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EDITORIAL: Be cautious about THC vaping

Nova Scotia is being urged to toughen rules on vaping, while Health Canada is concerned about the health risks of THC vaping products. - Reuters

Vaping held such promise.

E-cigarettes were seen at first as a way for smokers to quit, by stepping down to a product that delivered a nicotine hit but didn’t coat your lungs with tar.

It still serves that purpose for many people, but health authorities are sounding alarms that health and addiction risks are higher than originally thought, and other groups are pushing for stricter rules around the sale and promotion of e-cigarettes.

And both Health Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control are warning specifically about vaping products from unregulated or illegal sources, including any products containing THC.

Last week, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Nova Scotia Lung Association urged the provincial government at a legislative committee meeting to curb e-cigarette use in the province.

They’re worried about the appeal of vaping to teenagers, telling the committee that e-cigarette use among Nova Scotia teens is almost twice the national average.

They say we should follow the lead of British Columbia, which last week changed rules surrounding the sale and promotion of e-cigarettes, increasing taxes from seven to 20 per cent, cutting allowable nicotine levels and restricting advertising, packaging and promotion.

The groups say Nova Scotia should go even further, raising the minimum age for buying e-cigarettes to 21. The cancer society favours banning ads and flavoured products altogether as a way of reducing their appeal to teenagers.

More alarming, though, are the health warnings about THC vaping. Vaping devices can handle cannabis products and can deliver THC as effectively as nicotine.

Health Canada issued a warning earlier this year after 42 deaths and more than 2,000 serious lung injuries in the U.S. were linked to vaping. In Canada, eight cases of severe lung illness linked to vaping have been reported: three in Quebec, three in B.C. and two in New Brunswick.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have identified vitamin E acetate as a “chemical of concern” in vaping products.

This chemical was found in every one of 29 samples tested. Most samples, 82 per cent, of these samples also contained THC. Sixty-two per cent of the samples contained nicotine.

Both the CDC and Health Canada warned against black market products in general and THC vaping products in particular, mostly because of concerns they are not yet properly regulated. 

On its website, Health Canada said "If you do vape, do not use vaping products that have been obtained from illegal or unregulated sources, including any products that contain cannabis, as they are not subject to any control or oversight and may pose additional risks to your health and safety."

The CDC "recommends that people do not use THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products," and that people should not "buy any type of e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC from informal sources like friends, or family, or in-person or online dealers." 

In October, provincial Conservative Leader Tim Houston pushed the province to ban flavoured vaping and raise the age limit for purchase. Health Minister Randy Delorey was non-committal, saying the province is looking at updating the rules but is still gathering information.

Presumably Delorey has seen the latest warnings. At the very least, he should hike taxes on e-cigarettes and ban flavoured vaping products.

The public should also heed the warnings from Health Canada and the CDC and avoid unregulated and illegal vaping products altogether. 

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