The B.C. government has announced tough new regulations in an attempt to curb the growing trend of vaping among youths.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province’s regulations will cover everything from the availability of vaping flavours to the level of nicotine allowed in vapour pods. B.C. is also planning to become the first province to introduce a tax rate specific to the industry.
Dix acknowledged that for some adults, vaping products can be a better alternative to smoking, but also pointed to an alarming study in the British Medical Journal that found youth vaping in Canada increased a staggering 74 per cent between 2017 and 2018.
“In a short number of years, vaping has shifted from being a smoking cessation tool for adults to an addiction trap for youths,” Dix said. “You don’t need studies to see this.”
Parents of high school and even elementary school students have been raising concerns about vaping, the minister said, which is why B.C. is pursuing what he described as “the most comprehensive plan in the country” to address the problem.
B.C.’s plan includes 10 measures, one of which is to define nicotine as a “public health hazard” under the Public Health Act, giving the government the power to limit the amount used in pods to 20 mg. per ml.
Dix said that would put B.C. in line with the allowable limit in the U.K. and European Union.
Restrictions on flavour pods
The government is also restricting where flavoured vaping pods and liquids can be sold. Non-tobacco flavours, including “bubble gum” and others that could potentially appeal to children, will only be available at age-restricted shops.
Other businesses, such as grocery stores, will only be allowed to sell tobacco-flavoured pods and liquids.
Dix said the province considered a complete ban on flavoured products, but the government was concerned that could lead to an illegal market – the kind that’s been linked to some of the cases of severe pulmonary illnesses tied to vaping in the U.S.
There still could be a ban on select flavours that “clearly” target youth, Dix said.
There will also be more education-focused measures, including a vaping prevention toolkit for schools that’s being built in partnership with the B.C. Lung Association.
The government said it still need to consult with the industry, but that officials expect to implement the regulations in the spring of 2020.
New 20 per cent tax rate
B.C. is also planning to introduce legislation this month that would make it the first province in Canada to have a specific tax rate for vaping products.
Under the plan, vaping devices, flavour pods and accessories would be taxed at a rate of 20 per cent, a huge increase from the current seven per cent provincial sales tax applied to the products.
Finance Minister Carole James said the intention behind the tax, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2020, is to deter youth who are price-sensitive.
“Yes, it’s a big tax jump,” James said, adding it signifies a change in terms of the province’s approach to vaping.
The province also intends to increase the tobacco tax rate by two cents.
Meanwhile, health officials in different parts of Canada are dealing with cases of probable vaping-related illnesses. The government said there are five probable cases in New Brunswick, two confirmed cases in Quebec and three probable cases in B.C.
Dix also pointed out the sale and regulation of vaping products is a shared responsibility between Ottawa and B.C., and he called on the federal government to further regulate the industry.
Dix said the regulations are now just catching up to the industry, adding he believes previous governments, including the federal government, “got it wrong.”
Juul Labs Canada told CTV News it’s reviewing the proposed regulations and looks “forward to working co-operatively with policymakers as part of the government’s stakeholder engagement plan.”
“We remain committed to combating underage use, while providing a less harmful alternative to adult smokers,” a spokesperson said in an email.