Ontario is banning the promotion of vaping products in convenience stores and gas stations starting Jan. 1 in hopes of curbing fast-rising use by teens, the Star has learned.
The move to be announced Friday by Health Minister Christine Elliott reverses a decision Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives made after taking power to scrap a ban the Liberal administration had slated to take effect in July 2018.
“Restricting the promotion of vapour products in retail stores will help prevent youth from being exposed and influenced,” Elliott says in a statement obtained by the Star.
“Vaping is not without risk, and the potential long-term effects of vaping remain uncertain.”
Under the new regulation, promotion of vaping products will be allowed only in specialty vape stores and cannabis retail stores where customers must be at least 19 years old to enter.
The Canadian Cancer Society, the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, other health advocates and the opposition New Democrats have been calling on the Progressive Conservatives to reinstate the ban for more than a year to stop more teens from taking up the habit, but have met stiff resistance from the government.
But in late September — following a sharp rise in U.S. cases of vape illness and a report from public health officials in London, Ont., about a teen who developed a serious pulmonary sickness and was on life support after daily vaping — Elliott directed hospitals to begin reporting vape illness cases and began consulting with experts on how to deal with vaping and potential lung damage.
“As we continue to engage with experts and families to identify further action we can take to protect youth, this first step will help begin to curb the alarming increase in young people vaping,” Elliott said of the ban.
It brings rules for the promotion of vaping in line with regulations for the promotion of tobacco under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which has required cigarettes to be hidden from public view in cabinets or drawers since 2005.
Dr. Christopher Mackie, the chief medical officer at the London-Middlesex Health Unit, warned last month that teens “are becoming addicted to nicotine in droves right now” through vaping devices and noted even his 10-year-old daughter has become aware of brand names for the products.
“It is time we get a hold on this advertising,” he said.
Aside from pushing for the reinstatement of the promotional ban, New Democrat MPP France Gelinas, her party’s health critic, has called on the government to ban flavoured vape juices aimed at teens and cautioned that teens who take up vaping with highly addictive nicotine are more likely to begin smoking cigarettes.
Nicotine can impair teen brain development and interfere with memory and concentration.
U.S. President Donald Trump said in September that the Food and Drug Administration will ban thousands of flavours used in e-cigarettes, except the tobacco flavour, as a means of targeting a surge in underage vaping that has alarmed parents and health authorities.
The Ford government’s decision to scrap the ban last year was widely seen by critics as a nod to the convenience store sector, which the Conservatives had courted during their election campaign with the promise to allow sales of beer and wine in corner stores — something that has not happened yet owing to complicated negotiations with The Beer Store.
Until recently, the government has defended the promotion of vaping products in convenience stores and gas bars by noting they are “prohibited from selling tobacco and vapour products to anyone under the age of 19.”