Ottawa should crack down on vaping ads targeted at kids
The fact that vaping among teenagers increased by a whopping 78 per cent over the past year in the United States is shocking, but not surprising.
Nor is it any surprise that health experts say the trend in Canada is very similar.
After all, tobacco companies have long known that the secret to getting kids hooked on tobacco for life is to catch them before they turn 19 by adding candy and fruit flavours to nicotine products and spending a fortune on “cool” advertising.
So when they turned their marketing guns on vaping, they only had to put into play the same formula that has allowed them to rake in billions around the globe.
That’s why two measures put forward last week by Health Canada to curb youth vaping are so needed, and so welcome. And why it’s important that they become law as quickly as possible.
First are proposals to restrict the advertising of vaping products and require manufactures to put health warnings on the packaging of nicotine-laced e-cigarettes.
The second will come in March, when the government plans to introduce a discussion proposal that could target flavours and designs (such as inhaling devices that look like USB sticks) that attract kids. It would also limit nicotine concentrations in the products, which are inching upwards.
The key now is to ensure that these sensible ideas don’t get bogged down in endless consultations. Restrictions should be put in place as quickly as possible before tobacco giants, who own e-cigarette companies, can lure more kids with their “candy.”
Time is of the essence. A new study published in the journal JAMA Network Open found that young people who used e-cigarettes are four times more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes compared with those who didn’t vape.
If the government doesn’t find a way to put the new regulations into effect soon, an election could get in the way and cause a delay of up to two years, warns Neil Collishaw, research director at Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.
In the meantime, Ontario could join forces with seven other provinces that have banned the promotion of vaping products in convenience stores, as the United States has done, by requiring retailers to store e-cigarettes out of sight in cabinets.
The head-slapping irony of it all is that this province was set to do exactly that last July under regulations passed by the former Liberal government.
But in a remarkably regressive step, the Ford government put all that on hold. It postponed implementation of the restrictive regulations so it could “re-examine the evidence related to vaping as a smoking-cessation tool.”
The facts are clear on this. Vaping is an effective smoking-cessation tool for adults who already smoke. But putting e-cigarettes out of sight in cabinets doesn’t prevent adults from accessing them, anymore than putting cigarettes there stops smokers from buying a pack.
The good news is this: Once the federal changes are in place, the advertisements currently permitted in convenience stores in Ontario will be banned even if the Ford government doesn’t step up to protect youths.
Still, precious time will have been lost. And indeed, the biggest surprise is how long it took for governments to listen to health experts who sounded the alarm about the impending danger of e-cigarettes as a gateway to smoking years ago.
After all, governments around the world have spent a fortune on court cases over the last few decades to establish their right to restrict tobacco advertising.
They need only have followed suit when it became clear the tobacco companies were now aiming their marketing guns on e-cigarettes. Instead, they dithered.
The result? Big Tobacco is not only hooking a new generation on a highly addictive drug — nicotine — with e-cigarettes, but it is once again introducing them to tobacco.
It should not have come to this. All the more reason for the federal government to move as quickly as possible to protect young people.