Electronic cigarettes need regulatory response, experts say

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By Maddie Keenlyside/ Journal Pioneer  

SUMMERSIDE – Electronic cigarettes are an emerging health concern on the Island, says P.E.I.’s public health office.

Often called ‘vapes’, Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, says electronic cigarettes can still be found in pharmacies and gas stations.

There are concerns the devices may “renormalize” tobacco use among youth, along with the unknown impact on health it carries. Some health officials say too much is still unknown about e-cigarettes related to safety, quality and efficacy as well as second-hand effects on non-users.

Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said e-cigarettes are in fact illegal in Canada. Because nicotine is a drug, a product that contains nicotine is subject to the Food and Drugs Act, he said.

“In the same way the nicotine gum and nicotine patch first needed approval by Health Canada, that would also be true from an electronic cigarette that contains nicotine.”

The Canadian Cancer Society only recommends nicotine replacements that have been approved by Health Canada, and the nicotine-containing e-liquid is not among these, he said.  

“As far as Canada is concerned, there’s no grey area. There’s no doubt that you first need approval from Heath Canada. You can’t go around selling nicotine lollipops or nicotine chocolate bars. The law is clear.”

Luke Hahn is manager of online e-liquid vendor Canada e-Juice.

He started smoking electronic cigarettes in November of 2013, initially as a way to quit tobacco-based cigarettes.

Health Canada has sent his company letters in the past, asking them to cease selling the nicotine-containing e-liquid cartidges to be used in electronic cigarettes, he said.

“They’re trying to say that we need to stop selling them, but the way that the law is right now, there’s no actual legal action Health Canada can take against any of the companies.”

Cunningham said there is a clear need for regulatory response to this new product.

“The P.E.I. government should be prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and should be prohibiting use of e-cigarettes in workplaces and public places where smoking is banned.”

In Nova Scotia, the Minister of Health has said he will be bringing legislation forward this spring. 

“We don’t want kids using e-cigarettes because it normalizes smoking and could be a gateway to future smoking behaviour. Also, we don’t want e-cigarettes used where smoking is banned.”

There are questions about second-hand vapour enforcement questions, and there’s also the issue of renormalizing smoking, he said.

But Canada e-Juice’s Hahn said he doesn’t see why Health Canada is delaying the product. In his opinion, it can help people quit smoking, he said.

“Smoking kills billions of people per year, yet this is a healthy way to quit smoking and it’s not allowed.” 

The nicotine content is optional, and he thinks the vapour is generally less unhealthy than traditional cigarettes.

“The only thing you’re inhaling would be the propylene glycol and the vegetable glycerin.”

“[But] the way I see it, if you’re putting anything into your lungs, it’s not going to be as good as if you were not doing it at all.”

Summerside’s e-cigarette vendor, 902Vapes, declined to comment.

Organizations: Health Canada, Canadian Cancer Society

Geographic location: Canada, P.E.I., Nova Scotia

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  • Mery McDonnell
    May 09, 2014 - 05:39

    FREE & interesting research article comparing the effects of e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke on indoor air quality, http://bit.ly/1ivHgCJ

  • Kent arnott
    May 07, 2014 - 22:23

    Yes think of the children. No more smoking.

  • LM
    May 07, 2014 - 15:43

    The law is clear. Any product containing any level of nicotine cannot be sold in Canada unless it has been approved by Health Canada and given either a Drug Identification Number (DIN) or a Natural Product Number (NPN). The only exemption is when nicotine is a natural substance found in a natural product, such as tobacco leaves and tobacco products made from these leaves. That's why tobacco products do not require a DIN or an NPN. Every other product which provides extracted (from the plant) nicotine - requires government authorization. The confusion stems from the fact that Health Canada's Prescription Drugs List provided an exemption for certain low-level nicotine dispensing products (e.g. gum, inhalers, etc.) when the natural health products regulations were introduced. At that time, the exemption was provided (i.e. nicotine not considered or regulated as a drug) to certain products which already had a proven track record (tested) and already had a DIN. These are the Nicorette products we all know. That being said, the exemption provided by Health Canada, whereby some low-nicotine products no longer require a DIN does not mean that they do not require anything else...they do. Low level nicotine products can instead apply for a NPN. It is irrelevant if a health claim is made or not. The absence of a health claim on a product does not mean that the product is not therefore regulated by the NHP legislation. The NPH regulations do factor for substances like nicotine to be regulated. The government should be enforcing the law and making sure that products sold with any level of nicotine is safe for human consumption. That's their job. The process for such market certification and authorization is 180 days.

  • Brandon
    May 07, 2014 - 02:33

    Where is the evidence to back up the claim that E-cigs normalize smoking and promote it to children? Here's a study done in the UK: http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_891.pdf That states the exact opposite of what is being claimed. The only grounds Health Canada has is the "not market approved" which is a complete crock and a bullying tactic. Nicotine is covered under the Prescription Drugs List http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodpharma/pdl-ord/pdl_list_fin_ord-eng.php. To which it states: in a form to be administered orally by means of an inhalation device delivering 4 milligrams or less of nicotine per dosage unit A dosage unit is a single puff since it requires the activation and deactivation of a button to deliver the dose. Considering our juices even on the high end are only 2.4% nicotine. So that would require 100 puffs of 1ml to deliver just 0.24mg of nicotine per puff. Well below the amount that is restricted.

  • SM
    May 06, 2014 - 22:05

    Every time I read one of these articles It makes me angry. There is no proof it's a gateway to smoking, there is proof however that it is a gateway -From- smoking. "Think of the children" Is used when there is no logical basis in fact or reason. I'm so terribly tierd of fear tactics and emotional manipulation being used. Why are they used? Because their utter determination to wipe out ecigs has no basis in fact or logic. I'm beginning to think the powers that be want me to keep smoking and lining thier pockets and don't want current smokers to quit. "approved methods" of quiting have over a 90% fail rate and champix..well, just google it and see of the possible side effects of that drug. I smoked for 39 years and have copd. Nothing including the "approved methods" worked. I resigned myself to death from smoking until I found vaping. To me, it's harm reduction. I ued a ventolin every two weeks, now, I use one every three to four months. I may not be able to stop vaping but to me, for me, it's a better, safer alternative to smoking which I know will kill me and I couldn't stop. Why as an adult can I not make my own choices, why are my rights as a human being who wants to choose a safer alternative not being valued? I can only guess at the reason, and the reason imo isn't one of concern for my health or well being. I have bought from many many vendors and there is not one that I know of that would see to a minor.

  • Mac
    May 06, 2014 - 20:26

    E-cigarettes do not produce smoke and are not a tobacco product. E-cigarettes should not be treated as regular tobacco cigarettes. The nicotine contained within the e-juice does not fall into any of the restricted categories as set down by the Food and Drugs Act, Part C, C.01.041, Schedule F Drugs, and then further listed out in SCHEDULE F. and therefore are not affected by Part C, C.01.041 of the Food and Drugs Act. Schedule F clearly states under ‘Nicotine and its salts, for human use, except’ the doses, and types that are controlled and exempted both. E-Juice falls within the category ‘Nicotine and its salts, for human use, except’ - (d) in a form to be administered orally by means of an inhalation device delivering 4 mg or less of nicotine per dosage unit as it does not administer more than 4mg per vape (more commonly referred to as puff). An e-smoke is designed to be used a vape at a time, each draw only lasting less than 10 seconds; this makes it unable to produce more than 4mg at a time. I smoked Tobacco for 30 years, finally tried and as Vapers like to say "Switched" ! 9 months now using a e-cig technology. Not 1 puff of stinky cig. I tried almost every quit method available in the past, all failed. Side effects of "Switching": More energy, restored respiratory airways meaning no coughing at all, no daily sinus clearing, no smell, no yellow fingers, saving some money, no more personal embarrassment of being an addicted tobacco smoker etc… Ultimately, a better life and I’m finally free of the burden of horrible horrendous tobacco cigarette addiction. Vape on Folks ! Support this Choice !

  • Juggy
    May 06, 2014 - 20:18

    As far as any powers that be involved in anything these days will be a total wash! Wake up people , THEY Do not care about you at all ! Just what`s left of your Money @ the end of the Day. THEY will not stop till your dead broke either. VAPE HARD Monkeys !

  • Bill Tarling
    May 06, 2014 - 17:37

    It would probably help cover the story better if it was checked for facts first: ARTICLE "Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said e-cigarettes are in fact illegal in Canada. Because nicotine is a drug, a product that contains nicotine is subject to the Food and Drugs Act, he said." FACT In the absence of medicinal claims and/or medicinal function, e-cigarettes do not meet the legal definition of a medicine (a “drug”). E-cigs do not claim to be medicines, or scientifically function as medicines either – facts which several EU courts have already attested to in conclusive rulings. Nicotine-containing products to which the Food and Drugs Act applies (like e-juice, which the Food and Drug Regulations subsequently exempt in the PDL) are explicitly exempted from tobacco classification by the Tobacco Act. ref: http://whatdoesthelawsay.ca/ ARTICLE “As far as Canada is concerned, there’s no grey area. There’s no doubt that you first need approval from Heath Canada. You can’t go around selling nicotine lollipops or nicotine chocolate bars. The law is clear.” FACT Canadian law on e-cigarettes and nicotine is not “grey” at all. The law is exceedingly clear. Confusion on this matter is easily traced back to Health Canada – which states that e-cigarette products with nicotine remain unauthorized as smoking-cessation medicines (“drugs”). But since e-cigarette products with nicotine are not medicines (provided they do not claim to be such), a lack of authorization as a medicine is not a valid criticism. Coffee, despite containing an addictive substance, is not authorized as a medicine either – because it isn’t one and doesn’t claim to be one. Health Canada doesn't have the authority to authorize the products because it's not within their jurisdiction. E-cigarette products in Canada are regulated, but the government of Canada is not recognizing or enforcing the applicable regulations. E-cigarette hardware items (batteries, cartridges, USB chargers, plastic or metal tubes, electronic merchandise etc) are regulated under certification standards in numerous industries as consumer products. E-juice with nicotine is regulated under the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations, 2001, since it meets the legal definition of a consumer chemical product. ATICLE “We don’t want kids using e-cigarettes because it normalizes smoking and could be a gateway to future smoking behaviour." TRUTH Ask any vaper who decided to try a cigarette again after having switched to vaping, and you'll see how asinine that concept is. It's about the equivalency of saying "Yum, I just finished this delicious apple pie grandma just made. It was so good that I would love to try the manure pie at the back of her barn." FACT There is simply no credible evidence to so much as suggest (much less prove) that non-smokers anywhere are taking up e-cigarette usage and then transitioning to smoking real cigarettes – or that they ever will. The Guardian: "Logically, by far their biggest users are smokers. According to Ash's survey, nearly two-thirds of e-cigarette users in the UK are current smokers seeking to cut down or give up altogether, while the remaining third are ex-smokers who have already stopped and are keen not to restart. Only 0.1% of e-cigarette users are nonsmokers." ref: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/may/05/rise-of-e-cigarettes-miracle-or-health-risk ARTICLE [Luke Hahn] which is FACT “They’re trying to say that we need to stop selling them, but the way that the law is right now, there’s no actual legal action Health Canada can take against any of the companies.” RESEARCH RE: 2nd Hand Vapour, and Vaping Air Quality http://onvaping.com/the-ultimate-list-of-studies-on-e-cigarettes-and-their-safety/

  • Current Vaper
    May 05, 2014 - 16:55

    The government will not likely ever approve the sale of ecigs until they can add an "ecig tax", which I'm surprised they haven't done already. For now, they want you to continue to buy cigarettes, not the healthier alternative. If you're an ecig user, you should stock up on supplies while they're still reasonably cheap, in my opinion.

  • Stan
    May 05, 2014 - 14:05

    The prescription drug list explicitly exempts nicotine, "in a form to be administered orally by means of an inhalation device delivering 4 milligrams or less of nicotine per dosage unit", which e-cigarettes meet. Therefore they are exempt. If they were considered a drug, why has no vendor to-date been shut down?

    • SM
      May 06, 2014 - 22:14

      Exactly. It's not illegal.