ITCAN has invested in less-risk products like vape brand Vuse. Can you talk about this evolution?
Vuse is seeing fantastic growth across the country. Canadian adult nicotine consumers are becoming more interested in switching from cigarettes to less harmful alternatives like vaping products. While we sell and distribute less harmful products, we ultimately rely on convenience stores to make these products available to adult nicotine consumers, while, of course, making sure that minors do not have access to them. The importance of product knowledge and responsible sales on the part of our convenience store partners is crucial, especially given the constant innovation and addition of new products. With new connected devices like our ePod2+ hitting shelves, as well as launches of Vuse GO and Vuse GL XL in the disposable segment, we’re extremely grateful for the role convenience store employees are playing in offering less harmful choices to customers.
How do you empower c-store employees?
We offer direct-to-store service to over 20,000 convenience retailers. Through this model, our national field force of trade marketing representatives provides retailers with information about our products and programs so that adult nicotine consumers are able to get answers to their questions.
How would you characterize vaping regulations in Canada?
Canada has some of the most restrictive tobacco and vaping regulations in the world. We agree that regulations are needed, but governments must look at the risk continuum of tobacco and vaping products.
Vaping and cigarettes are not the same, especially when it comes to health risks. And they should not be regulated in the same way and adult consumers should be made aware that vaping products are less harmful than cigarettes, which is not the case today. Governments should embrace vapour products as part of their own smoking cessation programs.
However, multiple regulatory threats remain, including flavour bans that would limit the potential of these less harmful alternatives. We know that for vaping products to fully achieve their harm reduction potential, information about these products must be made more readily available, they must be accessible, and be more affordable.
Most regulations are driven by the fact that some youth gain access to vaping products, which is why at ITCAN we have a robust Youth Access Prevention program, including retailer training, offering POS signage, multi touch-point age verification process for online sales, etc. This is where all retailers in Canada have an important role to play. By demonstrating they are responsible and doing everything they can to limit youth access to vaping products, retailers can play a big part in limiting over-regulation of this category.
Do you think government is coming around to the role vaping can play in smoking cessation programs?
We have recently seen a shift and maybe even a step forward in the road to accepting tobacco harm reduction as part of Canada’s public health strategy. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada have recently used Twitter to post a bold statement, “Switching to vaping nicotine is less harmful than continuing to smoke cigarettes.” We hope that this is the first step of many more to drive the acceptance of the category.