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B.C. to smoke out ‘irresponsible marketing’ for vaping, social media: Eby

Number of Canadian teens using e-cigarettes ranks among the highest in the world, says researcher

Premier David Eby said Wednesday (Feb. 7) his government will introduce legislation this spring aimed at advertising for vaping as well as other products considered harmful to youth.

After announcing that his government would move certain types of nicotine pouches behind pharmacy counters to limit their availability to youth, Eby criticized the vaping industry and its marketing.

“We banned the sale of flavoured vapes, we’ve restricted the potency of vape juices that is allowed to be used,” he said in calling these moves technical changes. “But the bottom line is that there is an industry that worked really hard to promote vaping to youth as safe, as cool and fun, and the marketing was effective. Irresponsible marketing of a highly addictive product to young people deserves to be held to account.”

While Eby singled out vaping, he signaled that this future legislation would also aim at other products, including “social media apps without adequate protections to ensure predators are taking advantage of kids” in repeating a promise made last month.

That promise came in response to the death by suicide of 14-year-old Carson Cleland of Prince George in October 2023 after he had shared intimate images online with somebody who had pretended to be a young girl around his age. Carson then received extortion threats.

RELATED: B.C. to limit cellphone use in schools, take action against extortion

RELATED: B.C. to move nicotine pouches behind pharmacy counters

Eby said the pending legislation responding to “irresponsible marketing” techniques will draw on public health data showing their effects and costs in linking it to efforts to recover health care costs from tobacco and pharmaceutical companies producing opioids.

Vaping, the inhaling and exhaling of vapour produced by different types of devices with most vaping products containing nicotine, has become in the opinion of many health experts a serious problem in Canada.

Laura Struik, an assistant professor with the University of B.C. Okanagan campus School of Nursing and a Canadian Cancer Society Emerging Scholar, said in 2023 that the number of Canadian teens using e-cigarettes ranks among the highest in the world.

Struik’s research also found that Canadian government-funded campaigns directed at young people to prevent vaping uptake lags behind resources available to youth in the USA.

RELATED: ‘Canada needs to step it up’ to prevent youth from vaping, says Kelowna researcher

The Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey for 2022 released in 2023 points to the rise of vaping and the decline of ‘traditional’ smoking.

In 2022, 20 per cent of young adults aged 20 to 24 years said they vaped at least once in the past 30 days, up from 15 per cent in 2019, 13 per cent in 2020 and 17 per cent in 2021, according to the survey. Smoking among young adults is declining. Whereas 10 per cent of young adults reported smoking in 2021, their number dropped to eight per cent in 2022.

Efforts to limit the advertising of various products deemed harmful by public health experts have a history in Canada. In 1997, the federal Tobacco Act placed strong restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotion. In 2003, changes to that act banned tobacco sponsorship at sports and arts events. But this issue also has a freedom-of-speech angle.

In 1994, the Supreme Court of Canada found the Tobacco Products Control Act of 1988 seeking to ban all tobacco advertising and requiring more explicit health warnings on tobacco product packages to be an unconstitutional restriction of freedom of expression. While the court agreed with the object of the legislation, it found the law to be more severe than necessary, the vote being 5-4 against the constitutionality of the legislation as

In the end though, tobacco companies chose to comply with the legislation anyway, likely in response to changing social norms and pressure from not just governments, but also health experts and anti-smoking groups. The federal government then followed that ruling with increasingly restrictive rules in the late 1990s, early 2000s.

However, that history also suggests that efforts to curb the marketing of vaping face a potentially long march across tricky legal terrain. Distillers, for example, have batted down efforts to curb advertising for hard liquor on free speech grounds.

- with files from Jacqueline Gelineau

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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