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Industry reacts to Health Canada’s proposed vaping regulations

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While the Convenience industry agrees with Health Canada’s mandate to reduce youth vaping, Ottawa’s new proposed vaping regulations aimed at reducing the level of nicotine in vapour products will stand in the way of adult smokers looking to quit, while putting unrealistic expectation on c-store operators.

In a statement, Imperial Tobaccos said the proposal “will severely hinder the federal government’s ability to reach its stated objective of reducing the smoking rate in Canada to less than 5%  by 2035.”

Health Canada announced Friday it is proposing to lower the maximum nicotine concentration allowed for vaping products that are manufactured or imported for sale in Canada to 20 mg/ml. The current limit is 66 mg/ml, which would remain the maximum concentration allowed for any vaping products intended for export markets. The new rules would forbid the sale of any vaping product if the nicotine concentration listed on the packaging is higher than the new limit.

“Health Canada recognizes the concept of offering reduced risk products as a way to reduce exposure to the harmful chemicals caused by smoking. In addition, it recognizes vaping as a less harmful alternative to smoking,” said Eric Gagnon, VP of corporate and regulatory affairs at Imperial Tobacco Canada. “It is unfortunate that the government is considering a measure that will hinder vaping products from reaching their full potential as a less harmful alternative to smoking.”

The Convenience Industry Council of Canada agreed, calling Ottawa’s proposal “misguided,” and said that the move will push adult users back to tobacco, or to the illegal online market. Also, adult smokers considering transition will be discouraged: CICC member sales data shows that more than 80% of convenience store customers purchase the higher nicotine content product when beginning the transition to vape.

“Canada’s convenience stores are the primary destination for adult smokers looking to make a switch to a reduced risk product,” says CICC president and CEO Anne Kothawala. “Our sales data shows that smokers require sufficient nicotine concentration in order to successfully transition. Offering our customers this choice and encouraging them to make the switch is in line with Health Canada’s stated public health objective of reducing smoking rates.”

Imperial Tobacco says the government acknowledges this risk when it states, “it is anticipated that the vaping industry would experience the loss of sales to adult customers who choose to discontinue using vaping products rather than transition to vaping products that contain 20 mg/mL nicotine or below.”

While it could be debated whether or not the current cap of 66 mg/ml is appropriate, said Gagnon, “he proposed 20 mg/ml is too low and will not satisfy a portion of current Canadian vapers nor smokers seeking a less harmful alternative. It is hard to understand why the government would enact a policy measure knowing full well it will drive up the number of smokers in Canada.”

Nicotine caps will not solve the youth vaping issue, adds Kothawala. “We support the government’s goal of addressing youth vaping and are proud that our channel has a proven track record of retailing age-restricted products. Convenience stores are not the problem. Reducing youth vaping requires a multi-faceted approach that clamps down on the unregulated online market and provides for stiffer penalties for any retailers selling to minors. This policy will make it more likely that youth will access higher nicotine vaping products through illegal online markets.”

In addition, she says the the proposed implementation date of 15 days is “simply unworkable” for our retailers. “Previous implementation timelines have been months long – not days – which allow convenience stores to become compliant. This will impose significant costs on our industry at a time when businesses are struggling with both the economic and health impacts of COVID-19. Government has already acknowledged these challenges earlier this year when they provided a six-month extension to previous vape regulations and should apply the same approach in this case. We are calling on the government to reconsider their decision to limit nicotine concentrations and to increase the implementation period for retailers.”

The government says it is also thinking about added regulatory measures that would restrict flavours in vaping products, and make the industry give more information about their products, including details on sales, ingredients and research and development.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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Health Canada proposes reducing nicotine concentration limit in vaping products

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The federal government says it wants to reduce the amount of nicotine allowed in vaping products as part of greater efforts to curb their appeal to young Canadians.

Health Canada announced Friday it is proposing to lower the maximum nicotine concentration allowed for vaping products that are manufactured or imported for sale in Canada to 20 mg/ml. The current limit is 66 mg/ml, which would remain the maximum concentration allowed for any vaping products intended for export markets.

The new rules would forbid the sale of any vaping product if the nicotine concentration listed on the packaging is higher than the new limit.

“Our work to protect Canadians from the harms of vaping products continues,” federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a statement announcing the move.

“These changes will help reduce the appeal of vaping products to youth.”

The department is launching a 75-day public consultation Saturday on the proposed new regulations, seeking feedback from all Canadians. The consultation will end March 4.

The government says it is also thinking about added regulatory measures that would restrict flavours in vaping products, and make the industry give more information about their products, including details on sales, ingredients and research and development.

The Canadian Cancer Society welcomed the move, saying British Columbia, Nova Scotia and the European Union have already limited nicotine concentration on vaping products to 20 mg/ml, while Quebec has announced its intention to do so. Meanwhile, some products currently sold here contain nearly triple that amount.

“The high rate of youth vaping is of fundamental concern and provides the necessary rationale for the new regulations,” Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, said in a statement Friday.

“High nicotine levels have contributed to a new generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes,” he said.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada echoed that message and pushed for more.

“We also urge Health Canada to move quickly on other important measures to address the youth vaping crisis including comprehensively restricting flavours and increasing taxation,” said Dr. Andrew Pipe, chair of the board.

The Canadian vaping industry trade association said the lower nicotine limit would make adult smokers who are using cigarettes and other tobacco products considered more harmful than vaping products, less likely to switch.

“Considering the disparity of harm between vaping and smoking, we don’t understand why the federal government would be using Health Canada resources during a global pandemic to explore making it harder for adult smokers to switch to a reduced risk product,” Daniel David, president of VITA of Canada, said in a statement Friday.

Anne Kothawala, president and CEO of the Convenience Industry Council of Canada, made a similar argument, adding the government’s proposal to have the rules come into force 15 days after the final version is published is too short a timeline.

“Previous implementation timelines have been months long _ not days _ which allow convenience stores to become compliant,” she said in a statement.

“This will impose significant costs on our industry at a time when businesses are struggling with both the economic and health impacts of COVID-19.”

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Ottawa’s vaping ad regulations kick in Friday

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Ottawa’s new rules restricting the promotion of vaping products are set to take effect this Friday (Aug. 7), while some point-of-sale regulations will be implemented on Sept. 6.

Health Canada published regulations July 8 prohibiting vaping advertisements in public spaces where youth may be exposed to them.

The nationwide ban on vaping ads applies to all retail locations and online stores that sell e-cigarettes, except for adult-only establishments, such as designated vaping shops. However, “permitted ads displayed where youth are not permitted convey a health warning about vaping product harms.”

This means that c-store operators across the country must remove all window, point-of-sale and in-store marketing materials, as well as product displays.

These requirements are applicable only when a province or territory does not already have such requirements in place. Ottawa stated in a release: “The Government of Canada remains concerned by the rise in youth vaping and is acting to address it.”

These new changes will further restrict the promotion of vaping products, to protect youth from being exposed to advertisements that can induce them to try vaping. It will now be prohibited to advertise vaping products in public spaces if the ads can be seen or heard by youth, whether in brick and mortar stores, online or other media channels.

In addition, the display of vaping products at point-of-sale where youth have access will be prohibited. These changes will also require that any permitted ads displayed where youth are not permitted convey a health warning about vaping product harms. These requirements are applicable only when a province or territory does not already have such requirements in place.”

Health Canada is also considering additional regulatory measures “that would further restrict the nicotine content of vaping products, further restrict flavours in vaping products, and require the vaping industry to provide information about their vaping products, including sales, ingredients, and research and development activities.”

Health Canada has invested more than $12 million over three years in a national vaping public education and prevention campaign.


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B.C.’s new vaping rules a blow to c-stores

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The British Columbia government is moving ahead with regulations designed to making vaping less appealing for young people by restricting the availability of vaping products in convenience stores.

During a news conference last week, the province’s Health Minister Adrian Dix said the sale of flavoured nicotine vapour products will be restricted to adult-only shops: “We have the power to restrict flavours. Only tobacco flavours will be allowed.”

The proposed changes are expected to be fully in place by the end of summer and represent another blow to the convenience industry, which is grappling with similar restrictions in other provinces, including Ontario.

The Government of British Columbia’s regulations restricting the availability of vaping products in convenience stores, while allowing specialty vape shops and online retailers to continue to operate unchecked, will not address youth vaping, counters the Convenience Industry Council of Canada.

“All the available evidence shows that convenience stores outperform specialty retail shops in the responsible retailing of age-restricted products. Recent reports released by the Government of Canada show that 87% of convenience stores passed their mystery shopping tests, compared to the 20% of vape shops which passed,” says CICC president and CEO Anne Kothawala, noting that eight out of 10 vape shops failed mystery-shopping tests.

In addition, CICC points out that the largest study of its kind conducted in Canada, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) “2019 Drug use Among Ontario Students Report” found that convenience stores were ‘the least common source of vaping products for youth: Borrowing from a friend topped the list (53.7%), buying from a friend or someone else (11.2%), and purchasing from a specialty vape store (9.7%) were the top three sources, with convenience stores making up less than 1%. “This report confirms what we have been saying for months; convenience stores are not the source of vaping products for youth,” says Kothawala.

However, the backlash continues, with Health Canada earlier this month moving ahead with new rules banning the promotion of vaping products in places young people can access.

Calling nicotine a “public health hazard,” Dix did acknowledge the role vaping could play in helping adult smokers reduce risk. “Vaping is of course, for some people, harm reduction. And if you are a lifetime smoker, it can have that impact, it can reduce the harm from smoking…. But if you are a young person, if you are under 19, it is not harm reduction, it is just harm.”

A Canadian student tobacco, alcohol and drugs survey found youth vaping among students in grades 10-12 increased in B.C. from 11% in the 2014-15 school year to 39% last year. Across the country, the increase was from 9% to 29%.

Other changes introduced by the B.C. government include restricting the amount of nicotine in the pods and ensuring c-stores will only be allowed to sell vapour products in plain packaging with health warnings.

In a statement, the Canadian Cancer Society welcomed the announcement. “The high levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes are an important factor contributing to skyrocketing rates of youth vaping in Canada. It is hoped that the action by the B.C. government will prompt the federal government to establish the same maximum nicotine level for all of Canada.”

The CICC maintains the proposal to reduce nicotine concentrations could force adult customers of vaping products back to cigarettes.

“Our industry sales data shows that over 90% of adult smokers who switched from tobacco to a reduced risk vaping product chose a flavoured option with a nicotine concentration that matches that of a cigarette,” says Kothawala. “While we fully support any efforts to combat the increase in youth vaping, restricting the ability of convenience stores to offer the products our adult customers need to successfully quit smoking is not only misguided, it is dangerous public policy.”

Meanwhile, most of the changes, including the nicotine and flavouring regulations, will be immediately enforced in British Columbia, while remainder of the regulations will be implemented starting Sept. 15.

“There is still time for the B.C. government to implement policies that will actually work, but until the government addresses the true sources of youth access to vaping products from online retailers and vape shops that continually violate federal laws, they will not address the youth vaping issue and will fail to meet their harm reduction strategy,” says Kothawala.

  • with files from The Canadian Press

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Ban on vaping ads that can be seen by youth to take effect in August

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Ottawa’s new rules restricting the promotion of vaping products in places young people can access are set to come into effect next month.

Health Canada published regulations July 8 prohibiting vaping advertisements in public spaces where youth may be exposed to them.

The ban applies to all retail locations and online stores that sell e-cigarettes, except for adult-only establishments.

The measures are set to take effect on Aug. 7, while some point-of-sale regulations will be implemented on Sept. 6.

The move comes in response to mounting research to suggest that teen vaping is on the rise in Canada.

According to the 2018-2019 Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, 20 per cent of high school students said they used e-cigarettes in the last month, which is double the rate reported in 2016-2017.


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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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Alberta introduces legislation to regulate vaping, ban e cigarettes for minors

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Alberta has introduced new legislation on vaping that would include a ban on anyone under 18 from using e-cigarettes.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says there is mounting evidence on the health risks of vaping and statistics show more young people in Alberta are indulging.

“Strong action needs to be taken to address significant increases in youth vaping,” Shandro said Tuesday prior to introducing the bill in the house.

Shandro’s ministry says that in the last five years, vaping rates among high school students has risen to 30% from eight. It also says evidence continues to show health risks, including lung damage and nicotine poisoning.

Alberta is the only province without vaping legislation.

“No one fully knows yet all the health harms from vaping, but the recent emergence of vaping-associated lung illnesses and deaths is a warning,” said Shandro.

“Vaping is not a harmless behaviour without short- or long-term consequences.”

If the bill passes, there would be restrictions _ matching those in place for traditional tobacco products _ on displaying and promoting vaping products in stores. Speciality vape stores would be exempt.

The province said it does not intend to ban or restrict flavours for e-cigarettes, but the bill proposes cabinet be allowed to make such restrictions once the law is passed and proclaimed.

The legislation would also expand the list of places where traditional smoking and vaping would be banned _ adding playgrounds, sports fields, skateboard and bicycle parks, and public outdoor pools _ to further avoid exposing youth to products and second-hand smoke.

Vaping would also be banned in places where smoking is already forbidden, such as hospitals, post-secondary schools and stores where pharmacies are located.

If the bill passes, the new rules are expected to take effect sometime this fall.

The legislation follows a review of vaping that began last year. The government said 250 people were consulted and another 9,500 provided online comments.

NDP health critic David Shepherd said the legislation is necessary and sends the right message, but it could be improved.

Shepherd wants flavoured vaping products sold only in age-restricted specialty stores.

“We know that flavouring is a way of attracting young users,” said Shepherd.

The issues of flavoured products remains up for debate.

Nova Scotia recently banned the sale of flavoured vaping products. Prince Edward Island has indicated it plans to do the same.

In B.C., the sale of vape flavours will only be allowed in age-restricted shops.

Alberta joins the majority of other provinces and territories in Canada that have set 18 as the minimum age for buying and using tobacco and vaping products.

P.E.I. recently raised the minimum age to 21.

 

 


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Nova Scotia sets tough maximum nicotine level for vaping products

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Nova Scotia has approved a new regulatory cap on e-liquids and cigarettes making it the first province to adopt a maximum nicotine concentration of 20 milligrams per millilitre.

An order in council signed in May amends the province’s Tobacco Access Act regulations and takes effect Sept. 1.

The move follows an amendment passed in March that banned flavoured vaping products.

The Canadian Cancer Society says Nova Scotia’s maximum nicotine level is the same standard that has been in place in the 28-country European Union for some years.

In an email, the provincial Health Department says the regulatory changes will enhance efforts to protect youth from the harms of nicotine by reducing their exposure to highly addictive concentrations.

A 2016-17 survey suggested 37% of Nova Scotia students in grades 7 to 12 had tried vaping at least once – one of the highest rates in Canada.

In a news release, the Canadian Cancer Society noted a recent study by University of Waterloo researchers that found youth vaping among 16-19 year-olds in Canada more than doubled over a two-year period, from 2017 to 2019.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that youth vaping increased from 8.4% in 2017 to 17.8% in 2019 – a 112% increase.

“This dramatic increase in youth vaping has been after tobacco companies entered the Canadian market for e-cigarettes following legalization of e-cigarettes with nicotine in May 2018,” the cancer society said.

It also noted that last November, British Columbia announced it would adopt a regulation for a maximum nicotine level of 20 milligrams per millilitre. The regulation is yet to be adopted.

The Quebec and federal governments have also said that they are considering the measure.

A vaping industry group said that the Nova Scotia government’s move would “make it harder for heavy smokers to quit and do little to combat access by youth.

“The result is that smokers may stay smoking, vapers may go back to smoking or vapers may try to obtain higher nicotine and flavoured products from the illicit market or from other provinces,” the Vaping Industry Trade Association said in a statement.

 


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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.