A high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus on April 11, 2018. in Massachusetts. Yukon’s Tobacco and Vaping Products Control and Regulation Act, introduced in the legislative assembly this week by the Liberals, would bar youth younger than 19 from accessing vapour and tobacco products across Canada. (Steven Senne/AP file)

Yukon government rolls out bill to address vaping

The new legislation would ban youth younger than 19 from accessing vapour and tobacco products

Stemming the tide of youth picking up smoking is perhaps central to the Liberal government’s plan to rein in tobacco and vapour use.

Tobacco and Vaping Products Control and Regulation Act, introduced in the legislative assembly this week, would bar youth younger than 19 from accessing vapour and tobacco products. It would change how vapes and e-cigarettes are displayed and where they can be smoked.

According to the results of a public engagement report also released this week, 89 per cent of respondents said that the government should work to keep vapour products away from youth.

In large part, the legislation — now being debated — brings vaping in line with traditional tobacco products.

“I think that’s really important,” said Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer, “because it addresses the kind of social aspect of vaping. If you have a community that normalizes vaping, then you have the potential for crossover into tobacco, especially when it concerns youth.”

The bill would replace legislation from 2008 that only addressed the use of traditional tobacco products.

Smoking a vape pen in certain public places wouldn’t be allowed, for instance. People wouldn’t be allowed to smoke within roughly five-metres from such spaces, either.

How electronic smoking devices are displayed is also addressed. Vaping products would only be displayed in designated outlets, Hanley said. For places where there’s a mix of products sold — Mac’s Fireweed Books, for instance — they would be hidden like tobacco products are.

Aside from the amendment to age, how vaping stores operate is unchanged, he added.

Potentially prohibiting some flavours is built into the bill. Some include mango or cotton candy, which can be appealing to youth, Hanley said.

“What I would have liked to have seen in the legislation would be no flavours in vaping except as prescribed,” he said.

Asked whether particular kinds should be restricted, he said, “I think it’s going to be an ongoing struggle. I guess my concerns is you’re going to have to be running continually after new flavours, so how do you incorporate language that addresses whole categories of flavours that don’t have inherent value, that are potentially luring youth to vape.”

He said there should be fluidity when it comes to crafting regulations, given that vaping culture is in flux.

Smokers who are trying to quit tobacco were kept in mind when designing this legislation. Vaping, Hanley said, may be beneficial in getting someone to stop lighting up.

“We sort of want to preserve the means to have that role as a legitimate use of vaping, while at the same time putting in whatever mechanisms we have to discourage that reverse direction,” he said.

Fifty per cent of Yukoners said that the government should support access to vapour products for those wanting to wean themselves off tobacco, according to the engagement survey.

It says that 67 per cent of respondents have used the electronic devices in order to stop smoking tobacco.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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