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Depending on your perspective, last week the province either took appropriate action to protect its young citizens or infringed on individual choice with potentially harmful, unintended consequences.
The government announced that flavoured vaping products would be banned in Nova Scotia.
The ban on the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes and juices goes into effect April 1. Nova Scotia is the first and, to date, the only province to announce a complete ban on flavoured tobacco/nicotine vaping products. Unflavoured, or tobaccoflavoured products will remain available.
The province is also banning flavoured cannabis vaping products. Unflavoured cannabis vaping products will become legally available in Nova Scotia along with edibles late in December, according to a government news release issued Friday.
Across Canada, the illicit cannabis trade continues to flourish despite the availability of the legal product. Nationally, it’s estimated that only about 20 per cent of cannabis products are obtained through the legal, regulated market. Quality, price and selection are generally cited as the reasons provincial governments have turned out to be the worst dope dealers in history.
Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister Mark Furey seemed to acknowledge this problem when he issued a warning about the safety of illegal cannabis vaping products Friday.
“Cannabis vaping products available through the illegal market are not subject to any regulatory controls, may be contaminated, and could pose significant health and safety risks,” Furey said. “All Nova Scotians are strongly encouraged not to use these products.”
To bolster the argument for the bans, the government cited the more than 2,200 cases of severe lung disease related to some form of vaping that have been reported in the United States.
There have been 47 vaping-related deaths in the U.S.
In Canada, there have been 11 cases of severe lung disease reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada, also associated with some form of vaping.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday that so-call dank vapes — uncontrolled vaping products of unknown origin — seem to be behind many of the cases of lung injury in that country.
The ban on the legal sale of flavoured vapes is likely to spawn an illicit trade, and it’s in the illegal marketplace where dank vapes are found.
Therein lies potential for unintended and harmful consequences from a ban on the legal product.
Nova Scotia’s ban on flavoured vaping products is all about the kids. Almost half of the province’s underage vape users — vaping is legally restricted to Nova Scotians 19-years-of-age and older — say they will quit if flavoured products are no longer available.
But the jury is out on what effect the ban will have on the thousands of young Nova Scotians who became addicted to nicotine by vaping. It can be assumed, although not safely because there’s no evidence one way or the other, that the half who won’t quit will either switch to unflavoured or tobacco-flavoured vapor or start smoking cigarettes.
Former smokers who switched to vaping are collateral damage in the ban. There are thousands of adult Nova Scotians who successfully kicked the smoking habit by switching to vaping products. The stated purpose of e-cigarettes and vaping is as a smoking cessation tool.
Purely anecdotal evidence suggests that adult vape users also prefer the flavoured products, and they fear that the ban will drive them back to smoking.
The province is promising legislation “to further address” vaping when the legislature next sits.
That law will undoubtedly set its sights on the illegal trade as well as online sales.
There is no question that e-cigarettes and so-called vaping resulted in a resurgence in the use of nicotine products by young people. Vaping is also more prevalent among young Nova Scotians than it is with their counterparts across the country, although no one seems to know why.
In fact, no one knows much about vaping, other than it arrived in the marketplace more than a decade ago, took a foothold and then, as more products became available, took off. The problem is that it took off among young people resulting in a whole new generation of nicotine addicts.
A ban on flavours will, no doubt, discourage new, young users.
Whether it will push former smokers back to their more dangerous smoking habit or result in unsafe products obtained in the black market are risks the government seems willing to take.