In December 2020, Quebec’s Health Minister Christian Dubé, announced plans to limit nicotine concentrations in vaping products to 20 mg/ml, and to ban flavours.
“With the growing popularity of vaporization products, especially among young people, it becomes imperative to act to prevent a new generation from becoming addicted to nicotine because of these products,” said Dubé in a statement. “Numerous studies show that flavour is the main reason why young people are more inclined to vape,” added a recent public health report.
Released last August, the public health report, blamed flavour cartridges for a surge in vaping among high-schoolers. “Indeed, flavours, especially sweet ones, and the way they are marketed increases the attractiveness of the product and decreases the perception of health risks,” said the report.
The document pointed out that the majority of teens and young adults ages 15 to 19 prefer fruit, dessert or mint flavours, while few young people preferred the tobacco flavour, which is the only flavour Quebec intends to continue allowing on the market. To this effect, flavoured products are being blamed for the 70% increase in high-school vaping since 2016.
Are flavour bans the answer?
“.. flavor bans, by themselves, cannot sharply reduce the availability or use of flavored tobacco products among residents.”
However, in line with data indicating that adults prefer flavours, the Vaping Industry Trade Association (VITA) is urging the government to continue allowing the sale of flavoured vaping products, and just restrict access to minors. “A possible ban on flavoured vapor products would create more problems by encouraging ex-smokers to smoke again,” wrote the association in a statement.
“We don’t want young people to have access to vaporization products,” said Daniel Marien, the founding director of VITA, in a statement. “However, it should not be forgotten that the vast majority of vapers in Quebec are, for the most part, former smokers. By banning the flavours of electronic cigarettes, as recommended in the report, thousands of ex-smokers will no longer be able to consume electronic cigarettes.”
Supporting these arguments, a study conducted with the aim of determining the impact of the flavour ban on tobacco use in San Francisco, found that while the ban did lead to a decline in e-cigarettes and cigars sales, it sadly also caused a spike in smoking rates. Additionally, found the researchers, the measure was not enforced properly and 65% of participants reported being able to obtain flavoured products in multiple ways.
“These findings suggest that comprehensive local flavor bans, by themselves, cannot sharply reduce the availability or use of flavored tobacco products among residents. Nevertheless, local bans can still significantly reduce overall e-cigarette use and cigar smoking but may increase cigarette smoking,” concluded the study.