Health Canada will soon have a clearer look into the haze of Canadian vaping habits as new reporting requirements for retailers and manufacturers aim to tackle what some call a “Wild West.”
Under new regulations passed in June, businesses now must submit semiannual sales figures and ingredient lists to Health Canada, with the first reports due at the end of this year. The main goals of these reports are to get a better understanding of what vaping product are popular, especially among youth, and identifying the specific ingredients being inhaled by users.
“The vaping landscape in Canada has for some time been a bit of a Wild West, if you will,” said Sarah Butson, policy analyst with the Canadian Lung Association.
“It is really critical that Health Canada put in place these regulations to get a sense of the scope of the products that are out there in terms of sales, but also importantly in terms of ingredients.”
The first ingredient and sales reports are due in December 31 for all Canadian vape retailers and manufacturers.
The new regulations comes after vaping and related health issues have been in the news over recent years.
Will Quebec prohibit flavoured vapes?
A 2015 Harvard study found the flavouring chemical, diacetyl, was found in more than 75 per cent of tested e-cigarette liquids. This chemical was linked to the chronic lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans – better known as “popcorn lung.”
The revelation spurred international headlines after a Canadian teen who vaped developed similar symptoms in 2019, though a 2021 Health Canada study found diacetyl in two samples of vaping liquid out of more than 800 of those sold in Canada that were examined.
Diacetyl was used to make the buttery flavouring in microwave popcorn, and the condition was linked to the chemical in 2000 when factory working developed the lung disease.
For some in the vaping industry though, the new rules are raising concerns.
Daniel Marien is the director of VITA, a trade organization for the Canadian vaping industry, and owner of the Quebec based LA Vape Shop. He says industry representatives are expecting to have a technical briefing with Health Canada on how exactly these new regulations will impact their operations.
The biggest concern, he said, is whether the full ingredient lists of vape juices and flavors will be made public.
Marien says that could put intellectual property at risk.
“Well, it’s the trade secret of my business that is in jeopardy here because my recipes, if I don’t have an NDA that protects my recipes, I would not be really keen into giving them away,” he said.
“Because for an example, [Coca-Cola] is never going to give their secret recipe if it’s shared to the public. So it’s the same thing for here, right?”
Marien said he doubts international flavouring distributors are going to be keen on sharing their ingredient lists for the same reason.
Canadian teens have highest vaping rates globally
Health Canada says the Dec. 31 deadline should give manufacturers enough time to gather all necessary ingredient information. The agency adds it needs full ingredient lists to get a better understanding of potential health impacts.
As for what ingredient information will be shared publicly, Health Canada says this is still under consideration.
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett said during a press conference on Monday that it’s important to recognize vaping can be a tool to help people stop smoking, but that there is more to do for younger Canadians.
“We actually have to be able to make our policies based on really trying to deal with the education and the prevention aspects in terms of youth vaping,” she added.
Desperate search underway after 2-year-old boy goes missing in France
14-year-old girl missing for 2 weeks found in Marine barracks was ‘sold,’ says aunt
Bennett says she feels like they should be able to get the issue sorted out by working with the vaping sector and Health Canada, pointing to how ingredient reporting is handled in the pharmaceutical industry.
Vaping as a ‘youth epidemic’
Curbing rates of tobacco use and vaping is a long running goal of health officials.
The most recent Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey (CNTS) shows vaping is most popular with Canadians aged 24 and under.
Butson says the Canadian Lung Association has been tracking a rise in young people picking up the habit since it became legal to add in vaping products in 2018.
“Since that time, we’ve really seen what we would call a youth epidemic,” she said.
“So that’s been one of our primary concerns, is the number of folks who would not traditionally use tobacco products who are actually turning and using vaping products.”
About 53 per cent of who recently vaped in the last 30 days say they most often use fruit flavours, according to the survey.
Of the 13 provinces and territories, six have imposed restrictions on flavoured vape products: Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and most recently Quebec. But there is no overarching federal restriction in place.
Teen vaping concerns
Marien said he estimates most of his customer base are over the age of 35, with many vaping as a smoking substitute.
Smoke cessation is the most commonly reported reason for vaping, however the CNTS found stress relief is the most common reason for 15-19 year-olds, while enjoyment takes the top spot for 20-24-year-olds.
Health Canada has said it hopes that gathering sales data can help them better understand trends in what customers are buying and use that data to inform future tobacco control measures.
Similar reporting requirements are in place for tobacco products, but those regulations did not cover vaping products. Cannabis vaporizers aren’t included under these new rules, as they’re governed by the Cannabis Act.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.