Quebec proposes a ban on flavoured vapes; but where is Health Canada?

Youth vaping is a serious problem that needs urgent action.

We’ve been seeing a steady increase in vaping among youth year over year, in BC 42% say they’ve tried vaping and 27% say they’ve vaped in the last month. This is worrisome as there are toxic chemicals in the aerosol, which can lead to short-term respiratory and cardiovascular health effects and the longer-term effects remain to be seen. 

E-juice typically includes propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, as well as other toxic chemicals and heavy metals – and nicotine – which makes it so addictive.

When the vapour is inhaled, it pulls tiny particles deep into the lungs, including the toxic chemicals in the vape juice, as well as the nicotine. This increases heart rate and causes inflammation in the lungs.

Flavoured vape products are a big driver of youth vaping, with 90% of BC youth using fruit flavours. The federal government has acknowledged the health risk, which is why it committed to a flavour ban in 2021 that was supposed to be enacted in 2022, though this has yet to happen.

Now, some provinces and territories are taking matters into their own hands.

Quebec has been making waves recently with its proposed ban on the sale of flavoured vaping products to crack down on vaping, especially among young people. Part of the proposed amendment to the province’s anti-tobacco law is to restrict selling vaping products that look like toys, jewels, food items or any other forms that may be attractive to youth.

Quebec is one of several provinces and territories to take action on flavoured vape products: Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island have all enacted similar bans.

Of course, it makes the most sense to have a federal ban on flavours so regulation is consistent across the country and to reduce cross-border issues but if the federal government doesn’t act on it, maybe we should take a page out of Quebec’s book and do something about it.

In 2019, BC announced a comprehensive vaping action plan and was one of the first provinces to do so. The province has restrictions on marketing and access to vaping products for youth, it increased taxes and supported education and cessation services, and a youth advisory and awareness campaign was launched.

This plan is currently under evaluation and we are hopeful that those results will be used to inform and strengthen BC’s next steps on the issue.

With all that said, what do we want to see?

BCAHL has been advocating for plain packaging, enforcement of regulations in retail and online sales, raising the legal purchasing age to 21 and increasing taxes. And if Health Canada doesn’t act to restrict flavours, maybe this is something that BC can do too.

After all, if vapour products are really supposed to be used for smoking cessation, then why do we need anything but tobacco flavour? Why do we need Unicorn Breath, Cotton Candy and Birthday Cake flavours?!

In the meantime, what can parents do to discourage their kids from vaping?

Keep having conversations with your kids about the health risks associated with vaping and smoking, express your concerns and ask for their opinions. Always remember to keep the lines of communication open with them and encourage them to be open about it.

If you need resources or information on how to broach the topic with your kids, here’s one from the BC Lung Foundation.

Watch our Executive Director Rita Koutsodimos and Chair and BC Lung Foundation CEO Christopher Lam talk about the adverse effects of vaping on youth, Quebec’s proposed flavour ban and what it could mean for BC on CTV Morning Live.

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