Health advocates in B.C. are calling for a crackdown on e-cigarettes in a bid to keep the devices out of the hands of teens.
The group, which includes the B.C. Lung Association, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, says recent data shows a surge in teen vaping habits.
It points to the latest U.S. National Youth Tobacco Survey, which found that the number of young people who said they had vaped within a 30-day period was up 78 per cent in 2018 from 2017.
A 2016-17 Canadian study found that about 10 per cent of students in grades 7 to 12 had used an e-cigarette within the last 30 days.
“When you have flavours in e-cigarettes like chocolate cherry, piña colada, birthday cake, those are definitely not the kind of flavourings we think an adult who is trying to quit would be using,” said Jack Boomer, director of the Clean Air Coalition.
The group says the permit process for selling tobacco products in B.C. is too easy and that the process to be able to sell vaping products — which have nicotine but no tobacco — is even easier.
“There seems to be research coming out which indicates that youth are four times more likely to start smoking combustible cigarettes if they start using e-cigarettes,” added Boomer.
The coalition is calling on the province to require tobacco and vape product retailers to pay permit application fees and annual renewal fees and also to cap the number of tobacco and vaping retail stores in the province.
It also wants to see the sale of tobacco and vaping products banned near schools or youth-oriented facilities, as the province does with alcohol and cannabis, as well as in stores with pharmacies.
However, advocates for the vaping industry say they’re open to working with health groups to keep the products away from kids — but no one has asked.
“We have never, never received one phone call from those organizations to say, ‘How can you work with us?’” said Marc Kealey with the Canadian Vaping Association.
“We’ve been very bullish on this with governments across Canada, that there needs to be a certification program with a third party, that our industry would commit and submit to, that says if you want to be in this business, you must know these kinds of things.”
Kealey said the association has been working with Health Canada and the province, advising both on changes that could help to restrict access for teens, but that, overall, they believe the current system to be robust.