Ontario Proposes Burdensome Vaping Rules

Canada's largest province conflates vaping, smoking and marijuana use

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Ontario Flag

The Electronic Cigarette Act

The provincial government in Ontario is proposing restrictions that will make vapor products harder to find and buy, and will lead to fewer smokers quitting. The new rules also conflate e-cigarettes with marijuana, and attempt to regulate both within the same framework.

The Electronic Cigarette Act (ECA) was part of the Making Healthier Choices Act, a 2015 omnibus health bill that also included a variety of unrelated regulations. The act passed the Ontario Provincial Parliament with just a single no vote. Since then, the government has changed its approach to enforcing the law more than once.

The government delayed enforcement of the rules on vaping and medical marijuana, which had been scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. In December, Vapor Advocates of Ontario organized a huge rally in Toronto’s Queen’s Park to protest the proposed ban on sampling of e-liquids in vape shops.

Marijuana is vaping is smoking

Vaping Regulation

On March 10, the government issued proposed changes to the ECA. The revised rules prohibit use of e-cigs anywhere it is illegal to smoke — including in vape shops. They also define anything used in a vaporizer as an “e-substance,” which restricts all e-liquid, whether it contains nicotine or not. The rules governing vape shops are extreme. Products may not be handled or even seen by customers, and signage is limited. The province intends to appoint inspectors to ensure compliance.

The Ontario government is asking for public comment till April 24, although the website they provide is confusing to navigate. Canadians (and especially Ontario residents) should comment.

The rules appear to have been cobbled together in a panic by people who have little idea of what they’re regulating. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, according to Global News, said, “We have made a determination that smoking, whatever it is whether it’s vaping, whether it’s medical marijuana, whether it’s cigarettes – that there should be restrictions on that,” she said Thursday. “And so the rules will apply to marijuana, to medical marijuana, to vaping as they do to cigarettes.”

“Many need to learn to vape”

Ontario Map

The rules have sparked outrage among Ontario vapers and vendors, and also among health experts and harm reduction advocates. Vapor Advocates of Ontario organized another protest in Queen’s Park in Toronto on April 9. This rally had the backing of internationally recognized tobacco expert David Sweanor, who spoke to the crowd.

Sweanor, an adjunct professor of law at the University of Ottawa and an anti-smoking pioneer, has had a lot to say about vaping as a harm reduction strategy for smokers. His op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen took the provincial government to task. “What they are doing will protect well-established and well-heeled cigarette companies, giving them a big competitive advantage over the upstart vaping products.”

“After all, smokers don’t need to learn what cigarettes are, or be taught how to use them.”

“But,” he continued, “Many need to learn to vape and determine which combination of device and liquid is right for them in order to quit smoking, and the proposed rules prohibit the testing or sampling of such products. So they will make quitting that much harder.”

In an interview in the Ottawa Sun, Sweanor explained how vaping works as harm reduction. “Smokers are well-aware of the horrendous problem caused by cigarette smoke, and if people could get nicotine in a way that is massively less harmful than smoking cigarettes, then we need policies that give people reasonable alternatives.”

Will the Ontario government listen to Prof. Sweanor and thousands of vapers and change their bizarre rules? Or will they maintain their current course, and inadvertently protect the combustible cigarette market? We’ll find out soon.

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Jim McDonald
I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.
  • Tim Berry

    I swear these ignorant politicians in every country have grown so stupid that it’s amazing they are in charge of running anything let alone a country. Why don’t they all just cozy up in a room together with the tobacco industry and leave the people with common sense and the vaping community alone. All of this crap in every country in regards to the banning any part of the vaping industry is just getting plain ridiculous. So much for any politician having any concern for our health. You would think they would get smart and support the vaping industry any way they could and start working on banning and eliminating the real threat. Cigarettes. But tax dollars are way more important than people’s lives so it will never happen.

    • Jim McDonald

      Yeah, whether that’s their intention or not, they always wind up protecting the tobacco industry.

      • Tim Berry

        I had to say something. I’m from the US but I take vaping seriously globally. I just can’t believe that after all of the testing and all of the facts that have been brought forward since 2009, that almost every country’s government (if not all of the country’s) turn a blind eye to all of the information that’s available. Vaping is safer than smoking and second hand vapor has no harmful effects at all. I’m a huge advocate for vaping after having quit smoking 3 and a half years ago. I smoked for 33 years and since I started vaping I feel great with the exception that our crazy governments are trying to bury vaping and force us back to smoking so that we can bury ourselves with death. I do what I can to fight for our right to vape (joined casaa.org) but it just seems that it’s turning into a losing battle lately. I’ll keep doing what I can when I can even if it’s posting something as simple as a comment on numerous websites and I sure do appreciate sites like Vaping360 and any other site or reviewer that stands up to our right to vape.

        • Jim McDonald

          Thanks for the reply! I don’t think it’s a losing battle, but it’s getting more intense — partly because our opponents may be seeing their point-of-view being questioned more. Keep making those comments — and, most importantly, help educate non-vapers. We need to teach people about the thing that might help their parents, siblings, kids and friends who smoke, and get non-vaping advocates helping the cause.

          • Michael Abrams

            Thanks for the ongoing efforts. In a world where everyone needs to justify that their jobs and organizations are worth keeping, and this includes media as well as government, vaping becomes an easy target. It’s a good distraction from more crucial work not getting done. It doesn’t cost very much to say “protect the children.” At least in the US, we keep electing the same people, expecting different results.

            Whatever our stand on mmj, the trend towards legalization is probably our friend, at least for keeping hardware available, different as it may be.

            I wonder if some of this is an underhanded strategy to force big tobacco into the e liquid industry, in a big, dominating way. Would facilitate taxing, and distribution through gas stations and other retail rather than small business brick & mortar vape shops, and online. Also, vaping can’t be good news for big pharm, dangerously close to big tobacco, big oil, banking, insurance, airlines, and others whose only motivation is $. US climate now favors big, not small business.

            Though inconclusive, the proposed extension of the US grandfather date kicks the can down the road. There will be similar battles, to slow down the progress of the antis, but not yet the permanent fix we need.

  • This dings my argument of Canadia being the finest kingdom in North America.

    • Jim McDonald

      Ha! Well, it remains in the top three.