News / Halifax

Nova Scotia to ban use of electronic cigarettes in indoor public places

HALIFAX - Concerns over potential health risks posed by electronic cigarettes and their growing popularity among young people is driving legislation in Nova Scotia that would restrict sales and ban their use in indoor public places, the provincial health minister said Friday.

Leo Glavine has stoked frustration from the tobacco and e-cigarette industries in his crackdown on e-cigarettes, water pipes and flavoured tobacco as he introduced legislation that some anti-smoking advocates lauded as being among the most comprehensive in the country.

The changes would prohibit stores from selling e-cigarettes to those under 19. Retailers would also not be allowed to display, advertise or promote the devices, effectively treating them like regular cigarettes.

"We are determined to ensure a smoke-free culture for the sake of our population's health," said Glavine. "But there are new threats to that culture on the market. Threats that could lead to more people, especially young people, to take up smoking."

Another change includes banning the sale of flavoured tobacco, including the flavoured juice used by some in e-cigarettes. Menthol tobacco would be exempt.

Glavine said the steps are needed to address emerging evidence that e-cigarettes pose a health risk, especially to young people. He said the children's hospital in Halifax and others across the country have reported some cases of children with nicotine poisoning.

Krista McMullin, president of Smoke-Free Nova Scotia, said the changes would be a way of protecting youth from a "gateway" to regular cigarette smoking.

"The flavours that are out there would probably boggle your mind ... like peanut butter and jam and juicy fruit," said McMullin.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices meant to simulate the act and sometimes the taste of smoking regular cigarettes. They contain cartridges filled with flavouring or nicotine that is heated into a vapour and inhaled by the user.

Glavine said there are also second thoughts, particularly in the U.S., on whether e-cigarettes are suitable smoking cessation products.

But John Haste of the Electronic Cigarette Trade Association, a national organization representing retailers and manufacturers of liquid e-cigarettes, called Nova Scotia's move a "knee-jerk" reaction based on incomplete science.

Haste said while his organization agrees with age restrictions, there are at least 200 studies that show e-cigarettes are harm-reduction products.

"The regulators need to stop cherry-picking studies," he said. "They are judging based on emotion as opposed to science."

Haste said the Electronic Cigarette Trade Association believes e-cigarettes should be regulated as an adult consumer recreation product because they don't fit any other category.

Imperial Tobacco has also spoken out against the changes, saying Thursday that e-cigarettes don't contain any tobacco and regulating them the same way is a mistake.

Glavine said the province's 1,200 retailers would be given six months to adapt to the changes from the time the legislation is passed.

The UN health agency recently called for member countries to prohibit e-cigarette sales to minors and ban their use indoors until more evidence can be gathered about the risks.

The devices are widely available even though Health Canada has not approved any e-cigarettes under the Food and Drug Act.

In September, provincial and territorial health ministers asked the federal government to do more about flavoured tobacco and e-cigarettes.

Some organizations and municipal governments are already restricting use of the devices.

The municipality of York in Ontario and the city of Red Deer in Alberta have imposed outright bans in public places. E-cigarettes are also banned by the Edmonton public and Catholic school districts as well as the Winnipeg international airport.

Toronto council voted in August to ban the products from city workspaces.

Alberta Health Minister Stephen Mandel said a month ago that his province was still working on regulations for a law passed last December to ban flavoured tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.