Lack of ‘adequate evidence’ makes vaping regulations difficult, Philpott says

The Liberal government says it plans to introduce legislation later this fall to regulate vaping.

Health Canada says the move will balance the need to protect young people from nicotine addiction while allowing adult smokers to legally buy vaping products and e-cigarettes to help quit smoking or as a potentially less harmful alternative to tobacco.

In a statement Tuesday, the department says it is also renewing the federal tobacco control strategy for one year, giving the government time to develop a new long-term plan.

The strategy was introduced in 2001 and last renewed four years ago.

Health Minister Jane Philpott will host a national forum early next year to discuss the future of tobacco control.

In an interview Tuesday, Philpott said Canadians will be pleased that the federal government is proceeding with regulatory standards for e-cigarettes and vaping.

“It is a challenging area because, for one thing, we are lacking adequate evidence to completely understand the risks and benefits of e-cigarettes,” she said.

“We acknowledge that one of the things that needs to be done is to increase the evidence.”

There are potential benefits and harms, she added.

“We’ve seen recent reports that young people are increasingly using vaping products, particularly some of the flavoured vaping products. That’s often an entry into nicotine use in teenagers and we have to balance off those risks and benefits,” Philpott said.

In addition, federal work continues on a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes, as well as a commitment to introduce plain and standardized packaging requirements on all tobacco products.

“Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in Canada, affecting the well-being of all Canadians, including youth,” Philpott stated in a press release.

“The government of Canada is continuing to explore new and better ways to address smoking in Canada, and its impact on the health of Canadians. I am proud of the progress we’ve made so far, and I look forward to working with our partners and stakeholders to ensure Canada remains a leader in tobacco control.”

Several provinces and municipalities have already brought forward measures on vaping, but federal legislation is required, said Rob Cunningham, a senior policy adviser at the Canadian Cancer Society.

“It’s clearly something that needs regulation,” he said in an interview. “We don’t want kids to be using these cigarettes.”

Revised tobacco legislation must address not only e-cigarettes, but topics such as new industry marketing tactics, water-pipe smoking and regulation of marijuana, he said.

“There’s a whole bunch of new issues that have suddenly made the tobacco issue more complicated, and that’s why the new strategy has to be done right.”

The government says an estimated 87,000 Canadians, including many young people, will become daily smokers this year — placing them and others at risk of developing a variety of diseases and illnesses.

Canada was the first country to introduce graphic warning labels to inform people of the risks of smoking, and the government bills itself as a pioneer in the restriction of tobacco advertising and flavouring to reduce the appeal of products.

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