Should Quebec be cracking down even more on vaping products?

A group of health organizations from across Canada gathered in Ottawa today to demand that the federal government tighten regulations on vaping products.

But according to Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, "Quebec actually has the strongest restrictions on vaping promotion in Canada."

"Unlike in Ontario, you don't see big banner ads in a corner store promoting vaping products," she told CBC's Let's Go.

But it's not just advertising that Callard and the others are worried about.

Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada teamed up with groups such as the Canadian Cancer Society and the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac to express concerns about what Callard calls the "public health crisis" of vaping.

The groups' concerns have been amplified this week after a teenage boy in Ontario was hospitalized for a serious lung condition which has been linked with vaping.

The news broke the same day that Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott ordered public hospitals to start reporting vaping-related cases of severe pulmonary disease.

On Thursday, the office of Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann told CBC in an email that she is considering doing the same in an effort to gather public health data on the risks associated with vaping.

Mark Blinch/Reuters

The statement went on to say that she hasn't ruled out the idea of tightening regulations further to prevent young people from accessing vaping products. While Quebec has significant restrictions on the way vape sellers can advertise, Callard says there are no limits on how strong the products can be.

"A year ago, the strongest nicotine products on the Canadian market had about 18 mg of nicotine per ml in the pods. Now it's almost 60 mg," she said.

The coalition of health groups is asking the federal government to limit nicotine levels to 20 mg/ml, like it is in the European Union.

Black market to blame?

Samy Medelci, the owner of a company in Montreal that manufactures vape juice, says it's not regulated products that pose a health risk.

"People are buying stuff on the black market and trying to make their own liquid," he said.

Medelci founded his company, PGVG Labs, in 2014 after he decided to quit smoking cigarettes. He told CBC that he thinks people are "overreacting" when it comes to calling vaping a "public health crisis."

He said when it comes to vaping, the benefits outweigh any potential harm.

"Is it good for you? No. Is it going to help you stop smoking? Yes."

Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press

Medelci said all the negative media attention about vaping is hurting his bottom line.

"We're taking isolated cases, where people are mixing stuff in their backyard or in their kitchen and trying to make a liquid. At the end of the day, if I do the same thing with alcohol, I could also die from it."

In the case of the Ontario teen who was put on life support due to his lung condition, the director of public health told CBC that they have information about the brand the patient used.

That information is not being released but has been given to Canada's chief medical officer of health who will be gathering systematic data to determine if one vaping device is more potent than another.

This case is believed to be the first instance of severe pulmonary illness linked to vaping in Canada.

Health Canada issues warning

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 530 confirmed and probable cases of lung injury related to e-cigarettes as of Tuesday. 

To date, no single device, ingredient, additive or pathway to illness has been identified in the U.S. investigation. 

On Thursday afternoon, Health Canada put out a news release referencing the teen's pulmonary illness and asking Canadian vape users to "monitor themselves for symptoms of pulmonary illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain) and to seek medical attention promptly if they have concerns about their health."

The statement added that "the purchase of vaping products outside the legal market may create additional risk as these products are unregulated and potentially unsafe."