E-cigarette advertising may face heavy new restrictions

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Published Feb. 6, 2019 11:51 a.m. ET
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The federal government is looking at placing significant restrictions on e-cigarette advertising in an attempt to steer Canadian youth away from vaping.

Health Canada announced the proposed new rules Tuesday. They include a ban on e-cigarette advertisements at any stores where children are allowed inside, on billboards and other outdoor advertising spaces, and in transit vehicles and other public locations where children may be.

“We want to make sure that children are not going to be able to see this type of advertising,” Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor told reporters on Parliament Hill.

Current restrictions forbid e-cigarettes and related items from being advertised in ways that specifically target children. E-cigarette manufacturers are also not allowed to promote their products with sponsorships and testimonials, or to describe their flavours with terms that would appeal to children.

Also being considered is adding a required health warning to all e-cigarette advertisements, alerting potential purchasers to the potential harm of nicotine in products that contain nicotine and other chemicals in other vaping products.

The Canadian Cancer Society has said it strongly supports the proposals, although it would like to see the government take things further by banning all e-cigarette advertisements on TV and radio, as is done with tobacco cigarettes, instead of only within 30 minutes of programs targeted at children.

“It absolutely will make a difference,” Rob Cunningham, the organization’s senior policy analyst, told CTV News Channel, noting that cigarette-smoking rates started to decline in Canada after a blanket ban on TV and radio advertising was enacted.

Health Canada’s proposed new regulations also cover the online world, with the agency looking at banning advertising of vaping products on any websites or social media feeds children are able to access. Cunningham said this would stop the trend of manufacturers paying social media influencers to show themselves vaping.

“Social media marketing has been a big factor why certain of these products have taken off, including some products with especially high nicotine content,” he said.

A survey conducted during 2016 and 2017 found that 15 per cent of students between Grade 10 and Grade 12 reported using a vaping product within the past 30 days, up from nine per cent two years earlier.

Other surveys in Canada and the U.S. have found similar evidence that e-cigarette use is surging among high school students. Some Canadian high school principals have ordered that washroom doors be locked or removed altogether in order to make it more difficult for students to vape inside the washrooms undetected.

Health authorities consider vaping products to be a gateway to traditional tobacco cigarettes, particularly for children.

The Health Canada proposals are subject to public feedback and consultation until March 22. Petitpas Taylor said she hopes to see changes to the regulations finalized within months.

Health Canada has proposed new measures to further restrict #vaping product advertising. #Haveyoursay through our consultation: https://t.co/PDb7kBmAOJ pic.twitter.com/A9SAgLDVgL

— GovCanHealth (@GovCanHealth) February 5, 2019

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