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PHUs have ‘discretion’ when enforcing Ontario’s new vape rules: Ministry

C-stores not in compliance run the risk of being charged

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It’s fair to say the messaging around Ontario’s new vaping regulations is confusing for operators and other industry stakeholders. As, CSNC has reported, implementation of the new regulations kicked in July 1, after being delayed from May 1.

READ: Ontario sticks with July 1 for new vaping rules

Industry advocates had asked for more time, citing concerns about the pressure operators were under to keep their businesses up and running as essential services during the pandemic panic, as well as ongoing need for social distancing between vendors and operators.

READ: Ontario agrees to delay enforcement of new vaping rules

The Ministry of Health agreed to focus on initial education, rather than in enforcement and in a statement last month said: “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 (public health units) 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.”

However, with PHUs in charge of oversight, it is important for c-store operators to note that this “consideration” will differ across the province.

In a new memo (printed in its entirety below), Dianne Alexander, director Health Promotion and Prevention Policy and Programs Branch, Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Public Health Ministry of Health, attempts to clear up any confusion,  writing: “This means that SFOA inspectors maintain their discretion to lay charges for non-compliance with the new regulatory requirements where circumstances warrant.”

This latest statement appears to contradict the earlier messaging from the Ministry, which talked about leeway until December 31.

The bottom line is that c-stores are responsible for compliance and run the risk of facing charges at the discretion of their local PHU. With that in mind, it’s worth stressing that, as of July 1, operators are no longer permitted to sell:

  • Various flavoured vapour products, such as mango (c-stores can only sell tobacco, menthol and mint flavoured vapour products);
  • Vapour products with high nicotine concentrations (greater than 20 mg/ml).
From the Ministry of Health:
Dear Industry Stakeholders,
The Ministry of Health (‘ministry’) has recently been made aware of communications circulating among retailers from industry representatives about the implementation and enforcement of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 (SFOA, 2017) regulatory amendments that came into effect on July 1, 2020. The ministry takes this opportunity to provide clarity to ensure that the industry representatives and retailers are aware of the expectations for compliance with the regulatory amendments.
As previously communicated, the ministry is aware of the impact that COVID-19 is having on the normal operation of businesses. However, despite these circumstances, the Ontario government is not delaying the implementation of the regulatory amendments to the SFOA, 2017 that came into force on July 1, 2020. This means that, as of July 1, 2020, businesses are expected to comply with the regulatory amendments and Public Health Unit SFOA inspectors will be responsible for assessing compliance.
As with any requirement under the SFOA, 2017, SFOA inspectors will employ a progressive enforcement approach to achieve compliance with the new regulatory amendments through a balance of education, inspection and the use of warnings and graduated charging options to reflect the frequency and severity of non-compliance.
The ministry acknowledges that the timeline for achieving compliance may be impacted by the reduced or limited operational capacity of retailers during this time. Therefore, the ministry has asked SFOA inspectors to first prioritize education and awareness of the new requirements to support compliance among businesses. The ministry is encouraging SFOA inspectors to work collaboratively with non-specialty retailers to ensure prohibited vapour products are removed from stores, which may include returning flavoured vapour products and high nicotine-containing vapour products to suppliers (e.g., manufacturers and wholesalers) in order to comply with the new SFOA, 2017 regulatory requirements.
SFOA inspectors are provincial offences officers under the Provincial Offences Act and exercise independence in their approach to enforcing the SFOA, 2017. This means that SFOA inspectors maintain their discretion to lay charges for non-compliance with the new regulatory requirements where circumstances warrant.
The ministry hopes this information has been helpful and provides clarity with respect to enforcement of the new regulatory amendments. The ministry requests that you clarify the expectations around compliance with your respective retail partners as soon as possible.
Dianne
Dianne Alexander
Director, Health Promotion and Prevention Policy and Programs Branch
Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Public Health
Ministry of Health

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New vaping rules regulating sale of flavours in effect this week in Ontario

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New rules restricting the sale of most flavoured vape products have come into effect in Ontario.

The rules mean most of the products can now only be sold at specialty vape and cannabis retail stores, which serve customers 19 and older.

Products with menthol, mint and tobacco flavours are exempt from the new regulations, which came into effect July 1.

READ: Ontario agrees to delay enforcement of new vaping rules 

The regulations also mean vapour products with nicotine levels higher than 20 milligrams will be limited to specialty stores.

Those shops will also no longer be allowed to have indoor displays that are visible from outside.

Health Minister Christine Elliott unveiled the long-anticipated package of measures in February after expressing concern for months about youth vaping.

The measures banned the promotion of vaping products in convenience stores and gas stations earlier this year.

LATEST NEWS: PHU’s have ‘discretion’ when enforcing Ontario’s vaping rules: Ministry


beer-bottles-web

Ontario brewery employment triples in last decade amid craft beer growth

beer-bottles-webThe Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing says the number of workers Ontario breweries employ has tripled in the last decade.

The advocacy organization for the province’s manufacturing sector says employment in breweries has grown more between 2010 and 2019 than any other part of the sector.

A study conducted by the organization says the number of people employed by breweries jumped to more than 5,800 at the end of the decade from 2,220 in 2010.

The study showed that growth among craft brewers more than offset declines in employment at larger beer companies.

The study found that between 2010 and 2019, the number of Ontario breweries increased from less than 100 to more than 320.

The network says fewer than 40 of the breweries currently operating in Ontario were in business before 2010.


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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.”

UPDATE: PHUs have ‘discretion’ when enforcing Ontario’s new vape rules: Ministry


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Ontario sticks with July 1 for new vaping rules

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Despite ongoing requests for an extension, Ontario is 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.

These changes, part of the Government of Ontario’s efforts to curb youth vaping, were announced in January and were initially to come into play May 1. However, as governments and retailers dealt with the ramifications of COVID-19 on business and health, they were delayed until July 1.

The new amendments:

  • 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 distancing. In an effort to comply with safety measures, many vendors are not visiting stores right now.

However, in a memo from Smoke Free Ontario addressed to industry stakeholders Monday, the Ministry of Health indicated it was going ahead with the July 1 deadline, while also making efforts to recognize the challenges.

“The government of Ontario is aware that COVID-19 is having an impact on the normal operation of businesses. Retailers that have been closed may require more time to adjust their business practices to comply with the new regulatory amendments,” Dianne Alexander, director Health Promotion and Prevention Policy and Programs Branch, Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Public Health Ministry of Health, wrote in the memo. “With these circumstances in mind, the Ministry has asked Public Health Unit (PHU) Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA) inspectors to work with businesses to ensure compliance by first prioritizing education and raising awareness of the new requirements.”

“It doesn’t appear that the Ministry of Health or SFOA are considering an extension to vape regulations as requested by many groups, including the OCSA,” said president and CEO Dave Bryans, noting that while tobacco inspectors may show some leniency, past experience dictates this will not be for a long period of time. “I suggest a quick rationalization of flavours and strengths over the next two weeks to minimize exposure for the business, while awaiting credits for these products.”

As the government moves ahead with the new regulations, it says it has developed resources to help businesses understand the changes—these include a training guide for retailers and links to additional information on the Ministry’s website. C-stores are advised to contact their local PHU for information to access these tools.

CICC president and CEO Anne Kothawala is calling on the government to provide more clarification, especially when it comes to a drop-dead compliance date. She cites a lack of coordination and harmonization between already already busy PHUs and is concerned the lack of consistency in terms of enforcement will create an uneven playing field among retailers and manufacturers in different regions.

In addition, CICC maintains that convenience stores, which already sell age-restricted products, such as tobacco, alcohol and lottery, are in an ideal position to sell vapes and accessories.

“C-stores are being singled out with no factual basis,” Kothawala says, adding the new rules do little to address the youth vaping crisis and put more power in the hands of vape store operators. “In terms of age compliance and testing, we have the best track record.”

Officially, c-stores will have until July 1 to sell out or return to suppliers their existing inventory of higher nicotine and flavours that fall outside the new regulations.

Last week, the Federal Government 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 gives the industry a clear deadline for compliance and time to make the necessary changes to its operations. It was expected that that Provincial Government would follow suit.

READ: Ottawa delays new vape packaging regulations.


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Ottawa delays new vape packaging regulations

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Ottawa is postponing the enforcement of regulations regarding packaging of vape products in Canada to January 1, 2021 from July 1, 2020.

In a statement, the Convenience Industry Council of Canada said that, since the start of the pandemic, it has been advocating for the pause of non-essential regulations: “Our key message to government is that the health and safety of our staff and customers would be compromised if we had to undertake extensive inventory changes. We are also reiterating that now is not the time to bring in new regulations that will take time away from the increased burden of complying with safety and sanitization procedures.”

In December 2019, Health Canada proposed to ban advertising of vaping products in spaces where young people can see them in a bid to rein in the rise of underage e-cigarette use.

Minister Patty Hajdu put forward new rules Dec. 19 designed to prohibit vaping promotion in specialty shops, businesses and online platforms frequented by youth.

She also outlined requirements that vaping packages feature health warnings and be child-resistant, as well as plans to place limits on nicotine content in vaping liquids to reduce the risk of accidental child poisoning.

The move followed several months of consultations examining measures to restrict advertising for e-cigarettes in the face of growing evidence that vaping has taken off among teens.

In June 2019, the Minister of Health launched public consultations on proposed regulations that would set out new and updated requirements for the labelling and containers of vaping products. The proposed Vaping Products Labelling and Packaging Regulations would require that all vaping substances be labelled with a list of ingredients. In addition, vaping products containing nicotine would be required to display a standardized nicotine concentration statement and a health warning about the addictiveness of nicotine.

The new rules would have come into effect next month. However, convenience industry, like many others, is in the midst of updating operating procedures and, in some cases, dealing with revenue hits in the face of COVID-19.

The delay gives those in the industry time to focus on the essential work of ensuring a safe retail environment with proper social distancing protocols in the ongoing battle against COVID-19.

Industry lobbying Ontario for regulation extension

Ottawa’s announcement comes on the heels of Ontario’s Ministry of Health announcing in April it was hitting pause on a series of new vaping regulations that were to come into effect on May 1.

The implementation of the new regulations, which have far-reaching effects on the convenience sector, were delayed until July 1, with an eye on giving all parties time to make adjustments, while also dealing with the business impacts of COVID-19.

At the time, Dianne Alexander, director Health Promotion and Prevention Policy and Programs Branch, Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Public Health Ministry of Health, said: “The government understands that some of the proposed amendments would require certain businesses to remove inventory from their stores, which may involve contact with others. Providing more time to implement would allow owners and employees of affected businesses to practice physical distancing.”

However, as c-stores continue to adjust to the new normal and the need for distancing continues, the industry is lobbying to further delay the implementation of Ontario’s new regulations, which  would:

  • Restrict the retail sale of flavoured vapour products to Specialty Vape Stores and Cannabis Retail Stores, except for menthol, mint and tobacco flavours.
  • Restrict the retail sale of high nicotine vapour products (>20mg/ml) to Specialty Vape Stores.

Unless a new agreement is reached, c-stores will have until July 1 to sell out or return to suppliers their existing inventory of higher nicotine and flavours that fall outside the new regulations.

Keep an eye on our website and social media for updates on this evolving situation.

UPDATE READ: Ontario agrees to delay enforcement of new vaping rules

With files from The Canadian Press.


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Ontario joins B.C., N.B. and N.S. with temporary eviction ban

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The Ontario government is putting a temporary ban on commercial evictions to help small business owners who are struggling to pay their rent amid the COVID-19 fallout.

Premier Doug Ford announced the moratorium on Monday which applies to small businesses who qualify for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program (CECRA), where their revenues have dropped at least 70% due to the pandemic.

Ford outlined the details at a news conference, saying the ban will take effect for evictions as of June 3 and last until Aug. 31.

The province’s emergency commercial rent program launched in April to help small businesses pay their landlords, but it relied on the landlords themselves to apply, leaving the tenants hanging in the balance if they didn’t.

“I was clear with commercial landlords – you have to be fair and help out everyone,” Ford said.

“But we still heard about some landlords who just didn’t get the message.”

Some landlords have said they weren’t interested in covering part of their tenant’s rent as part of the CECRA program, either because the application process was too difficult, or they didn’t want – or couldn’t afford to – swallow the 25% loss that would come from a program that supported 75% of the rent owed.

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the temporary ban on evictions was “a long time coming and took a lot of convincing” in the ranks of the provincial leadership.

His organization was among five business groups that co-signed an open letter in May calling for the Ontario government to move swiftly to support many small and medium-sized businesses who were in danger of missing their June rent payments.

“Hopefully (the halt) will now motivate more landlords to participate in the CECRA program, which has been a real mess in the absence of commercial eviction protection,” Kelly said.

Ontario now joins British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia as provinces that have implemented some form of a commercial eviction ban. Early last week, the B.C. government announced it was imposing new rules on landlords who are eligible for federal rent relief but don’t apply for it and try to evict tenants for lack of payment. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says legislation is coming (possibly this week) to address those businesses facing eviction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Ontario, NDP economic growth critic Catherine Fife called the halt on commercial evictions too little, too late.

“There’s no excuse for Ford’s failure to act while businesses were going under and workers were being laid off,” she said in a statement.

“Now, the protection is too restricted…business owners need a broader ban on commercial evictions, plus some direct supports to help them make it to the other side of this pandemic.”

Toronto mayor John Tory said the ban on commercial evictions is the sensible “next step” in protecting businesses in the city.

“Removing any worry of being evicted during these difficult times will help allow businesses to stay open as we transition into the reopening phase of this pandemic,” he said in a statement.

  • with files from Michelle Warren

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No mask, no service? C-stores have the right to require customers wear masks

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Customers hoping to get out of putting on a face mask to visit stores demanding they wear one, could be out of luck.

Experts agree with remarks Ontario Premier Doug Ford made on Friday, reminding Canadians that companies have the right to ask you to slip on a face covering or seek products and services elsewhere.

“Any business has the right to refuse anyone. That’s their business,” Ford said on a teleconference last week. “I highly highly encourage that people put on a face shield.”

He said he knows of two large grocery chains that have already adopted the “no mask, no service” policy meant to quell the spread of COVID-19.

The Canadian Press has been told by Longo’s and T&T supermarkets, Air Canada and Uber that shoppers, travellers and riders will be confronted with the mandatory policy at their stores and businesses.

Richard Powers, a University of Toronto associate professor with expertise in business law, said the policy is well within a company’s rights.

“The safety of retail workers and staff trumps the customers right to refuse wearing a mask,” he said.

“Businesses have a legal responsibility to create a safe working environment and if having people wear masks is a reasonable accommodation, which I think it is, to provide that safe environment, I believe that the retailer can refuse entry to someone who will not don a mask.”

City of Toronto spokesperson Diala Homaidan confirmed in an email that “no mask, no service” policies do not contravene any bylaws, but said such rules are not a requirement of business licensing and are left to the discretion of individual companies.

However, businesses that do implement such policies are likely to face concerns from Canadians with health conditions that are aggravated by masks.

Wearing a mask could contribute to an asthma attack for some, she said, while others with autism spectrum disorder may have trouble with sensory processing, as well as tactile, olfactory and nervous-system hypersensitivity that wearing a mask could trigger.

“Be very aware of those with different types of cognitive, intellectual disabilities, those who are hearing impaired and others,” Canada’s top health official said recently.

“Don’t assume that someone who isn’t wearing a mask or is wearing something different doesn’t have an actual reason for it,” chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said.

Powers believes this is a sign some retailers could be in for a fight.

“Someone will challenge that on whatever grounds–discrimination perhaps–and that creates a hassle for the retailer and an expense, if they choose to fight it,” he said.

Adam Savaglio, a partner at business and employment law firm Scarfone Hawkins LLP, said the policy creates “a dance” for companies, especially because governments are advising them to take precautions to protect people from COVID-19.

“It can create a potential discrimination claim because one of the grounds in Ontario, at least under the Human Rights Code, where an individual may have a claim, is they’re being adversely treated on account of a protected ground, in this case, disability,” Savaglio said.

“They may have a personal right of action against the owner of that business for denial of service.”

That can be juxtaposed with health and safety legislation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which says companies have an obligation to protect its employees from all reasonable or forseeable risks of harm.

“That creates a competing rights issue,” he said. “Who triumphs if the individual refuses to adhere to the protocol?”


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Ontario’s new vaping regulations kick in July 1

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C-stores across the province are preparing for new amendments to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which brings with it more restrictive rules for operators when it comes to the sale of vaping products.

The following regulations come into effect July 1, 2020:

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

These changes are part of the Government of Ontario’s efforts to curb youth vaping and were initially to come into play May 1, but as governments and retailers dealt with the ramifications of COVID-19 on business and healthy, it was delayed until next month.

READ: Ontario delays new vaping regulations

Regarding the delay, Dianne Alexander, director Health Promotion and Prevention Policy and Programs Branch, Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Public Health Ministry of Health, said at the time: “The government understands that some of the proposed amendments would require certain businesses to remove inventory from their stores, which may involve contact with others. Providing more time to implement would allow owners and employees of affected businesses to practice physical distancing.”

While industry leaders welcomed the extension, it is largely felt the new rules are an unfair blow to the convenience industry. It’s argued that the convenience sector has a proven track record selling age-restricted products and the move instead puts more power in the hands of unregulated vape shops.

The one caveat is specialty vape stores will no longer be permitted to have indoor displays and promotions that are visible from outside their stores.

Meanwhile, c-stores will have until July 1 to sell out or return to suppliers their existing inventory of higher nicotine and flavours that fall outside the new regulations.


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Ontario delays new vaping regulations

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Ontario’s Ministry of Health is hitting pause on a series of new vaping regulations that were to come into effect on May 1.

The implementation of the new regulations, which have far-reaching effects on the convenience sector, will now be delayed until July 1, giving all parties time to make adjustments while also dealing with the business impacts of COVID-19.

Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 4.29.11 PM“We commend the Ontario government for listening to our concerns regarding the May 1st deadline to remove vaping products from our stores which was not feasible or in the public interest,” says Anne Kothawala, president & CEO of the Convenience Industry Council of Canada. “Major inventory operations, like pulling vape products from our stores, require employees and third-party representatives to meet, travel and have contact with each other all which would have run contrary to guidelines requiring social distancing.”

In a statement, Dianne Alexander, director Health Promotion and Prevention Policy and Programs Branch, Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Public Health Ministry of Health, said: “The government understands that some of the proposed amendments would require certain businesses to remove inventory from their stores, which may involve contact with others. Providing more time to implement would allow owners and employees of affected businesses to practice physical distancing.”

Among the regulatory amendments under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, the following rules are considered a blow to the convenience industry:

  • Restricting the retail sale of flavoured vapour products to Specialty Vape Stores and Cannabis Retail Stores, except for menthol, mint and tobacco flavours.
  • Restricting the retail sale of high nicotine vapour products (>20mg/ml) to Specialty Vape Stores.

C-stores will have until July 1 to sell out or return to suppliers their existing inventory of higher nicotine and flavours that fall outside the new regulations.

While the industry welcomes the extension, they are critical of the province’s overall decision, which puts more power in the hands of unregulated vape shops.

At the time of the announcement, Health Minister Christine Elliott unveiled a number of measures, which were presented as an effort to curb youth vaping.

“As we learned more about the alarming increase in youth vaping, one thing has become abundantly clear: we need to do more,” Elliott said, citing recent studies suggesting use of vaping products among young people surged 74% in the past year. “Indeed, the early evidence is quite concerning.”

However, industry associations are “disappointed” in the strategy, saying the efforts are misguided and do little to address the youth vaping crisis. The consensus is convenience stores, which already sell age-restricted products, such as tobacco, alcohol and lottery, are in an ideal position to sell vapes and accessories.

READ: Industry reacts to Ontario’s proposed vaping regulations 

Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 4.28.54 PM“The entire vape consultation has not been well thought out,” says Ontario Convenience Stores Association CEO Dave Bryans. “Any person buying cigarettes must come into a convenience store and they would purchase their brands in different strengths like light, low tar etc. If they are thinking about moving to a safer alternative, like a vape product… then they should have the option to choose one of the three flavours in the strength of nicotine they are accustomed to. Failing this they will most likely continue to smoke and we don’t see everyday tobacco customers sourcing out a vape shop. The vape shop consumer is a flavour addict using fruity flavours and can option for any strength they desire in tanks or specialty units. C-store customers want to have a pod in a easy-to-use format, not the complications of what a vape store offers.”

The OCSA says it will continue pushing the government to allow for three strength levels of nicotine.

“There may be a marginal number of customers morphing to the vape shops, but I see more of a new black market of flavours from all over the world being available online to everyone,” adds Bryans. “Today, and even with the present legislation, no one has considered the online sales issue, nor have there been any strict age testing requirements at the door to verify the purchaser being over 19.”

While both the CICC and OCSA vow to continue discussions with the government, for the moment c-store operators should start planning around the July 1 deadline.

“Independents should start rationalizing slower moving brands and start educating their customers of the potential changes,” says Bryans, who recommends operators work with suppliers to mitigate the change. “They also still have the option to call their MPP and speak out about this unfairness and potentially sending tobacco smokers to another unproven channel with no track record.”

“At a more appropriate time, CICC will continue to express our concerns about the proposed vaping regulations which will fail to solve the problem of youth vaping,” says Kothawala, “But right now, we will continue to focus on our vitally important role to ensure that Canadians are well supplied with their daily needs during this crisis.”