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.

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.