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New vaping rules are ‘punishing’ neighbourhood stores and do little to curb youth vaping: CICC

shutterstock_1373776301According to Health Canada, more than 75% of specialty vape shops are selling and promoting products that violate federal laws, including the sale of flavours, such as cake, cookies and candy, designed to appeal to youth.

In an unsettling feature published on November 16th, The Globe and Mail reported that vaping companies are “selling and promoting products that violate federal law, according to (Health Canada) spokeswoman Maryse Durette. The most common violations were promoting child-friendly flavours and using testimonials to promote products. Under federal law, testimonials include any promotions that feature people, characters or animals.”

Screen Shot 2019-11-20 at 2.01.10 PMThe Convenience Industry Council of Canada (CICC) responded this week, emphasizing the important role c-stores can play in ensuring that vaping products don’t end up in the hands of minors, but still remain a viable alternative for adults smokers. that these findings call into question the wisdom of restricting

“Convenience stores have responsibly retailed lottery and other age-restricted products for decades. Vape shops, on the other hand, have no track record of refusing sales to minors,” Anne Kothawala, CICC president and CEO, said in a release, adding that specialty vape stores are “largely unregulated” and a “relatively recent phenomena” in Canada.

“Many of these vape shops started selling nicotine vapes before they were legal in Canada. Upon this foundation of criminality, they are building predatory businesses that sell hundreds of flavours designed to hook youth, like bubble gum and candy cane,” said Kothawala. “At convenience stores, we only sell federally approved vapes with a narrow selection of flavours, all of which meet Health Canada’s strict requirement that they do not appeal to youth.”

The CICC points to mystery shopping tests conducted by the Ontario government in 2018 for legal tobacco sales, which show an underage sales prevention success rate of 96%.

According to the Federal Government’s Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Survey, almost 50% of all youth who have tried a vaping product borrowed, shared or bought them from a friend or relative, while 23% purchased  from a specialty vape shop and 12% purchased them from a convenience store.

According to the CICC, “With growing evidence that vaping is a less harmful alternative to smoking and a potentially helpful tool in achieving the public health goal of smoking cessation, the convenience store industry wants to be a partner in helping provide more adult smokers with access to these products. But governments have to decide whether they are actually serious about helping more people quit smoking.”

In British Columbia, the provincial government recently announced it would restrict the vape flavours convenience stores can sell. Other provinces are considering similar moves.

The concern, according to CICC, is this will send youth to specialty vape shops that purport to be “adult only.”

“If the steps being taken in B.C. were to be emulated across the country, it would be a sad day for public health,” warns Kothawala. “Appropriate flavours are essential in encouraging adult smokers to try vaping. With the vast majority of smokers already purchasing their legal cigarettes at convenience stores, these vape flavours need to be available at convenience stores. It is unreasonable to expect that adult smokers will seek out far flung vape shops with restricted hours. On the other hand, we already know from the data that youth will. Furthermore, in some more remote communities, the local convenience store is the only option for adult consumers.

“Many vape shops are clearly breaking the law, yet the B.C. government wants to give them a helping hand, while punishing the neighbourhood stores who obey the law every single day. Convenience stores are frustrated with these discriminatory policies, and we have every right to be,” added Kothawala.“We need evidence-based decision making and what we are getting from B.C. is the complete opposite.”


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Juul halts U.S. sales of fruit, dessert flavours for e cigarettes

Juul Labs stopped selling fruit and dessert flavours Thursday, acknowledging the public’s “lack of trust” in the vaping industry.

The voluntary step is the company’s latest attempt to weather a growing political backlash that blames its flavoured-nicotine products for hooking a generation of teenagers on electronic cigarettes.

Juul, the bestselling e-cigarette brand in the U.S., has been besieged by scrutiny, including multiple investigations by Congress, federal agencies and several state attorneys general. The company is also being sued by adults and underage Juul users who claim they became addicted to nicotine through the company’s products. And the Trump administration has proposed banning nearly all vaping flavours.

Still, the company’s latest step is unlikely to satisfy its critics.

The flavours affected by the announcement – mango, creme, fruit and cucumber – account for less than 10% of Juul’s sales. The flavours had only been sold through Juul’s website, after the company pulled them from stores last November.

Juul will continue selling its most popular flavours, mint and menthol, for now. A spokesman said the company is reviewing its products and has not made “any final decisions.”

Mint and menthol account for most of Juul’s retail sales, according to analysts, and are the most popular flavours among teens.

The San Francisco-based company will also continue to sell its tobacco-flavoured vaping pods.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ Matthew Myers said that Juul’s decision to keep selling mint and menthol shows “it isn’t serious about preventing youth use.”

“Juul knows that 64% of high school e-cigarette users now use mint or menthol flavours and this number is growing all the time,” Myers said in a statement.

His group and others are urging the Trump administration to follow through on its proposal to ban all vaping flavours except tobacco.

The sales concession comes less than a month after a major shake-up at the privately held firm, in which it pledged to stop advertising and agreed to not lobby against the administration’s proposed flavour ban.

“We must reset the vapour category by earning the trust of society and working co-operatively with regulators, policymakers and stakeholders,” the company’s new CEO, K.C. Crosthwaite, said in a statement. Crosthwaite was named CEO last month. He previously worked as an executive for Marlboro-maker Altria, which is also Juul’s biggest investor.

This week’s move marks a remarkable shift for Juul, which had argued for years that its flavours help adult smokers quit cigarettes.

But the announcement doesn’t necessarily mean the permanent end of Juul’s flavours. Instead, Crosthwaite said the company would defer to the decision of the Food and Drug Administration, which has set a deadline of next May for manufacturers to submit their vaping products for federal review.

Under the agency’s standards, only vaping products that represent a net benefit to public health are supposed to remain on the market.

If the company can show that its products are less harmful than cigarettes and can help adults switch, they could presumably return. Many experts, however, doubt the company will be able to win the FDA endorsement, given the popularity of Juul among underage users.

Underage vaping has reached epidemic levels, according to health officials. In the latest government survey, more than 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month despite federal law banning sales to those under 18.

While Juul agreed to stop lobbying against a flavour ban, other industry players haven’t. The Vapor Technology Association is launching a national marketing campaign aimed at stopping the White House plan by using the slogan, “I vape, I vote.”

A poll released Thursday shows that Americans narrowly favour banning the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes, although younger adults are more likely to oppose the idea.

Banning flavours is supported by 52% of adults of all ages and opposed by 44%, according to the poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. But 63% of adults ages 18 to 29 oppose banning the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes.

The poll involved random calls to the cellphones and landlines of 1,205 adults and was conducted Oct. 3-8. The margin of sampling error for all respondents was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

In a separate public health crisis, the federal government is investigating nearly 1,500 cases of lung damage linked to vaping, some of them fatal. Many patients said they vaped THC, marijuana’s intoxicating chemical, with bootleg devices, but officials have not yet implicated any common product or ingredient.


Mint, menthol: Vape industry has dug heels in on flavour bans

Efforts to ban flavoured e-cigarettes and reduce their appeal to youngsters in the United States have sputtered under industry pressure in over a half-dozen states this year even as one state, Michigan, moves ahead with its own restrictions and President Donald Trump promises federal ones.

In many cases, the fight by the industry and its lobbyists has focused on leaving the most popular flavours – mint and its close cousin, menthol – alone. But public health experts say that all flavours should be banned, and that menthol can still hook kids on vaping.

The proposal Trump outlined Sept. 11, which would supersede any state inaction, includes a ban on mint and menthol, and an industry giant quickly indicated it would capitulate.

“We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavoured products,” read a statement released by Juul Labs Inc. “We will fully comply with the final FDA policy when effective.”

But the fight in state legislatures has been fierce. Lobbyists for the vaping and tobacco industry fought bans on flavours in Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Massachusetts, New York, Maine and Connecticut.

Such bans failed or stalled, even as Michigan’s governor this month ordered emergency rules prohibiting flavoured e-cigarettes. New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed a desire to ban flavoured e-cigarettes.

Trump’s federal proposal, as it stands, would require no congressional approval, meaning lobbying efforts to defeat it could be less effective than in state legislatures. Juul spent $1.9 million in the first half of the year to try and sway the White House, Congress and the Food and Drug Administration.

The Vapor Technology Association has reported spending $78,000 this year in its lobbying fight against California’s proposed flavoured e-cigarettes ban, while one of the world’s largest tobacco producers, Altria, reported spending over $100,000 last fall solely to lobby such legislation. The bills have since stalled.

Reynolds American, which sells Vuse Alto e-cigarettes, reported spending $240,000 on paid lobbyists in New York this year. At least $23,000 alone went to fund their lobbying push against a flavoured tobacco ban that failed to pass this year.

Altria, which is also Juul’s biggest investor, also spent over $70,000 in Maine alone this spring on an online social media and email campaign in its efforts to defeat a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes and all tobacco products, according to lobbying reports filed with state ethics officials. Maine still has no flavour ban.

The global e-cigarette and vape market was valued at as much as $11 billion in 2018. The rise in teen vaping has been driven mainly by flavoured cartridge-based products such as Juul, which controls roughly three-quarters of the U.S. e-cigarettes market.

The proposals and the lobbying fight come as health authorities investigate hundreds of breathing illnesses reported in people who have used e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. No single device, ingredient or additive has been identified, though many cases involve marijuana vaping.

Supporters of flavours argue that adult cigarette users say flavours helped them quit, and that legislators should instead focus on companies that are trying to hook young nonsmokers with clearly kid-friendly marketing and packaging.

“One of the things that we are finding is that state legislatures are reflexively reacting to media stories and without a scientific basis making determinations that flavours are the problem so we need to get rid of all the flavours,” said Tony Abboud, president of the Vapor Technology Association.

There had been concern that the tobacco and vaping industries were winning their fight to keep at least the most popular flavours _ mint and menthol _ in play. That concern has now been tempered by Trump’s announcement that his ban would include menthol and mint.

Last November, the FDA announced plans for a crackdown that could lead to federal regulators pulling all e-cigarette flavours besides menthol and mint – thought to be useful to adult smokers – from shelves. The FDA also said it would also seek to ban menthol cigarettes.

The FDA’s announcement came just two days after Juul announced the halting of in-store sales of mango, fruit, creme and cucumber flavours in retail stores.

The company’s CEO has said that Juul never intended for young people to use their products but that they are “sensitive” to concerns raised by the FDA.

And a spokesman for Juul, Ted Kwong, said before the announcement by Trump that the company would support an outright ban on flavours that mimic kid candies, foods and drinks.

Still, in line with the FDA’s proposed policy, Juul Labs still distributes mint, menthol and tobacco flavours in retail stores. The company also sells flavoured products through its website.

Anti-tobacco and -vaping groups say there’s no scientific basis for leaving menthol or mint alone. They warn menthol has been unethically marketed toward African Americans, and that such flavours can still increase the appeal of e-cigarettes for young people who aren’t smokers by overcoming the harshness of nicotine.

“Anything that is overcoming the harshness of tobacco flavouring is something that kids are going to find more appealing,” said Hillary Schneider, director of government relations in Maine for the American Cancer Society Action Network.

But banning minty flavours has been politically contentious.

In Maine, convenience store owners upset by a proposed flavour ban argued that mint, wintergreen and menthol represent 30% of flavours offered in stores statewide and $32 million in tax revenue.

Lawmakers then considered a tweak to only allow menthol, mint and wintergreen flavours. Maine ended up passing a bill _ backed by the tobacco and vaping industries, as well as small retail stores _ that instead makes it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to people under 21 and give them to minors under 16.

Officials in Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration discussed exempting mint and menthol flavours from the e-cigarette ban, but “determined that the action taken was the best path forward to protect youth,” said Bob Wheaton, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

A court challenge is expected for Michigan’s ban.

Abboud argued before Trump’s decision that states should hold off on further action for now.