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Nova Scotia and Alberta reviewing vaping regulations

Government in Alberta and Nova Scotia are reviewing laws and regulations around vaping products.

In Nova Scotia, Premier Stephen McNeil says his government is looking at regulations that could ban flavoured vaping products in the province.

McNeil responded Wednesday after the Opposition Progressive Conservatives introduced legislation aimed at addressing the growing numbers of young people who vape.

The Tory bill calls for a ban on e-liquids, and prohibits the use and possession of tobacco products by people under the age of 19.

However, McNeil says the government is already considering a series of potential regulatory changes that would require licences to sell vaping products, similar to those required to sell tobacco.

He says vaping products are regulated by Health Canada, and he believes the federal agency must also “step up” to tighten rules around things like nicotine content.

The premier added that some provincial legislation may also be needed, but there likely won’t be a bill introduced during the current fall session of the legislature.

“We don’t actually need (legislation) to ban the flavours, but we may need to in terms of making other changes that may be required on how we deal with that product,” McNeil said.

He added the regulatory changes could appear before the session wraps up.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston said something has to be done about a product that was originally marketed as a smoking cessation device.

Houston said while vaping products have probably helped some smokers quit the habit, it’s becoming more clear there are potentially harmful health effects.

“My party’s objective is to make sure the discussion is being had,” he said. “If the premier is willing to engage in that discussion, then that’s a good thing.”

In an August interview, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said that online sales were another challenge for the province. He also expressed concerns about teens being able to purchase products from vape stores.

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

Meanwhile, the Alberta government will consider adding rules for vaping when it reviews the province’s smoking and tobacco legislation next month.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said he’s particularly concerned about the growing number of youth who vape, but there’s evidence it can be helpful for adults who are trying to quit smoking conventional cigarettes.

“I respect the rights of adults to choose for themselves, including choices that are unhealthy, but I don’t want my kids or anyone else’s kids to be pressured to start smoking or to start vaping,” he told reporters Wednesday.

He added a quarter of Alberta teens report having vaped in the last month.

Some acute lung illnesses have been reported as a result of vaping in Canada, but to date no cases in Alberta have come up.

The Centres for Disease Control in the United States has said 80% of the 800 recently reported severe lung illnesses from vaping involved people inhaling the cannabis compound THC with their device.

The review of Alberta’s Tobacco Act – which was already set to take place this fall regardless of recent vaping headlines – will be led by legislature member Jeremy Nixon. It is to seek feedback from school districts, municipalities, retailers and health advocates.

Nixon said the review could look at a minimum age for vaping, limiting its use in public places and workplaces, and strengthening restrictions for advertising, especially to youth.

The work is to begin Nov. 1 and be completed by year’s end, with a goal of having any changes brought before the legislature next spring. But Shandro said the government could act sooner if Alberta’s chief medical officer of health recommends any urgent action.

The legislation was last reviewed in 2012.

“This is a new, emerging technology that fell outside the scope of what the legislation said at the time,” Shandro said.

Darryl Tempest, executive director at the Canadian Vaping Association, said the Alberta government is taking a measured approach.

“We at the CVA share the deep concerns of Canadians about the recent cases of lung illnesses, particularly among youth,” he said.

“It’s critical that health authorities get to the primary source of this outbreak, as non-nicotine e-liquid vaping devices sourced on the black market have been implicated in many cases. It is for this reason that we encourage other provincial lawmakers and authorities to follow the example of Alberta.”

David Hammond, a professor of public health at the University of Waterloo, said governments need to act on vaping before there are calls for an all-out ban, which he said would be unproductive and unrealistic.

The key is to target vaping products at adults looking to get off more harmful traditional cigarettes, while cracking down on anything that would entice youth to pick up the habit, he said.

That could include banning advertising anywhere accessible to kids and limiting the zany flavours available for vaping devices popular with youth.

“I actually think it’s a barrier to some adult smokers and to some health professionals considering these products for quitting because they look like kiddie products – peanut butter and jam, chocolate chip cookie dough, cereal milk.”

At the same time, adults need to be better informed, Hammond added.

“In fact, smokers are confused,” he said. “A lot of them think that it’s just as bad or worse than smoking. And so we’ve actually failed both ends of this issue.”

 


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Nova Scotia to ban most single use plastic bags at store checkouts

shutterstock_1250226013e-360x240Nova Scotia plans to join a number of other Canadian provinces in moving to ban most single-use plastic bags at store checkouts.

The province’s majority Liberal government introduced the bill to ban the bags Thursday as the legislature session opened.

After it is proclaimed, the government said, industry will have one year to prepare before the bags are prohibited.

Environment Minister Gordon Wilson said he’s introducing the bill in the hope of removing millions of bags from the waste stream each year.

“It’s going to change the way Nova Scotians go to grocery stores,” he said after announcing the bill.

He added the bill is a signal the province is willing to consider the banning of other plastic items, such as single-use cutlery and straws.

“This legislation is an important piece that will help us move forward,” the minister said.

Under the proposed law, retailers would still be allowed to use single-use plastic bags for live fish and bulk items. There would also be exemptions for food banks and charities.

There is not a requirement under the act to charge a fee for alternatives to plastic bags, leaving the choice to retailers.

The director of the Ecology Action Centre, the province’s largest environmental advocacy group, welcomed the legislation, noting retailers and other provinces have already begun moving in this direction.

“Atlantic Canadian provinces probably appreciate more the impacts of plastics, particularly in our oceans,” Mark Butler said.

He noted that plastic bags are a relatively small proportion of the waste stream but they have a large impact on wildlife in the province.

“We look forward to the public and the government identifying other single-use items we don’t need to use.”

While many Canadian municipalities have banned single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and other retail outlets, provincewide bans are less common and more recent.

Manitoba’s government has promised consultations on moving toward a ban of single-use plastic bags. A ban in Prince Edward Island went into effect in July, and Newfoundland and Labrador introduced legislation to ban the bags last April.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in June that the federal government was starting regulatory work to ban harmful single-use plastics.

Retailers including the Sobeys chain have already promised to eliminate single-use bags.

One expert said the banning of plastic bags pleases consumers, but it’s not enough to effect real environmental change.

“Banning plastic bags is just a distraction – the real problem is food packaging. But at least governments are doing something about it,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the agrifood analytics lab at Dalhousie University.

“For Nova Scotia, the announcement is quite timely given the climate strike happening (Friday). My expectation will be to see all provinces make a similar announcement by June of next year.”

Charlebois said for further progress, stores also need to look at biodegradable and compostable solutions, while governments should fund research that will increase the use of green packaging solutions.

Jim Cormier, a spokesman for the Retail Council of Canada, said “overall, retailers are happy with this approach.”

He said having a single system in each province is the best scenario for grocery chains and other retailers, rather than a patchwork of municipal rules.

 


NSLC to sell cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals before end of the year

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation will sell cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals when the products become legal later this year.

Finance Minister Karen Casey says the government had great success with NSLC when they were asked to take on the retail for cannabis last year.

“They’ve proven they could take on the cannabis and so we asked them what it might look like if they were given the expanded mandate for the edibles, extracts and topicals,” Casey said Monday in an interview.

“They came back with the same kind of parameters and the same kind of priorities that we wanted, and that was that they would do education and awareness with their staff. They want, and we want, the staff handling the products to be comfortable doing that and to be knowledgeable,” she said.

Casey said there have been ongoing discussions with the private sector and First Nations, but for now, the government needed a retailer who was ready and could follow the same retail model set out for cannabis.

She said the new products will be sold in the same 12 NSLC stores that currently sell cannabis.

Casey said the NSLC said it will be able to handle the new products in the existing stores with very little capital costs.

Amended Health Canada regulations governing the sale of edibles, extracts and topicals come into force on Oct. 17.

However a 60-day review process for new products will mean they won’t be ready for sale until at least mid-December.

“As soon as the product is available, we’re going to be ready,” Casey said.