postings in the tobacco control and national health community, the federal government (Health Canada) and the industry. His professional involvement in the vaping category began in 2007.