The interest in and sales of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, vapes, hookah pens, etc.) have increased substantially since introduction to the Canadian market in 2007. Concerns with e-cigarette products and use include safety, youth smoking initiation, and potential to normalize smoking behaviour and undermine existing tobacco control legislation.
As leaders in cancer prevention and tobacco control, the Canadian Cancer Society is monitoring these products closely to assess short and long term health impacts and regulatory needs in Canada.
The Society would like the public to consider the following regarding the use of e-cigarettes for both users and non-users:
- A concerning number of non-smoking youth and adults are trying e-cigarettes.
- E-cigarettes have not been approved in Canada as a smoking cessation product and Health Canada does not recommend them as a cessation aid.
- E-cigarettes with nicotine cannot be legally sold in Canada, but are nonetheless widely available in vaping stores and on the internet. Nicotine e-juice is also widely available and some ‘non-nicotine’ e-cigarettes sold in Canada actually do contain nicotine.
- E-cigarettes without nicotine can be legally sold in Canada. However, it is illegal to make a health claim for these products.
- E-cigarettes aerosol may contain a variety of substances, including propylene glycol, glycerol, flavourings and sometimes nicotine.
- There are no product standards for the ingredients contained in e-cigarettes and e-juice. As a result, e-cigarette ingredients vary among products and may be unknown to the distributor and consumer.
The Propel Centre for Population Health Impact published a special report on e-cigarette patterns and trends in Canada, indicating:
- 16% of BC youth aged 15-19 years old have tried an e-cigarette.
- About 20% of Canadians aged 15-24 have tried an e-cigarette.
- Of youth who have tried an e-cigarette, 57% have never smoked, indicating interest among non-smokers.
Regulations are needed to prevent young people from experimenting with e-cigarettes and to help prevent e-cigarettes from undermining tobacco control efforts. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that federal and provincial governments adopt e-cigarette and e-juice measures regulating:
- sales to minors
- places of use (not allowing in places where smoking is banned)
- advertising and promotion
- where e-cigarettes are sold
- product and ingredient labelling
- addition of flavours and other ingredients
In regulating e-cigarettes, governments should maintain flexibility to revise regulations if e-cigarettes with nicotine are approved for sale by Health Canada.