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Canada’s showdown with electronic cigarettes is about to reach high noon

health effects of e-cigarettes

health effects of e-cigarettesLate last year, a study on electronic cigarettes was initiated after the Canadian Health Minister Rona Ambrose sent a letter to Ben Lobb, Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, asking the committee to study the risks and benefits of electronic cigarettes. The committee held eight meetings and came up with 14 recommendations.

While the subsequent report recommends establishing a regulatory framework for electronic cigarettes, an outright ban doesn’t look to be in the cards.

“The idea of a ban is not really an option at all. They’re here,” said Lobb recently. “Most of the experts concluded that e-cigarettes are better for your health than tobacco cigarettes. If we’re looking at reducing harm to Canadians, that’s a good starting point.”

The grey area around the ecig Canada debate has become untenable. And while no date has been announced, a decision from Health Canada is clearly imminent. While supporters say vaping is harmless to bystanders and could even be beneficial as a tool for smoking cessation, Health Canada’s only advisory on the matter was a thin offering made on March 27, 2009, when it warned Canadians not to purchase or use electronic smoking products.

But the appetite for vaping is growing. The Standing Committee report noted that 741 shipments containing electronic cigarettes were “recommended for refusal” at the Canada-United States border between April 1st and June 30th of 2014.

Although vaping has been around since the 1960’s it popularity has risen sharply in recent years. Users employ a battery powered personal vaporizing device to inhale water vapour flavoured with nicotine or other flavours instead of cigarette smoke. The popularity of the practice has no doubt been aided by widespread bans on smoking cigarettes in public places, after the health dangers of second-hand smoke became clear.

Worldwide the retail vaping industry is expected to soon grow to $3.5-billion.

Last year, within the span of two days, the World Health Organization called for the ban of indoor vaping, while the American Heart Association praised its benefits.

The Canadian report noted that the U.S and the U.K. have not banned electronic cigarettes. It suggested that regulating e-cigarettes as tobacco products by including them in the Tobacco Act would be the most straightforward path, finding very little support or reasoning for regulating them as therapeutic or consumer products.

The question on vaping that is being confronted by governments worldwide comes down to whether the practice is a net-positive or net-negative for society. Some believe the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

“The use of small doses of nicotine is very helpful in getting individuals to stop smoking, which is reflected in the success of nicotine-replacement therapy,” says Dr. Andrew Pipe, MD, chief of prevention and rehabilitation at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

But others think there is a huge risk that vaping could be a gateway to smoking. A recent survey found that more teens are getting their first taste of nicotine from electronic cigarettes than from regular ones.

“The data I’m presenting is the first time we’ve seen such high rates in youth. It is surprising. The one clue about reasons for the high rates is the fact that very few [young people] perceive e-cigarettes to be harmful,” says Wilson Compton, deputy director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse in Washington. “What we’ve seen in the most recent data from 2014 is the surprisingly high rates of use of e-cigarettes by 14-, 16- and 18-year-olds. Those rates of e-cigarette use are higher than traditional cigarettes. So that’s quite surprising that a larger number of teenagers in the US are now reporting current use of e-cigarettes than traditional tobacco cigarettes.”

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Health believes it has answers for this problem, which it describes as the risk of the “renormalization of smoking”. These include making e-cigarettes visually distinct from other tobacco products by not having a glowing tip or filter, prohibiting flavouring that specifically appeal to young people, preventing tobacco companies from placing their logos on vaping equipment, and securing e-cigarettes in child resistant packaging.

Worldwide, few countries have outright bans on vaping, instead opting for a regulatory patchwork of half-measures. South Korea taxes the hardware. Switzerland and Sweden ban the hardware but not the practice of vaping. China lets the responsibility fall to the municipal level.

Those looking for international leadership on e-smoking will likely come away as confused as nation states seem to be on the matter. Last year, within the span of two days, the World Health Organization called for the ban of indoor vaping, while the American Heart Association praised its benefits.

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About The Author /

Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.
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  1. There is confusion among people who financially benefit from the tobacco trade. That would include people who research medical issues and bureaucrats who have jobs in public health. If tobacco sales collapse, a realistic possibility, a lot of those people will be looking for other work. When that happens I will celebrate. I won’t miss any of those people.

  2. Vaping is better than smoking. Well intentioned but emotionally (or fiscally) motivated bans will have the unintended consequence of sticking up for cigarettes. The jury is NOT out on them; they are convicted killers. Smokers know this.
    Vaping would not be such an issue for established moneyed interests (Tobacco, states relying far too much on MSA and sin tax payments, pharma companies losing sales on patches.)if it weren’t working for smokers everywhere. Only 2 kinds of smokers left: those who have already tried the Pharma remedies and failed to quit, often repeatedly, so telling them to try again seems both cruel and expensive and
    Those nicotine users, like myself, who never planned to quit. Vape shops are converting smokers tobacco control could never reach, and they are doing it with no cost to the taxpayer, to a far safER option. Even if the bar is low, tobacco harm reduction is worthwhile. I am glad kids have a positive view of vaping: they probably like that Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa aren’t smoking around them anymore, smell better and can play with them for longer.
    I know my granddaughters, and my two nonsmoking, adult kids are pretty damned happy about it.
    54 years old. Smoker for 36 years, and would certainly be smoking to this day had it not been for a Generation 2 device – not brought to me by Big Tobacco – and a pomegranate flavored e liquid. I also like coconut cream pie and mint chocolate ice cream flavors. So it’s really not a kid thing. Vape shops, unlike Big Tobacco, do not have to hook kids. One fifth of the adult population smoke, in spite of hateful shaming. So there’s plenty of adult customers who love flavors. Big Tobacco needs to sell to kids, but that’s another story completely.

  3. Nor will I. I’m so tired of them being Alarumed.
    Quit being weak-willed, tobacco control. Go cold turkey. You’ll feel better someday…..or not.

  4. It is totally unacceptable to regulate vaping under any act that has anything to do with tobacco. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY AND CATEGORICALLY NO TOBACCO IN E-CIGARETTES OR ADVANCED PERSONAL VAPOURIZORS – PERIOD! Some e-liquids (the ones that actually help people cut back or quit smoking combusted cigarettes) do contain nicotine. [As do potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and a multitude of other vegetables that have been ingested for hundreds of years]. Guess what? Nicotine, on its own and not combined with the Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors and Tobacco Specific Nitrosamines found in cigarette smoke is not particularly addictive! It’s pretty much equivalent to caffeine – found in every corner Starbucks. In fact nicotine (not ingested by smoking a cigarette) has many beneficially effects. It has been found in clinical studies to reduce dyskenisias in Parkinsons by up to 65% and has helped increase focus and cognitive function in Alzheimers.

    Governments and “Public Health” should be embracing vaping as a consumer product that has been able to accomplish more health improvements in ten years than it took them 50 years (and heinous harassment and vilification) to chip away at.

  5. I am so bloody tired of hearing about how many more youth are vaping than smoking. Especially when the study that information came from did show that at the same time as vaping increased smoking DECREASED almost equally among youth!
    So am I to believe that somehow our health “professionals”, who made it through post secondary, seem to have forgotten the very skills that got them their degrees? Or are they all regurgitating the exact same redacted studies handed them by agencies with extreme conflicts of interest, considering their biggest funders survival begins and ends with tobacco and pharmaceutical’s handouts these days.
    Youth are quitting smoking and trying vaping instead. As a smoker who started at age 15 I can tell unequivocally that this is a good thing! Let thier parents decide, but feed them the real information to aid thier decision for once!
    I am boycotting any so called health agencies LYING about the dangers of vaping, which are few and exponentially less dangerous than tobaco and pharmaceutical’s. You should too!

  6. They wrote all those laws before vaping was even around. No way should cigarette laws be applied to vaping. Anybody for this is just Living in the Past. Smokers and their families deserve a better choice.

  7. There is also a global group of health professionals in favor of Tobacco Harm Reduction known as M.O.V.E. – Medical Organizations supporting Vaping and E-Cigarettes. They have alot of expert members and scientific studies far more up to date than 2009.
    Also even nonsmokers who don’t miss stinky smoke or cigarette butts in their lives should join us in destroying smoking by supporting House Bill H.R. 2058 to move the vaping products grandfather date to the realistic time of laying down the deeming regs, instead of prehistoric 2007.
    It shouldn’t matter who came up with this life-changing technology – although the people who aren’t corporations did. It ought to matter we’re destroying cigarettes, and anybody standing in the way is standing on the wrong side of history in this.

  8. To the people who think that vaping is just a way to quit smoking tobacco you couldn’t be more wrong it is a hobby a culture and a way of life for true vapers for the ones who think it should be banned because that it put teens and children at risk for smoking tobacco products you are also wrong kids and teens will do what they do doesent matter if it’s crack or booze they will do what they want to do and honestly if u would try a vaping product you will more than likely choose vaping over tobacco so basically what I am trying to say is get your fucking facts straight befor u non- vapers decide to run your mouths off try a vaping product for a cpl weeks then try smoking cigarettes and U will see a dramatic difference

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