The federal government announced this week it plans to ban vaping promotions that could be seen or heard by young people, including on social media. But many health organizations criticized Ottawa for failing to crack down on the sale of flavoured e-liquids, which they say help to drive teen use of e-cigarettes.
In an interview with CBC’s Power and Politics on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government needs to gather the facts before making any decisions about flavoured vaping products. Ottawa says it expects to make a decision on flavoured e-cigarette products in the coming months.
“I think we need to leave room for proper science,” Mr. Trudeau told host Vassy Kapelos. “We’re a government that works on evidence-based decisions.”
The e-cigarette industry says a ban on flavoured vaping products would limit options available to adult tobacco smokers who use e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking, and drive them to the black market or back to cigarettes. Members of the industry say that existing rules designed to stop the promotion of flavours that could appeal to young people are sufficient.
But emerging research suggests that flavours play a significant role in youth uptake.
A study published in British Medical Journal Open in October looked at 51 previously published studies on e-cigarettes and flavours. The authors said the collective evidence shows that adults enjoy flavoured e-cigarettes and that flavours are a primary reason many adults use them. There was no clear evidence on whether flavoured products help adults quit smoking.
But the study also found that young people like flavoured e-cigarettes, particularly fruit and candy varieties. Flavours reduce young people’s perception that e-cigarettes are harmful, and are linked to an increased likelihood of youth experimentation with vaping, as well as cigarette smoking, the study found.
A study published in the journal Pediatrics last month found that adolescents who used e-cigarettes with fruit, candy, dessert or other similar flavours were more likely to still be vaping six months later, compared to their peers who used tobacco, mint or menthol flavoured e-cigarettes.
Another study, published in the Tobacco Regulatory Science journal in 2017, found that young people who use flavoured e-cigarettes are much more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes.
The findings are in line with survey results from Canada. One recent survey conducted by Smoke-Free Nova Scotia found 96 per cent of 16- to 18-year-olds who vaped said they preferred flavoured products. Nearly half of the 16- to 24-year-olds surveyed said they would likely stop vaping if flavours were eliminated.
Under the current law, it is illegal to promote e-cigarette flavours that could appeal to minors, such as candy, dessert or soft drink varieties. But a recent Globe and Mail investigation found the industry regularly flouts those rules, with many companies promoting ice cream, birthday cake, sour candy and other child-friendly flavours.
This week, Health Canada revealed that in a recent safety blitz, more than 80 per cent of specialty vape shops that were visited were in violation of the federal vaping laws. The most common infractions were promoting flavours that could appeal to youth and using testimonials to sell products. (Testimonials are defined as the depiction of people, characters or animals in ads.)