(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

E-cigarettes sold in B.C. will have to follow a lot more regulations as of 2020.

In an announcement Thursday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said vaping products sold in B.C. stores will have limits on the amount of nicotine, be subject to a 20 per cent tax, and restrict where candy and fruit flavours are sold.

Dix said the move was sparked by a 74 per cent spike in vaping among high school aged youth between 2017 and 2018. It’s illegal to sell vaping products in B.C. to anyone under the age of 19.

“If you have not been vaping, vaping is not a good idea,” Dix said on Thursday.

Nicotine levels for vaping products sold in B.C. will be restricted to 20 milligrams per millimetre, based on research from other jurisdictions, Dix said.

He cited the United Kingdom, which has the same restrictions and much lower levels of youth vaping.

Dr. Khairun Jivani, the director of cancer control for the B.C. and Yukon branch of the Canadian Cancer Society, said studies show that one in five youth have vaped in the past 30 days.

There are currently seven probable and confirmed cases of vaping-related illness in Canada. That includes three probable cases in B.C., the most of any province.

Dix said the province will declare nicotine a “public health hazard,” which will allow them to regulate the amount of nicotine in vaping products sold in B.C.

READ MORE: Three cases of probable vaping-related illness in B.C.: Health Canada

Jivani said the change is important because nicotine is highly addictive.

“Nicotine devices have high levels of nicotine, as much as a pack of cigarettes,” she said.

“We know that nicotine can alter brain function… and lead to cognitive and behavioural problems.”

Jivani also cited chemicals in vaping products that are approved for use in food, but have not been studied when they are vapourized in e-cigarettes.

Youth who use vaping products also have a higher rate of moving onto tobacco, Jivani noted.

Finance Minister Carole James said the 20 per cent tax on vaping products would be the first such tax in Canada. If passed, the 13 per cent increase in the provincial sales tax for vaping products will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

If passed, the measure is expected to bring in $2.5 million this fiscal year, and $10 million in the 2020-2021 year. The tax on tobacco products generates about $25 million per fiscal year.

James noted that the vaping tax hike is not meant to generate revenue, but increase the price enough to act as a deterrent.

Dix said that the restrictions on fruit and candy flavoured will cut down the number of stores in B.C. where non-tobacco flavoured products can be sold from 90,000 potential locations to a somewhere in the hundreds. Some vaping flavours will be fully banned, Dix said, but declined to elaborate on what those will be.

None of these rules will apply to vaping products sold online, as that is regulated federally. Dix said the province was hoping the feds would bring in similar regulations nationwide as B.C. has here.

Health Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said age-appropriate resources will be brought into schools as part of a vaping prevention toolkit.

Fleming told reporters that young people had been “conned and duped by big tobacco when it comes to vaping.”

Fleming said there are a “bunch of myths out there… that vaping isn’t smoking, that vaping isn’t addictive, that vaping is not linked to cancer.”

He said that where the vaping industry either actively perpetuated these beliefs, or made sure not to discourage them.

READ MORE: Health Canada ‘actively monitoring’ U.S. vaping illness

READ MORE: 73% of B.C. residents agree with a temporary ban on vaping products: poll


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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