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Ontario agrees to delay enforcement of new vaping rules

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The Ontario government is responding to industry calls for clarity regarding enforcement of new vaping regulations and has agreed to delay enforcement of the new rules until December 31, 2020.

On June 15, the province indicated it was moving ahead with the July 1 deadline for new amendments to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which brings with it more restrictive rules for c-store operators when it comes to the sale of vaping products. The deadline had already been extended from May 1.

READ: Ontario sticks with July 1 for new vaping regulations

The new rules will:

  • Restrict the sale of flavoured vapour products to specialty vape stores and licensed cannabis retail stores. C-stores can only sell tobacco, menthol and mint flavoured vapour products;
  • Restrict the sale of vapour products with high nicotine concentrations (greater than 20 mg/ml) to specialty vape stores.

Both the Convenience Industry Council of Canada and the Ontario Convenience Stores Association were advocating to further delay the implementation of the new regulations, citing the efforts by c-store to adjust to the new normal of operating during the pandemic and the ongoing need for vendors to comply with social distancing.

CICC reached out last week to say the Ontario government listened and has provided some clarity on the enforcement of the vape regulations.

“We commend the government for recognizing the challenges associated with undertaking a massive inventory change during the COVID crisis and the potential impacts on the health of our frontline workers,” says CICC president and CEO Anne Kothawala. “We appreciate the clarity given to local public health units, which is consistent with the guidance provided by Health Canada on federal vaping regulations.”

Earlier this month Ottawa announced it was postponing the enforcement of regulations regarding packaging of vape products in Canada to January 1, 2021 from July 1, 2020. The move was designed to give the industry a clear deadline for compliance and time to make the necessary changes to its operations.

READ: Ottawa delays new vape packaging regulations

Early last week, Kothawala called on the provincial government to follow suit and provide more clarification, especially in terms of a drop-dead compliance date.

The latest update gives c-stores more time sell out or return to suppliers their existing inventory of higher nicotine and flavours that fall outside the new regulations. While the deadline for enforcement is December 31, giving all stakeholders and abundance of time to prepare, it’s expected products will be out of stores much before that.

In a recent statement from the Ministry of Health, the province said it “is aware that COVID-19 is having an impact on the normal operation of businesses as well as Public Health Units (PHUs).

“The Ministry expects businesses to continue to make best efforts to comply with these upcoming regulatory changes despite the circumstances and is not delaying the implementation of these amendments.

“The Ministry is however encouraging PHUs to work with retailers to ensure compliance by providing and prioritizing education and awareness in the first few months of implementation. Consideration should be given to employing this approach until December 31, 2020, as this timing aligns with Health Canada’s planned approach to enforcing the upcoming new labelling requirements of the Vaping Products Labelling and Packaging Regulations (VPLPR) enacted under the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (TVPA) and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA).”

The Ministry said it expects PHUs to use their discretion with respect to enforcement and recognize that businesses impacted by closure due to COVID-19 may require more time to adjust their business practices (this includes convenience stores and vendors).

In a note to members, OCSA president and CEO Dave Bryans urged operators to be vigilant, despite the leeway. “It appears the Ministry has made it clear that vape products should not be purchased in unauthorized flavours and strengths (post July 1, 2020), as some companies may try to tell you this may still be allowed. Ontario will allow retailers to sell unauthorized vape products to be sold through but I would be somewhat leery of any companies continuing to sell unauthorized products post July 1, 2020. There will be a close monitoring of these products by your local PHU, who have been asked to work to educate and inform during the post July – December timeframe. There needs to be a renewed discussion at Ministry level for a clearer understanding as all memos point to interpretation that sometimes gets construed by aggressive sales and marketing tactics and we will attempt to clarify if retailers are allowed to purchase higher nicotine products post July 1, 2020 or just sell through their existing inventories.”