'The bans in the Maritimes have created a black market': Vaping industry reacts to N.B. flavour ban

·3 min read

Beginning Wednesday, flavoured vaping products – except for tobacco flavour – will no longer be available for sale in shops across New Brunswick in an effort to curb a surge in teen vaping.

In a media release, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said vaping isn't harmless as the products contain harmful chemicals and nicotine. She noted emerging research that shows young people who vape are twice as likely to try smoking and are almost twice as likely to become daily smokers within a year.

“We need to give our teens the best possible start in life,” the minister said. “We need to create an environment where kids are not constantly being exposed to vaping. And we need to support those young people who are already struggling with addiction by providing the resources they need to quit.”

The number of young people using vaping products has increased rapidly over the years, according to a survey conducted by the New Brunswick Health Council. In 2018 and 2019, 29 per cent of surveyed students said they had tried an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, compared with 22 per cent three years previous.

Currently, vaping products are available in many flavours, including bubble gum, chocolate, cotton candy and mango. Research compiled by Health Canada shows more than half of the young people surveyed said flavour and smell were their main reasons for trying these products, reads the release.

Kelly Wilson Cull, Atlantic Canadian director of advocacy for the Canadian Cancer Society, said the vaping ban in New Brunswick is an important step in shielding youth from the dangers of vaping.

"We feel this is an important measure in protecting youth from the harms of vaping," she said.

But not everybody thinks the ban will help, especially those in the industry. The Canadian Vaping Association has called the change "rushed," arguing there's "little evidence" that flavour bans actually reduce youth consumption.

"The result of the ban will be a flood of black-market products, an increase in cigarette sales and smoking-related deaths," it said in a response to the province's ban. "These consequences must be acknowledged."

The vaping association added that specialty vape businesses, the majority of which are family-owned, small businesses, will be hit hard because "their survival is dependent on flavoured products."

"The flavour ban will result in the closure of dozens of small businesses, broken lease agreements and approximately 200 lost jobs," it stated.

Ernie Ash, the manager of operations with The Vapour Trail, a chain selling vaping products in the Maritimes, agrees that in addition to causing a "drastic collapse to the industry," the ban will result in flavoured vaping sales going underground.

Nova Scotia and P.E.I. have also completely banned flavoured vape products, limiting sales to the tobacco flavour.

"The bans in the Maritimes have created a black market," he said. "The whole industry that they cannot monitor or enforce has gone to the internet. You cannot stop people from buying flavours on the internet."

He said flavour bans have also created unfair competition because legitimate stores must compete with contraband products that are not subject to the same taxes and higher prices.

But Wilson Cull said the concern around creating a black market arises each time a government policy attempts to curb smoking, be it cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

"That's a concern I've heard over and over again working in advocacy," she said. "We hear a call that it's going to increase contraband and for the many policies associated with tobacco control, the fear of contraband has never been realized."

Bruce Macfarlane, spokesperson for New Brunswick's Department of Health, previously told the newspaper that e-cigarettes in tobacco flavour will continue to be available for current or former smokers who use them as a cessation or harm reduction tool, but without the flavours causing addictions in young people.

"While we recognize that adults also enjoyed the variety of flavours, we must first and foremost protect our youth from a lifetime of nicotine addiction," Macfarlane wrote of the ban.

Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal

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