Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann is mandating a new special task force to look for new ways to fight against smoking and vaping.
"With the growing popularity of vaping products, especially among young people, it is imperative and urgent to quickly implement further concrete steps," said McCann in a press release Monday.
According to statistics released by the minister of health, 26% of high school students had used an electronic cigarette between 2016-2017, with 10% of those students having used a vape in the last 30 days.
"This special task force will help us determine the best measures that will address current realities and consolidate the fight against smoking."
Dr. Horacio Arruda, the provincial director of public health, will lead this special task force, McCann announced. The task force will look into nicotine levels in vaping products, the accessibility of vaping products, the flavours used in vapes and propose new measures to fight against smoking and vaping.
A final report with recommendations is expected to be submitted by April 2020.
The special task force will include representatives from the Ministry of Health and Social Services, as well as lawyers and representatives of Quebec's public health research institute (INSPQ).
Various other groups and stakeholders will be consulted, including Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health; the Canadian Cancer Society; Capsana (a social enterprise associated with the Montreal Heart Institute and focused on public health); directors of various public health centres; and clinicians, including pulmonologists, cardiologists and pediatricians.
"Not as safe" as marketed
"E-cigarettes are not as safe as they have been promoted [to be]," Arruda said in an interview with CBC News.
Arruda pointed out that though vapes might help some smokers who are trying to kick the habit, a tougher crackdown is needed because of how they are marketed and their popularity among young people and non cigarette-smokers.
"Even if our laws are one of the tougher ones in Canada, we have to tighten certain aspects," Arruda said.
Arruda said young people and non-smokers could develop a dependence on nicotine because of e-cigarettes. He is also concerned about the effects of vaping on brain development of young people.
If the task force finds enough evidence to support the use of vaping products for smoking cessation, the province will need to do more to make sure e-cigarettes end up in the hands of the right people, he said.
"I think there is a misusage of these products."
More than 2,000 cases of vaping-related illness have been reported in the United States, he noted.
Forty-seven vaping-linked deaths have been confirmed by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Quebec, there have been three cases of severe lung illness related to vaping as of Nov. 20.
The province has issued the following warnings about vaping — with or without nicotine:
- Young people, pregnant women, non-smokers, and former smokers should refrain from vaping.
- Smokers who are quitting the habit should use pharmaceutical aids recognized by Health Canada, as well as national support services that are available for free.
- Those who do use vaping devices should watch for symptoms of lung disease, such as coughing, shortness of breath or chest pain, and seek medical help immediately if they are experiencing symptoms.