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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.”