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Consumers crave immune-boosting foods and beverages

You may be surprised to learn that, until fairly recently, Coca-Cola was presented and sold to consumers as a functional food.

Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 4.34.12 PMPharmacist John Pemberton’s prototype recipe, that evolved into Coca-Cola, originally included both alcohol and coca leaf (the source of cocaine). Prohibition in Atlanta in 1886 prompted the removal of alcohol from the formulation. Coca remained the main active nutraceutical in Coca-Cola until 1903, when it was replaced by caffeine. 

During the first 70-80 years of its existence, Coca-Cola, now universally viewed as an indulgence beverage, used nurses and doctors in its advertising to convince people of its wellness benefits.

The link to COVID-19 restrictions

Human nature being what it is, we are hardwired to seek shelter in a storm. The initial shock of COVID-19 initially translated into panic buying of household staples, but the more profound and lasting impact may be a heightened consumer interest in functional foods.  

The Ipsos FIVE daily consumer diary panel tracks what 20,000 respondents ate and drank yesterday across all categories, brands, occasions and venues. The Ipsos FIVE database quantifies shifts in both behaviour and attitudes. 

Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 4.34.37 PMIn 2019 and the first two months of 2020, Ipsos Five was already tracking faster growth in consumption of functional foods compared to overall food consumption, roughly +8% to +9%, year-over-year. In the first month of lockdown, the rate of growth of functional foods consumption increased an additional 13% versus the pre-COVID timeframe. 

Kathy Perrotta, VP of market strategy and understanding with Ipsos, says: “The functional food choice is (generally) motivated by the need for specific benefits, like aiding with digestion. Beyond physical health and dietary requirements, consumers also opt for functional foods to meet personal emotional and lifestyle needs and beliefs (Exhibit 1)…. The rising focus on bolstering personal immunity is certainly a sign of the times and something we could expect to continue as a result our current health pandemic.” 

Perrotta suggests that this recent bump in consumer purchases of functional foods was “driven by young adults now eating in a highly homebound environment, who seem to be more focused on overall wellness benefits”.

Follow the crowd

The online app Pinterest refers to itself as a visual discovery engine. It is a platform where people go to find inspiration for food, fashion, hobbies, crafting and more. Pinterest, which started only ten years ago, currently welcomes nearly 400 million Pinners to the platform every month to explore and experience more than 200 billion ideas that have been saved.

Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 4.33.54 PMA review of global Pinterest searches for the last two weeks of March 2020 versus pre-COVID-19 reveals that consumer searches for “healthy things to cook” increased 4X in the first weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown, when consumer interest in healthy eating spiked.

Pinterest searches in the month of June for healthy eating in Canada were way up, year-over-year: 

  •       Canadian consumer searches for “Healthy things to cook” increased 3.5X; 
  •       “Healthy cooking” searches were up 2.9X, and;
  •       “Healthy snacks” searches were up 35%.

 

Form follows function

Sophie Mir, associate editor at consumer and foodservice insights provider Technomic, confirms that Technomic research has been tracking growth in better-for-you “healthful” foods for the last several years. In Technomic’s 2018 Canadian Convenience Store Foodservice Consumer Trend Report, 41% of consumers reported that healthfulness of food/beverages is an important attribute in deciding to purchase prepared foods or beverages from a convenience store. 

However, Mir also notes a “shift in consumers’ definition of health moving away from the emphasis on nutritional benefits (such as lower fat or lower cholesterol) to functionality, that is, ingredients that provide holistic gains… (Including physical, mental and emotional benefits).” 

Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 4.35.16 PMPractically, there are a significant number of examples of products for c-store operators to consider (Exhibit 2). Technomic advises its clients that “offering food and beverages with functional ingredients (aligns) with what consumers are looking for.” At the same time, c-store operators have an opportunity to, in partnership with manufacturers, draw awareness and educate their consumers on functional benefits via signage, POP information, online advertising, and social media channels. 

Immunity is key

Andrew Wardlaw, of MMR Research Worldwide Research, recently noted that “research findings published in December 2019 by Wellmune, part of the Kerry Group, spanning 11,000 consumers across 14 global markets, found that nearly two thirds (63%) placed immune health ahead of supporting healthy bones and joints, good digestive health, improve energy levels and heart health.” This suggests that, even prior to COVID-19, consumers around the world were making food purchase decisions motivated by immune health. Further, “new research undertaken by MMR in association with TOLUNA in April 2020 found that immunity was now the number one health concern in China and South Africa, and only beaten by heart health in the UK and U.S.”

Don’t miss the functional foods train

With “live and active cultures” promoting gut health, U.S. Greek Yogurt brand Chobani, from its origins in an abandoned yoghurt factory in New Berlin, New York in 2007, has risen to be a market maker and the dominant player in the U.S. premium Greek yoghurt category. Chobani took a dormant commodity category upscale, and went from zero share to being a multi-billion dollar CPG player in about 10 years. It’s currently investing heavily in plant-based dairy in general, and oat milk specifically.

Consider the Canadian brand, Sapsucker, an Ontario-based new entrant to the wellness beverage market available across Canada. Sapsucker markets itself as a Maple Tree Water, a “tapped in Canada” naturally hydrating beverage that advocates for people to make healthy, mindful choices. The product is harvested sustainably from Canadian forests, and purports to be “plant-based and nutrient rich, powered by 46 naturally occurring minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.” Its lineup includes three lightly carbonated tree water beverages: The Original One, The Lime One, and the Lemon One. Like Coke, Sapsucker sells taste, lifestyle and feeling: its tagline is “Sip a Sapsucker, because there’s no time for regrets.”

Clearly, life as we’ve known it changed. The path forward demands that operators remain relevant with customers. The gap between seeing and embracing new functional foods, and achieving a return on these investments, is a bridge worth crossing for operators. 

Darren Climans is a foodservice insights professional with close to 20 years’ experience partnering with broadline distributors, CPG suppliers, and foodservice operators. His practice is to understand issue-based decisions by taking a data-driven approach to strategic decision making.

 

 


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COVID-19: 6 tips to reduce employee stress

Screen Shot 2020-09-29 at 10.54.04 AMWith the recent surge in numbers related to COVID-19 comes added stress, especially for c-store and gas operators and staff who continue to meet the needs of Canadian consumers.

Convenience Store News Canada reached out to the Canadian Mental Health Association for advice. The organization shared these six tips to help organizations support employees when comes to managing ongoing stress and uncertainty.

 

  1. Have a plan. Let employees know that you are thinking and looking ahead, that you will stay well-informed and that you can answer the questions they already have: What if I get sick? How do I take time off work? What if my family member contracts the virus? You may want to compile frequently asked questions and direct employees to them often.
  2. Communicate, share and be open. Worry and fear grow in the absence of up-to-date information. Let your employees know that they can expect regular updates from you. Communicate even if the situation remains unchanged.
  3. Empathize. Share that you know it’s stressful. Recognize that it’s okay to be anxious. Remind your employees of resources (EAP) that are available for those who are experiencing stress.
  4. Reassure—as best you can. You can refer to reports indicating that most people who become infected with the virus will recover.
  5. Understand. Recognize when stress has become unmanageable for individual employees. Stress can lead to anxiety and even panic. Some employees may need mental health days and medical intervention in order to cope. Encourage employees to practice self-care activities on-the-job and reassure them that it’s ok to take steps to manage stress, such as relaxation exercises, listening to relaxing music or taking regular breaks. 
  6. Recognize this is not quite ‘business as usual.’ Know that work will likely be impacted—work will slow down (or get busier). Reassure staff that expectations will shift accordingly, and that’s ok. We will get through this! 

Additional resources for employers: 

COVID-19: Practical workforce strategies that put your people first

How to stay emotionally healthy during the coronavirus outbreak


Posters

Juul releases new study linking market entry to decreased cigarette sales

PlenariesAs part of Juul Labs’ AcademyHealth 2020 Annual Research Meetingthe company released a report linking Juul’s market entry to decreased cigarette sales in Canada. The conference, which took place virtually, focusesd on the intersection of health, health care, and policy.

The study, conducted and presented by Dr. Shivaani Prakash, Juul Labs’ director of health economics and policy research, found that the Juul System’s market entry in Canada “likely decreased combustible cigarette sales, especially in urban markets.”

Using city-level data on cigarette and Juul sales in Canada and variation in timing of Juul’s market entry in the study, the company says researchers ran econometric difference-in-difference models. In a release, Juul concluded: “Within the first 12 months of market entry, market entry and availability of the Juul System likely led to a 1.5% decrease on average in store-level cigarette sales volume, within one large retailer chain. Overall, this could translate to over 400 million fewer cigarettes sold in Canada within the first year of the Juul System’s market entry.”

In addition, the study found that the decline in cigarette sales magnified Juul’s market share increased in stores, suggesting that local tobacco market competition plays a strong role in uptake and purchase of vaping products. For every 1% increase in Juul’s market share at the store-level, there was an associated 0.5% reduction in cigarette sales.

“This work provides strong evidence that the availability of vaping products could reduce cigarette sales, and suggests that providing alternative nicotine products to adult smokers could drive down combustible cigarette consumption,” s Rasmus Wissmann, VP of dta at Juul Labs, said in a statement. “Further research is needed to determine the long-term impact of vapor products on cigarette sales, and the net population health impact of such products.”

The company says that “Identifying the impact of vaping products in global markets can help policymakers understand the role of alternative nicotine products in the commercial tobacco product market, and better evaluate the impact of such products.”

As part of the Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) process in the United States, Juul Labs has built a research program focused on examining the public health impact of the Juul System. This includes research on the Juul System’s impact on the individual user, their ability to convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes, and the net-population impact on public health.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST VAPING NEWS


Lines help enforce social distancing

Circle K stores introduce critical emergency measures

Couche-Tard LogoAs the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate, Alimentation Couche-Tard and its wholly owned subsidiary Circle K, are implementing critical emergency measures for the protection and support of the health and safety of its customers and employees around the globe.

In provinces and territories across Canada, c-stores remain open, serving communities.

New screens at cash.

New screens at cash.

Brian Hannasch, Couche-Tard president and CEO, said in a release: “I know these are stressful, difficult days as we see the effects of this global pandemic on our lives, workplaces, and neighbourhoods. As a company, we are deeply committed to being part of the solution for our customers and our employees. Our team members are working hard to create impactful measures to serve our communities, and I have never been prouder to be the leader of this company.”

Lines help enforce social distancing

Lines help enforce social distancing

With a focus on the health and safety of its employees and customers, strategies include:

  • Enacting stringent cleaning measures several times daily anywhere hands touch from surfaces, screens, pumps, restrooms and more.
  • Increasing safety, hygiene, and packaging around food and beverages
  • Installing clear barriers at cash registers to protect customers and employees from coughs, sneezes or other possible exposure
  • Reinforcing best hygiene practices through digital media and display screens at registers
  • Marking stores for social distancing at the checkout line
  • Putting frequently asked questions and answers on its website concerning how stores are operating during these unprecedented times and what our customers can expect in terms of store closing and sanitizing procedures if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 9.25.26 AMIn addition, as a thank you, free coffee, tea and polar pop are being offered to first responders and health care workers, as well as to store employees.

Measure designed to help hourly store employees on the frontline of this crisis, include:

  • Emergency Sick Care Plan for hourly employees in North America that includes both a bank of sick pay hours, as well as a pay continuation benefit if someone is either diagnosed with COVID-19 or is placed under a mandatory quarantine.
  • Emergency Appreciation Pay premium for store employees in North America of an additional $2.50 to base hourly rate of pay for all hours worked.

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Consumers thirsty for better-for-you beverages 

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

In 1886, Atlanta pharmacist John S. Pemberton came up with the most consequential new consumer packaged good product idea in recorded human history—Coca-Cola. The key to this innovation was the mixing of uniquely flavoured syrup with carbonated water, creating the first Carbonated Soft Drink (CSD).

A single serving of Coca-Cola in 1886 sold for 5 cents per glass and daily consumption was approximately nine glasses per day, making for an annual revenue of less than $200. From this humble start, the Coca-Cola Company has grown during its 100-plus years to a market cap of roughly US$230-billion. Current global consumption of all types of Coca-Cola beverages is close to 2-billion servings per day.

 Trend is your friend, until it ends

Despite its market dominance, there are storm clouds gathering on the horizon for traditional Coca-Cola. 

 According to Euromonitor International, a leading independent provider of strategic market research, North American sales by volume of CSDs have shrunk by approximately 1% per year since 2014. In contrast, during the same period, sales of better-for-you health and wellness beverages have increased nearly 30%.

In a recent presentation, Beverage Marketing Corporation noted: “Carbonated soft drinks… declined slightly for the 14th consecutive year, and declines have continued into 2019… more declines are likely to come in the years ahead (as) consumers are migrating to healthier options and want more variety.”

CSDs, while still a significant slice of the beverage pie, are trending down in mature Western markets.

 The rise of functional beverages

Technomic’s 2018 Canadian Beverage Consumer Trend Report details important shifts in the beverage market:

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Functional beverages defined

 There are many terms that can be applied to beverages under the umbrella of better for you (BFY) or health and wellness .

 Broadly speaking, they cover naturally occurring or essential additives that offer the potential of enhanced health and/or reduced risk of disease. So-called healthy beverages generally tend to:

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What’s new in functional beverages?

The Innova New Product Database is the world’s largest database tracking new food and beverage product launches. The top ranked beverage health claims as a percentage of total new launches (2018) include:

  1.   Antioxidant
  2.   Energy / alertness
  3.   Digestive / gut health
  4.   High source of protein
  5.   Probiotic

Claims of digestive/gut health, high protein and probiotics are all trending up. Significantly, the global trend on new soft drinks launches with a kombucha claim tracked 68% growth. (See below for examples of new products.)

Be thirsty for change

Screen Shot 2020-02-14 at 9.23.04 AMTechnomic’s 2018 Canadian Convenience Store Consumer Trend Report states: “Healthy eating trends are creating opportunities for c-stores. Increasingly, consumers are seeking not just healthy options, but foods and beverages that provide meaningful benefits.” Global consumer demand for functional beverages is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11% from 2019-2023, with 36% of the growth coming from North America (Exhibit 1).

And there’s even more on the line when it comes to owning the beverage space. For instance, using beverage offerings to achieve broader consumer reach is exactly what McDonald’s did a decade ago when it set out to target Starbucks and Tim Hortons with a fully revamped coffee program.

McDonald’s recognized that breakfast was the fastest growing part of the day for foodservice. According to research company NPD Group, breakfast sandwiches make up a third of all orders placed during that time of day. Combine that with the interest of GenZ consumers in premium coffee offerings, and McDonalds strategic path was clear—grow coffee consumption as a means to win the breakfast wars.

In 10 years, McDonald’s has tripled its drip coffee sales and more than doubled its market share to north of 13%. Its newest streetfront McCafés outlets extend the café experience with an eye towards capturing even more away-from-home food dollars.

The bottom line for your bottom line

Screen Shot 2020-02-14 at 9.32.59 AMAfter a century of unparalleled growth, shifts in consumer tastes away from CSDs have primed a reorientation in the beverage space. Fortunately, convenience stores can leverage competitive advantages to profit from this change. The opportunity is at hand to translate c-store strengths—diverse channel affiliations, large refrigerated and ambient shelf-space, and deep category knowledge—into the taking of a bigger slice of the pie. 

Increasingly fragmented consumer demand for better-for-you beverages should be seen as a welcome challenge, an opportunity to leverage a c-store point of difference, and grow your bottom line.

 

Darren Climans is a foodservice insights professional with close to 20 years’ experience partnering with broadline distributors, CPG suppliers, and foodservice operators. His practice is to understand issue-based decisions by taking a data-driven approach to strategic decision making

Originally published in the January/February issue of Convenience Store News Canada. 


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Q&A: What do we know about the U.S. vaping outbreak?

U.S. health officials continue to look for patterns in the hundreds of serious lung injuries reported in people who use electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices.

A look at what we know so far about the outbreak and the investigation:

WHO IS GETTING SICK?

As of October 4, the tally is 1,080 confirmed and probable cases in 48 states and one U.S. territory, including more than a dozen deaths. Health officials say 70% of the patients have been male. More than a third are younger than 21, with patients ranging in age from young teens to 75 years old.

WHAT VAPING PRODUCTS ARE INVOLVED?

No single device, ingredient or additive has been identified. Most of the patients say they vaped products containing THC, the high-producing ingredient in marijuana. Others say they vaped both THC and nicotine. A smaller group report they vaped only products containing nicotine.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Patients are coming into hospitals with cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue and vomiting. Imaging tests show lung injuries and doctors can’t find infections or other causes.

HOW SERIOUS ARE THESE ILLNESSES?

Many of the reports involve severe, life-threatening illnesses in previously healthy people. Many patients received oxygen. Some needed to be put on breathing machines. Antibiotics didn’t work, and it’s not clear yet whether steroid drugs helped.

“We don’t know how well people will recover from (the lung injuries) and the damage may be permanent,” Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

WHAT ARE OFFICIALS DOING?

Even before the outbreak, schools were struggling to crack down on vaping because the devices are easy for students to hide. More than one in four high school students reported vaping in the past month in the most recent government survey. Health officials have warned for years that the popularity of flavoured vape products among kids could result in lifelong tobacco use.

With concern about teen vaping already high, the health crisis spurred some states to stop the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes or raise the minimum age for buying e-cigarettes to 21. Massachusetts suspended sales of all vape products for four months, a move that’s been challenged in court. The White House announced plans to ban flavoured vape products.

On Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission ordered Juul and five other vaping companies to hand over information about how they market e-cigarettes.

Meanwhile, criminal investigators from the Food and Drug Administration are focusing on the supply chain to find out what’s making people sick.

WHAT’S THE LATEST RESEARCH?

It’s not final proof, but experts who examined lung tissue from 17 patients say the damage looks like chemical burns, similar to what would be seen in people exposed to poisonous gases. Dr. Brandon Larsen of Mayo Clinic Arizona says he believes toxic fumes are causing at least some of the illnesses. The study was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Incomplete lab testing by FDA continues to find THC and vitamin E acetate, a thickener, in some of the liquids tested, but Schuchat cautioned: “There may be a lot of different nasty things in e-cigarettes and vaping products and they may cause different harms in the lung.”

HOW DO AMERICANS VIEW THE HEALTH DANGERS OF VAPING AND SMOKING?

Americans believe nicotine is a bigger public health threat than THC, according to a survey by researchers at NORC at the University of Chicago. Nearly all adults (90%) believe smoking cigarettes is harmful, and 81% believe vaping nicotine products is harmful.

Fewer see health dangers in marijuana with 65% saying vaping THC is harmful and 58% of adults saying smoking marijuana that contains THC is harmful. The nationally representative survey of more than 1,000 adults was conducted Sept. 19-24.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT E-CIGARETTE SAFETY?

Health experts generally consider e-cigarettes to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes because they don’t contain all the cancer-causing byproducts of burning tobacco. And some countries – including the United Kingdom – have fully embraced vaping as a public health tool to reduce the deadly toll of traditional tobacco.

U.S. health regulators have generally taken a more cautious approach. In part, that’s because there is virtually no long-term research on the health effects of the vapour produced when e-cigarettes heat a nicotine solution.

The FDA, which regulates nicotine-vaping products, has set a deadline of next May for all e-cigarette manufacturers to submit their products for review. Under FDA rules, only products that represent a net benefit to public health will be allowed to remain on the market.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE RIGHT NOW?

Health officials are urging people to stop vaping, particularly products that contain THC, and to get medical care if they have trouble breathing or chest pain after vaping.

Schuchat acknowledged a concern about black market products. She said states that license marijuana dispensaries are taking steps to make sure the products they regulate are safe, but she added: “With all the data I’ve been seeing, I don’t know what’s safe right now.”

 


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Health organizations call for end to promotion of vaping products

Federal officials have to act right away to avoid further risks of serious illness from vaping, eight Canadian health organizations said Sept 19.

The groups are asking for an interim order from Health Canada to curb the marketing of vaping products, restrict the flavours available and regulate their nicotine levels.

Vaping products, the organizations say, should be treated the same way as tobacco products.

“Youth vaping has become a public-health crisis,” Dr. Sandy Buchman, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said at a news conference in Ottawa.

Thursday’s call comes after news of a serious vaping-related illness in London, Ont., as well as hundreds of cases in the United States, including seven deaths reportedly linked to vaping. Authorities are still struggling to determine what exactly has made vapers sick.

And on Thursday, Health Canada issued a statement advising vapers again to monitor themselves for coughs, shortness of breath or chest pain and to seek medical attention if they are concerned.

The coalition of health groups said an interim order would allow the government to put in place regulations for up to 12 months while permanent versions were drafted.

“Wasting time on this can only increase the risks to Canadians,” Buchman said.

The organizations are asking for all federal parties to commit to issuing such an order within 60 days of forming government after the Oct. 21 election.

The group includes the Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Lung Association, Coalition quebecoise pour le controle du tabac, Heart & Stroke, Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

The organizations recommended restrictions on advertising similar to those on ordinary tobacco, a ban on most or all flavoured products, and a nicotine restriction of 20 mg/ml of vaping fluid in line with European Union standards.

The groups shied away from calling for a full ban on vaping products, instead focusing on the surging rate of vaping among younger Canadians.

A survey done for Health Canada and published this year found that one-fifth of high school aged students reported using vaping products, as well as one-seventh of children aged 13 and 14.

Cynthia Callard, the executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, said vaping products have changed to become more addictive, attractive and accessible to youth.

“In short, tobacco companies are hooking kids on vape products in the same ways they used to hook their parents and grandparents on cigarettes,” Callard said.

Imperial Tobacco Canada issued a statement saying the solution to recent health concerns over vaping was “enforcement of existing restrictions on sales to youth and prohibitions on flavours appealing to youth” as well as regulations ensuring higher product quality and safety.

David Hammond, a professor at the University of Waterloo who has studied vaping in Canada, said the statement from the health groups emphasizes a consensus that “something has to be done” on vaping, especially on advertising, flavours and access for youth.

He said vaping can clearly be harmful, though less harmful than smoking, which is not saying much, he added.

Still, Hammond said there is some room for vaping as a means of helping people quit smoking.

“Can they help people quit? Yes. Are they an absolute game-changer? Not right now,” he said.

There is no doubt that the rate of vaping in Canada has increased “on every measure,” Hammond said.

He noted that legislation allowing the sale of vaping products coincided with the entrance of the company Juul into the market. That company “changed the chemistry to make it easier, more palatable to inhale very high levels of nicotine,” he said.

At the same time, the Canadian government “clearly opened (the door) too wide for advertising and promotion,” especially to younger Canadians, Hammond said.

He said restrictions on advertising, on at least some flavours and on sales were a good place to start, but cautioned that vaping will be a tough challenge for governments.

“These are here to stay,” he said, flagging the vaping of cannabis as the next issue.

Juliet Guichon, a professor at the University of Calgary, echoed the view that Canadian legislation does not address youth vaping with enough seriousness.

“I think (the government) didn’t realize at the time what was going to happen,” she said.

She floated a few ways of reducing vaping among minors, including requiring retailers to ask for identification from purchasers, and potentially raising the age required to buy vaping products to 21.

On Sept. 18, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said Health Canada would look at several kinds of regulations for vaping, but had not yet committed to any changes.


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Canadian health officials on alert after reports of vaping illnesses in the U.S.

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health says he and colleagues across Canada have increased their vigilance as American health officials investigate nearly 200 cases of severe respiratory illnesses potentially linked to vaping.

Dr. Robert Strang said surveillance is being strengthened and he is sending informal email inquiries to respiratory specialists and intensive care units at Nova Scotia hospitals to see if there are any similar cases.

“It’s premature to say that these (U.S. cases) are absolutely caused by vaping, but the links are very concerning,” Strang said in an interview. “We are well aware of the broader issue, and I’m certainly involved in the national conversations … around what more do we need to do to strengthen our approach to vaping.”

As of late last month, officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 193 people in 22 states had contracted severe respiratory illnesses after vaping.

But they stressed that a clear-cut common cause of the illnesses hadn’t been identified and that they were being classified as “potential cases still under investigation.”

Strang, who has long been outspoken about the potential dangers posed by e-cigarettes and vaping products, said Health Canada was already looking at strengthening its regulations before the U.S. health scare began in June.

He said health officials are collaborating on draft regulations that would strengthen protections for youth, in particular. Provincial regulations are also being examined to see if they can be beefed up.

“This new (U.S.) evidence raises the importance and the urgency of that work while we wait for more definitive information to come,” Strang said.

Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada confirm they are monitoring the recent U.S. clusters of acute pulmonary illnesses reportedly linked to the use of vaping products, which have led to one death.

Maryse Durette, a spokeswoman for the two agencies, said Canadian health officials have not yet seen any evidence of similar clusters occurring in Canada.

Durette said in a statement that Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada are in close contact with counterparts in the United States, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to “better understand” the investigation into the illnesses.

“The Government of Canada will continue to monitor all available data sources for indications of similar issues in Canada and will take action, as appropriate, to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” the statement said.

Dr. Andrew Pipe, a clinician with the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, believes similar cases will be detected in Canada now that Canadian doctors are aware of the problems that have surfaced south of the border.

An expert on smoking cessation, Pipe said the situation also underscores the need for “thoughtful and forceful” regulation of vaping products and their marketing in Canada.

Pipe said there is currently an epidemic of youth vaping in Canada that coincides with an increase in youth and adolescent smoking rates for the first time in more than three decades. He said regulations need to focus on advertising to youth, and there need to be controls on the nature of vaping devices and the amount of nicotine they contain.

“The world does not need candy floss peach-flavoured e-juice,” Pipe said. “We need to adopt the same kind of regulations for marketing and advertising as far as youth are concerned that we do for tobacco products.”

Nova Scotia’s was one of the first provinces to introduce regulations banning the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 19 and banning in-store advertising, but Strang said there could be further tightening.

He said online sales still pose a challenge, and he is concerned by reports that teens are able to purchase from vape stores. “Clearly we have some work to do around making sure that licensed vape stores are not selling to minors,” Strang said.

A recent study in the medical journal The Lancet found that the prevalence of vaping among 16- to 19-year-olds had increased in Canada and the U.S. between 2017 and 2018, as did smoking in Canada.

And although vaping is likely a less harmful mode of nicotine delivery than cigarettes, the study said “long-term exposure to e-cigarette vapour might cause nicotine dependence and increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular health effects.”

Strang said that amounts to a call to action.

“If you are not smoking or vaping, you are putting your health at risk by starting to vape,” he said. “We need to get that message out there much more strongly.”


ID please: Here’s what c-store operators need to know about vaping regulations

Buy-marijuana-or-weed-18-years-old-under-21Although Health Canada acknowledges that vaping is less harmful than smoking, the country’s national health overseer also has serious concerns about e-cigarettes and related products. With that in mind, there are a number or rules and regulations c-store operators should keep top of mind.

According to Health Canada, vaping can lead to nicotine addiction, it can cause lung damage, and the long-term impacts remain unknown.

This leads to concerns about the appeal of vaping for young people, a concern manufacturers take seriously. “Our position is very simple: just as we believe that youth should not smoke, we agree that youth should not vape,” says Eric Gagnon, head of corporate affairs at Imperial Tobacco Canada. “We support measures that prevent under-age access to vapour products.”

Rob Colucci, Fontem Canada – blu Vapour, adds, “We recognize that much work needs to be done in striking an appropriate balance between ensuring no youth uptake of vaping products while ensuring sufficient communication with adult smokers is allowed so as to encourage them to switch out of tobacco.

“Fontem Canada – blu Vapour shares Health Canada’s concerns about the increase in vaping product use by youth and agrees that youth access to vaping products and the inducement to use them is a serious and legitimate concern. Accordingly, we strongly support government regulatory initiatives aimed at preventing vaping products to be targeted at youth in Canada and around the world.”

Most vaping regulations are provincial and vary across the country, although generally there is a concerted effort to protect younger people from e-cigarettes and related products. Federally, the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, which became law on May 23, 2018, protects youth from nicotine addiction and from incentives to use tobacco and vaping products. It allows adults to access vaping products as a less harmful alternative to smoking.

The act creates a national minimum age of access for vaping products: 18 years. It also includes significant restrictions on the promotion of vaping products, such as bans on:

  • advertising that appeals to youth;
  • lifestyle advertising;
  • sponsorship promotion; and
  • giveaways of vaping products or branded merchandise.

Additional restrictions under the legislation came into force late last year. These include bans on:

  • the sale and promotion of vaping products that make the product appealing to youth, such as interesting shapes or sounds;
  • the promotion of certain flavours — like candy, desserts, or soft drinks — that may be appealing to youth; and
  • product promotion by testimonials or endorsements.

Health advocates urge Quebec to appeal vaping ruling amid spike in youth vaping

Anti-smoking groups are urging the Quebec government to appeal a court ruling that invalidated certain sections of the province’s tobacco legislation dealing with vaping, as health officials across the country grapple with an apparent spike in youth adopting the habit.

The ruling handed down by Quebec Superior Court on Friday confirmed the province’s right to legislate on vaping, but struck down provisions banning demonstrations of vaping products inside shops or specialized clinics.

It also struck parts of the law prohibiting the advertising of vaping products to smokers seeking to kick their habit.

Flory Doucas of the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control said the judgment comes as Canada is dealing with a growing number of youth using vaping products since the federal government passed a law formally legalizing and regulating vaping, or e-cigarettes, in May 2018.

And, she notes, experience with the tobacco industry suggests advertising that targets smokers could also ensnare others.

“It is very worrisome to think that Quebec, one of the only jurisdictions in Canada that had a comprehensive, well-balanced framework for vaping products would now see its framework weakened when in fact other governments _ and the federal government _ is calling on provincial governments to help it tighten and restrict the marketing of these products to address the youth epidemic,” Doucas said in an interview Saturday.

The challenge to Quebec’s Tobacco Control Act, adopted in 2015, was brought by the Canadian Vaping Association and l’Association quebecoise des vapoteries, who argued the law infringed on its members’ freedom of expression.

Justice Daniel Dumais suspended his ruling for six months to allow lawmakers to rewrite the problematic sections of the province’s tobacco law to make them valid.

The Quebec government has not commented on the ruling.

Doucas said the province should appeal, noting the Quebec measures were anchored on prevention and precaution, and make even more sense than they did in 2015.

Although vaping products are less harmful than tobacco products, Doucas said caution is necessary, as is protecting youth against a highly addictive habit whose long-term effects are not known.

Health advocates suggest a rise in vaping among Canadian youth has coincided with heavy marketing and promotion since the federal government passed the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act in 2018.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said in April it was alarmed by the trend and that a new generation of youth addicted to nicotine could lead to a resurgence in smoking and other health problems.

Also last month, federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor launched consultations on potential new regulatory measures aimed at reducing the uptick of youth vaping. This consultation, which runs until May 25, is considering measures that include restricting online sales and certain flavours, and restricting the concentration or delivery of nicotine in vaping products.

Doucas said what’s happening elsewhere makes maintaining the Quebec measures even more important.

“Everything is pointing to things getting far more restricted based on this huge surge in youth vaping,” she said.

The Canadian Cancer Society said it is also concerned about youth vaping and called for an appeal.

“The result of this ruling is you could have the potential of having e-cigarette advertising anywhere, at any time,” said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the society. “That simply would be wrong in terms of protecting youth.”