ORDER AMENDING SCHEDULES 2 AND 3 TO THE TOBACCO AND VAPING PRODUCTS ACT (FLAVOURS)
Tobacco Products Regulatory Office, Tobacco Control Directorate, Controlled Substances and Cannabis Branch
SUBMITTED BY RIGHTS4VAPERS SEPTEMBER 2, 2021
In June 2021, Health Canada announced a proposal to restrict the manufacturing and sale of all flavoured vapour products except for tobacco, menthol, and mint.
Rights4Vapers is pleased to provide Health Canada with our views on this proposal. We have prepared this written submission as well as a video submission which have attached.
Rights4Vapers is Canada’s leading vapour consumer advocacy group. Our organization works to ensure that the option to vape remains available to smokers who choose to make the switch. We represent the vape consumer, 98 per cent of whom are former smokers, and boasts the largest survey data set of Canadian vapers with over 5,000 respondents. We are dedicated to the advancement of Canadian-based research on vaping.
We are an informal collection of committed advocates who believe that vapers and adult smokers deserve a less harmful alternative. We are guided by unpaid academic advisors.
We are a grassroots activist movement. We base our positions on the real-life experiences of adult vapers in Canada.
At the outset, we would like to stress that we do not think that minors should vape. Vaping products contain nicotine, an addictive substance. This being said, there is a question of access. Despite strict federal regulations that govern the sale of vapour products, and in particular the sale of these products to minors, minors are still vaping. The current federal regulations need to be better enforced.
We are not scientists. However, we follow the science of vaping where it leads. And the science tells us that vaping is less risky than smoking. We believe vapour products are the best and most effective alternative to smoking traditional combustible cigarettes.
In addition, Rights4Vapers reaches out to Canada’s vapers. We have the largest dataset of vaping behaviour in Canada. With over 5,000 respondents, we understand how adult vapers use their products and as a result understand how regulations will impact consumers.
Tens of thousands of Canadian smokers have turned to vaping as a way to reduce the health risks of smoking. Study after study has demonstrated that vaping is less harmful than smoking traditional combustible cigarettes. Public Health England published a paper in 2018 that states
“vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits.”1
We are concerned that the increasing number of proposed changes to vaping regulations across the country, particularly those banning flavours and imposing limits to nicotine strength, will deter smokers from choosing vaping as a safer alternative to smoking or push vapers back to smoking.
THE VOICE OF VAPERS
We fundamentally believe that putting more restrictions of vaping products will be detrimental to the health of adult Canadian smokers and to the health of current vapers who may return to smoking if they cannot find a product that meets their needs.
We want to make sure that the voice of vapers is heard by officials at Health Canada. Most vapers would never think about sending an official submission in response to a regulatory change. We wanted to give them the chance.
With this in mind, we launched an online tool that gave vapers and supporters the opportunity to send a letter that urges Health Canada not to implement flavour bans.
Approximately 20,000 Canadians took the opportunity. From coast-to-coast, from every province, vapers and supporters have told you that flavour bans are not a good idea. They are not scientists, or politicians, or activists. They are ordinary Canadians who deserve a federal health ministry that will listen to their views. They told real stories. We hope you read every one of their submissions.
When the Government of Canada last consulted on flavoured vapour products, 23,000 individual postcards were counted as ONE submission. This purposeful suppression of the voice of Canadian vapers is emblematic of the constant exclusion we face when it comes to the regulation of vapour products. We have made the choice to throw away our cigarettes for a less harmful product. Why are our voices excluded? Why is our health less important?
We expect that the voices of the 20,000 Canadians who took the time to send a written submission this time will be counted as 20,000 INDIVIDUAL submissions.
Their health and well-being deserve to be protected.
FLAVOURS ARE IMPORTANT
Flavours are an important component to the vaping experience for adult smokers. Flavours help smokers migrate from traditional cigarettes to vapour products.
Flavours have become one of the most controversial areas of the vaping debate. The role of flavours in vaping products is complex. Smokers have told us that flavours give them a reason to switch from the traditional cigarette. Having a less-harmful alternative that does not taste like burnt tobacco is critical for smokers to initially make the switch and stick with it. Restricting access to these flavours would hurt adults who are looking to quit smoking.
A great deal of research has been conducted on the role of flavours in vapour products.
A landmark study on how e-cigarettes are used, Dr. Konstatinos Farsalinos found that “the average score for importance of flavours variability in reducing or quitting smoking was 4 (very important).” His respondents stated that “restricting the variability of flavours would make the e-cigarette experience less enjoyable” and almost half said that “it would increase craving for tobacco cigarettes and would make reducing or completely substituting smoking less likely.” 2
Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C. has a similar view. He stated that “we’re also beginning to see scientific data pointing to the benefits of flavours helping people not only quit smoking, but more importantly, stay off cigarettes.” He added that “[h]umans learn by association. When we associate the pleasure of nicotine with the burnt tobacco, we think we like burnt tobacco. What flavors help us do is disassociate the pleasure of the nicotine with the burnt tobacco.”3
Most recently, according to the Centres for Disease Control in the US, only 22.4 percent of middle-school and high-school students who have reportedly used e-cigarettes said they were drawn to them because of flavours. In fact, 55.3 percent of them said they started because they were “curious”, and 30.8 percent said they started because a friend or family member started using them.
While this study was conducted on students in the United States, it would seem likely that the results would be similar in Canada. In any case, lawmakers should turn to reports such as this on which to base their legislation.
Finally, in the largest ever survey of Canadian vapers (6,000 + respondents), our organization found that adult vapers need flavours. Vapers begin using a single flavour that usually fruit or confectionary. Tobacco or menthol flavour use is very low. As time passes, they increase the number and variety of flavours they use to remain smoke free.
Flavour bans encourage those who vape to return to smoking.
We have seen this play out in two jurisdictions. In Nova Scotia, which currently hold the title of the most prohibitive regulations in Canada, sales of tobacco increased for the first time in a decade after a flavours ban. Similarly in San Francisco, which invoked one of the first flavour bans in North America, is seeing an increase in teen smoking rates according to the Yale School of Public Health.
This type of public health regulation is not in the best interest of the health of Canadians.
In 2019, Parliament conducted hearings on amendments to the Tobacco Act (Bill S5). Experts told the federal government that flavoured vapour products are important. It’s time that all governments listen.
Vapour products are the best hope for hundreds of thousands of Canadians who smoke and are looking for an alternative to cigarettes. Earlier this year, Public Health England released its latest review of vapour studies. It found that “the best thing that a smoker can do is to stop smoking completely and the evidence shows that vaping is one of the most effective quit aids available, helping around 50,000 smokers quit a year.”
According to research published by the Consumer Choice Center, there are upwards of 1.5 million adult Canadian vapers in Canada. Approximately 955,000 of those adult consumers currently use flavoured vape products. A full ban on vaping flavours would likely push most of those consumers back to smoking.
How do we know this? They have told us.
Vaping is an important part of Canada’s tobacco harm reduction agenda. Health Canada has stated that “if you are a smoker, vaping is a less harmful option than smoking.”
Flavours are not the problem when it comes to vaping. The true issues are accessibility, product standards and communications.
As we stated earlier, we believe that children should not vape. The problem is that kids are getting access to vaping products from friends and family. We need effective education and enforcement programs, not barriers that limit the choice of vaping products to adult smokers.
Vapers need to be confident that the product they are using complies with the highest product standards. The proliferation of black-market devices that can be tampered with is a growing concern. Just like with any other consumer good, vapour products should adhere to safety and quality standards.
Finally, adult consumers need to know the facts about vaping. They need to know that vaping is less harmful than smoking. They need to know the science behind it. They need to know their options and how to use them.
We would welcome the opportunity to publicly present our positions. We trust that any changes to Canada’s federal vaping regulations take into consideration the many thousands of adult smokers who have chosen vaping as a way to quit smoking and reduce their risk of the particular health problems caused by smoking.
2. Impact of Flavour Variability on Electronic Cigarette Use Experience: An Internet Survey, Int J Environ Res Public Health, Farsalinos, K., et al., 2013 Dec; 10(12): 7272–7282
3. Q&A: Defending Electronic Cigarettes to the White House, cspdailynew.com, July 8, 2016.