Nova Scotia’s disastrous e-cigarette flavour ban should be a warning to the federal government | Geoff Russ

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There will almost certainly be higher rates of cancer, along with unjustified and arbitrary blows to the economy

You may have missed it, but May 30 was World Vape Day. In Canada, it took place amidst an atmosphere of uncertainty for those in the vaping industry, and vapers in general.

Health Canada is considering a countrywide flavour ban on all electronic cigarette products, except for the flavours of menthol and tobacco. While flavour bans are intended to reduce vaping rates among youth, that benefit is outweighed by its negative consequences: a flavour ban will kill jobs, drive many back to smoking cigarettes and pack cancer wards from Charlottetown to Victoria.

In 2020, Nova Scotia’s government gutted the burgeoning e-cigarette industry with a provincial ban on the sales of flavoured vape liquids, except for tobacco (which makes little sense because e-cigarettes are naturally flavourless and many people who have quit smoking have no desire for something that tastes like simulated burnt plant matter).

According to a report from Nova Scotia Public Accounts, tobacco tax revenues increased by 13.6 per cent in 2021, a year after the province implemented the flavour ban, with the report citing increased cigarette usage as one of the reasons. Christopher Fournier, who owns a vape shop in Halifax, unsurprisingly, has nothing good to say about the flavour ban.

“My business’ sales dropped immensely and made it very difficult to continue to serve my loyal customers. It drove thousands of customers back to smoking,” wrote Fournier in an email. “Cigarettes are cheaper and more accessible and smoking rates have gone up.”

At the end of December, a study published in the American Medical Association Journal found evidence that people using e-cigarettes daily were eight-times more likely to quit smoking tobacco.

Although the study did not reach a decisive conclusion, the connection between increased e-cigarette use and reduced tobacco consumption is easy to see. It is also clear that decreased tobacco consumption reduces rates of cancer. A 2021 study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that nearly half of cigarette smokers will develop cancer by age 80.

The Canadian Cancer Society’s annual report for 2021 placed Nova Scotia among the three Canadian provinces with the highest cancer rates. In April, a Nova Scotian released a video revealing that she waited two years just to be told she had cancer, and has had no luck getting treatment.

Adding to Nova Scotia’s problems is that its unemployment rate is higher than the national average. According to a September 2021 study produced by the Vaping Industry Trade Association (VITA), 73 per cent of Nova Scotian vape stores closed down as a result of the provincial flavour ban, with nearly 44 per cent of smaller vape shops going out of business within two months of the new rules coming into effect.

Furthermore, VITA’s report described how some surviving vape stores in Nova Scotia were not complying with the ban, using deceptive packaging to conceal banned flavours.

Vaping industry advocates have proactively engaged with the government, and publicly stated their desire to see vape products kept away from youth through reasonable regulations. However, Fournier said that the federal government has not reciprocated the industry’s co-operative approach.

Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of mental health and addictions and associate minister of health, whose office is involved with the possible amendments to the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, could not be reached for comment. This does not surprise Fournier, as he cannot even reach his local MP.

“The federal government can rarely be reached and seems to deliberately ignore their voting constituents,” said Fournier. “I have been attempting to reach out to MP Darren Fisher for over two years with no response.”

For MPs like Fisher, who represents the riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia should serve as a cautionary tale for any national flavour ban they vote on in the near future.

Youth vaping should be discouraged, but the need to keep young people away from vaping with a flavour ban should not take precedence over the negative side effects it would have on the rest of society. There will almost certainly be higher rates of cancer, along with unjustified and arbitrary blows to the economy.

Canada’s health-care system is buckling nationwide and a spike in cigarette consumption will exacerbate the existing problems. Forcing vape stores out of business will only serve to increase unemployment and hinder the economic recovery.

“Vape producers, distributors and shop owners like me are not going anywhere, no matter how much they try,” said Fournier. “We are in this to help people quit smoking cigarettes, save lives and help the overall health of our fellow Canadians.”

Preventing small business owners like Fournier from earning a living and saving lives in the process would be foolhardy and completely unjustified.

Read full article here.

Geoff Russ – National Post – 2022-06-08.

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