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Vaping & Bill S-5: Myth vs. Reality

Mike Smider health legislation regulations science smoking study tobacco vaping isn't smoking

Myths about Bill S-5

Myth: Bill S-5 will make vaping products available to adults for harm reduction.

Reality: The bill makes nicotine for e-cigarettes legal. But along with this “legalization” comes a regime that could easily make many if not most products available on the market today illegal. E.g. it bans currently legal zero nicotine flavoured e-liquids (dessert/drinks/confectionary) & hardware testing requirements & document are not specified: there is no guarantee that companies will be able to afford these requirements.

Myth: Bill S-5 establishes reasonable regulations.

Reality: by and large, the regulatory regime treats vapour products as though that are the same as cigarettes. BUT regulation should be proportionate to risk. Considering that vapour products are not likely to exceed 5% the risk of smoking, treating vapour products like cigarettes is wildly inappropriate.

Myth: Bill S-5 will not affect “responsible” businesses that only sell to adults.

Reality: The entire independent industry is deeply threatened by Bill S-5.

Myth: That Bill S-5 is balanced.

Reality: There is no formal harm reduction mandate in the bill. The legalization of nicotine containing ecigarettes is being used to give the impression of “liberalization” yet the formal justification for the regulations in the bill is based in gateway mythology. The existence of the entire vapour industry is at stake. Moreover, Bill S-5 will likely create a new black market for several products that are currently legal

Myths about the product

Myth: Flavours exist solely to attract adolescents to a lifetime of nicotine addiction.

Reality: Flavours (even candy and dessert) are extremely important to adults’ smoke free journey (see e.g. Farsalinos et al 2013). It is overwhelmingly adult smokers and ex-smokers, that buy and use these products to reduce harm and prevent “relapse” to cigarettes.

Myth: Vaping is dangerous.

Reality: According comprehensive evidence reviews by prestigious health groups and medical organizations like the Royal College of Physicians, E-cigarettes are unlikely to pose more than 5% of the risk of combustible cigarettes.

Myth: Vaping isn’t effective

Reality: Nicotine without smoke is a proven method of stopping smoking. Vaping is proving much more popular than NRT as a substitute and competitor for tobacco cigarettes. “E-cigarettes appear to be effective when used by smokers as an aid to quitting smoking” (Royal College of Physicians, 2016).

Myths about the industry

Myth: The vaping industry is marketing to youth.

Fact: The vapor industry is driven by consumer demand. Vapor consumers are almost entirely adult smokers and former smokers seeking a low-risk alternative to cigarettes. Given the large existing pool of consumers (smokers), there is absolutely no motivation for vapor businesses to target marketing to young people. In fact, according to 2015 Statistics Canada data, 15 to 19-year-olds reported NO DAILY USE of e-cigarettes. Among the same age group, only 5% reported OCCASIONAL use.

Myth: The vaping industry is the tobacco industry or behaves like the tobacco industry.

Fact: The vapor industry in Canada is predominantly small, independent businesses established and run by former smokers who switched to vaping. Recent Canadian survey research by Shiplo et al (2017) found that current of e-cigarettes use is almost entirely concentrated among smokers.

Myth: The vaping industry is “the wild west”

Fact: Reasonable regulations are important to the industry, and that the industry has voluntarily adopted standards such as minimum age for purchase and child-resistant packaging, ingredient listing, and warning labels, on its own in the absence of federal regulation. Overly restrictive regulation will drive consumers to the black market and expose them to unnecessary risks.

Is vaping a gateway to smoking?

Myth: Vaping is a “gateway to smoking”; vaping renormalizes smoking

Reality: “Available evidence to date indicates that e-cigarettes are being used almost exclusively as safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, by confirmed smokers who are trying to reduce harm to themselves or others from smoking, or to quit smoking completely” (Royal College of Physicians, 2016)

Myth: Youth are attracted to e-cigarette flavours.

Reality: There are numerous editorials and commentary about this but little evidence to back up the claim (O’Leary et al 2016). Sweet flavours have been around for some time in Canada yet data show that youth do not regularly use e-cigarettes. A US experimental study showed that abstinent teens exhibited almost no interest in trying vapour devices, regardless of flavour (Shiffman et al 2015).



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