January 19, 2015
Health Canada should close the black market for e-cigarettes and replace it with a legal market directed towards health goals.
On the occasion National Non-Smoking week, a physicians' group is calling on Health Canada to adopt a new regulatory approach to conventional and electronic cigarettes.
"The sale of nicotine-based electronic cigarettes is currently illegal in Canada, yet these products are openly sold in a rapidly increasing number of stores," said Dr. Atul Kapur, president of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC).
Dr. Kapur provided a number of concerns with the government's decision to allow these sales despite their illegal status. "It undermines the integrity of the government as a health regulator, it exposes Canadians to products which have not been tested for safety and it creates a new illegal market for recreational drugs."
"In addition, the government is missing the opportunity to ensure that any potential benefits of "safer" nicotine products are not undermined by the threat that new products will be used to expand nicotine addiction and prolong the tobacco epidemic."
He recalled that this is not the first time that governments have been
challenged with the marketing of new products that promise to
reduce harm. Filter
cigarettes and low-tar cigarettes harmed public health precisely because the
suggestion that they would reduce harm
was not matched with an obligation on manufacturers to
make sure they did so.
"This time, government should bind manufacturers to a
legal obligation to use this new technology to reduce
the exposure of smokers to harmful products, and to
support the success of smokers trying to quit."
The regulatory regime proposed by PSC, and illustrated in a prototype law, would:
"Ours is not the first proposal to apply a "sinking lid" or "cap-and-trade" approach to tobacco," said Dr. Kapur, "nor would it be the first time that the government has required manufacturers to switch consumers to less harmful versions of their products."
PSC urges the government to draw on experience in Canada and elsewhere by which manufacturers have been obliged to phase out incandescent light bulbs, leaded gasoline, acid-rain emissions, and other undesirable products or by-products.
"We are confident that there is time before the next election for the approach we propose to be put in place," said Dr. Kapur.
For more information: