Vaping is Critical for Tobacco Harm Reduction


We agree with the authors of the June 8 opinion article, Alberta’s vaping legislation sits in limbo as COVID exacerbates e-cigarette dangers, in one very important area: kids should not vape. That’s where our agreement ends.

The authors (a medical school professor and two medical students) deride the Government of Alberta for not putting in place legislation that will somehow, miraculously, solve the youth vaping. They fail to mention that there are already laws on the book both federally and provincially that make it illegal to sell vapour products to minors.

The authors also emphatically state that the panacea for the so-call ‘vaping epidemic’ is a flavour ban. However, they fail to mention that 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.

Banning flavours in vapour products will drive current vapers back to smoking and discourage current smokers from trying a vapour product. In addition, any ban will simply feed into the hands of the black market. Be sure that if you want a strawberry vapour product, you will be able to find one. As an aside, the photo used to illustrate the story featured illegal products.

Rather than unilaterally condemning vaping, let’s consider the potential for vapour products as a tool for tobacco harm reduction. Thousands of smokers in Alberta have make the choice to vape. They have chosen to throw away their cigarettes for a proven reduced risk alternative. They have chosen to listen to Health Canada, Public Health England and other respected public health organizations. They have chosen science over fear. Isn’t that worth celebrating?

We hope that the authors of the piece take a moment to reflect on their opinion and as they pursue their medical studies. Can they ask themselves if their opinions are fully steeped in science or have their own personal moral positioning played a role in ignoring the science that doesn’t fit with their values?

Alberta is not ‘shameful laggard’ in vaping legislations. They are doing what governments should do, create a balanced set of regulations, and follow the science.  We hope that the government is carefully considering the implications of more restrictive regulations. It should look to the UK as a model for a progressive approach to vaping regulation. 

We hope that it can strike a balance between protecting youth by enforcing established laws and giving adults access to and information on a lifesaving choice?
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