The territorial government will press ahead with new regulations to limit the sale of flavoured vapour products after receiving divided public feedback on the project.
Last September, the GNWT asked for residents’ views on whether or not to ban flavoured vapour products, stating it was “working to determine the best approach to keeping vaping products out of the hands of our children and youth.”
The request came nearly six months after the territory’s new Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act – which regulates the display and advertisement of vaping products and prohibits their sale and supply to minors – took effect.
On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Social Services released a report summarizing residents’ input.
The department received 520 online and written responses alongside sessions with students, teachers, parents and healthcare staff. In all, the department said, 51 percent of those responding did not support the development of regulations to limit the sale of flavoured vape products while 49 percent did. (The territory said this meant “approximately half” of residents supported new regulations, and said that work would go ahead.)
Those in favour of increased regulation cited concern about the health impacts on youth and pushed for more education, limits on where such products can be sold, and a potential tax.
Of those wanting increased regulation, 90 percent wanted a total ban of vapour products. Ten percent said only flavours specifically marketed towards youth, such as candy and dessert, should be banned, keeping tobacco or flavourless vapours available to adults.
Several organizations – including the Canadian Cancer Society, Action on Smoking and Health, and the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre in Yellowknife – submitted written responses in support of further regulation.
Many of those opposing regulation worried how reduced availability of vapour products could affect people who use them as a means of quitting traditional cigarettes.
To vape or not to vape
As the popularity of vaping has grown, so has scrutiny of potential health risks.
In a 2018 survey from the NWT Bureau of Statistics, a third of residents aged 15 to 24 said they had tried vaping at least once. Twenty percent of those said they did so because they liked the flavours.
Though vaping was originally introduced as in the 2000s as an alternative to smoking, there have been hundreds of cases of vaping-related illnesses documented in North America. Research into long-term risks to health is ongoing.
Across Canada, other provinces and territories have their own regulations around vapour products.
A year ago, Nova Scotia became the first jurisdiction in Canada to ban the sale of vapour products that aren’t tobacco-flavoured. Prince Edward Island followed suit in March and raised the legal age for products from 19 to 21.
The NWT report states the territorial government will pair the results of the public engagement sessions with analysis from other jurisdictions and policy research to develop “regulations that will limit the sale of flavoured vapour products in the NWT.”
When those new regulations are expected to come into effect was not specified.