Ban on e-cigarettes urged in public places

The popularity of electronic cigarettes has sparked a debate on whether the battery operated devices should be banned in bars, restaurants and other public venues where tobacco smoke is prohibited.

Air Canada made headlines this week after a businesswoman on a flight from Calgary to Toronto claims that a fellow passenger puffed on an e cigarette in the cabin.

Transport Canada has no specific regulations, but Air Canada has a policy that forbids the use of e cigarettes on its aircraft.

We can assure you that had the crew been aware of or alerted during the flight about the purported use of an e cigarette on board, they would have addressed the matter immediately with the customer, said spokeswoman Angela Mah.

The alleged incident speaks to the legislative grey area that surrounds electronic cigarette use in Canada.

The federal government faced with insufficient research on the health affects of the devices has so far refrained from regulating how the products are used or sold.

In Alberta, provincial authorities say there are still more questions than answers in terms of potential health concerns.

Current anti smoking legislation, which includes an outright ban on tobacco use in bars, applies to tobacco products in the traditional sense as there is more scientific evidence as to their health impacts, said Alberta Health and Wellness spokesman Matthew Grant.

There is not a lot of health information on e cigarettes (and) we continue to monitor studies as they are available.

For now, it is up to individual businesses to come up with their own policies. That means it might be acceptable to vape in a movie theatre but not in a shopping centre food court or bowling alley.

The Canadian restaurant industry is seeking regulatory guidance and clarity from provincial and federal authorities. Until that happens, it s wait and see, according to Mark von Schellwitz.

Our position is very neutral on this we just want to know where we stand so we can direct our customers accordingly, said von Schellwitz, who serves as the western Canadian vice president for the industry group Restaurants Canada, which represents thousands of eateries, bars, cafeterias and food service organizations.

The hope is that any prospective policy change will be made at a provincial level to avoid a confusing patchwork of e cigarette regulations across various municipalities, he added.

But some cities including Calgary are wading into the controversial issue. City council last month ordered a study into the health risks of e cigarettes after Coun. Diane Colley Urquhart, a nurse by trade, brought forward a motion to consult with health officials on possible bylaws.

E cigarette advocates argue that vaping is a harmless practice that acts as a safe substitute to tobacco by simulating smoking without the prospect of addiction or inhaling carcinogenic chemicals.

E cigarette users inhale vapours, which in some cases may contain a liquid nicotine solution.

While some believe the devices should be tightly controlled, proponents say they are a safer alternative to tobacco laden cigarettes and there is no need to hide them.

Keeping e cigarettes out of sight of the public is like camouflaging the fire exits, said Paul Bergen, a researcher in tobacco harm reduction and a consultant for the Electronic Cigarette Trade Association, a national organization representing retailers.

The Canadian Cancer Society disagrees. It supports banning the products indoors and prohibiting the sale of e cigarettes to minors to avoid normalizing smoking behaviour and hooking young people.

We just banned flavoured tobacco. Why would we allow such things on the market? said Angeline Webb, a senior public policy adviser for the society in Alberta.

We want to see some regulation in terms of advertising and promotion. Even if they are approved as a cessation device, e cigarettes still normalize smoking. The big concern is they undermine smoking bans.

With files from The Canadian Press


E-cigarettes are targeted at youths, report says —

WASHINGTON An investigation by Democratic members of Congress into the marketing practices of electronic cigarette companies has found that major producers are targeting young people by giving away free samples at music and sporting events and running radio and television advertisements during youth oriented programs.

The inquiry, led by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, was conducted as the Food and Drug Administration prepared a major package of tobacco control rules that would place e cigarettes under federal regulation for the first time.

The new rules have been slow to appear, and lawmakers said they hoped their report, which came out Monday, might help speed their release.

It s time for the F.D.A. to step up and regulate these products, Senator Durbin said during a conference call with reporters. We ve got to put an end to the marketing of these products to kids.

Public health experts are deeply divided on the perils and benefits of e cigarettes. Some say they offer the first satisfying alternative to smoking in generations and could greatly reduce health risks, while others contend they could become a gateway to traditional cigarette smoking for young people.

The report surveyed nine major producers, though only eight responded Altria, R. J. Reynolds Vapor Company, NJOY, Eonsmoke, Logic, VMR, Lorillard and Green Smoke. Six of them said they had sponsored events, and eight said they had given away free samples. In all, 348 events featured free giveaways and sponsorship in 2012 and 2013, many of which appeared geared toward youth, the report said.

A spokesman for the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association, the e cigarette industry s trade group, said, We encourage responsible marketing directed to those over the age of 18, and added it does not support, and our industry does not use, youth oriented product marketing.

The report found that Lorillard represented the largest portion of the giveaways and sponsorships in 2012 and 2013, providing free e cigarette samples or sponsorship at 227 of the events, which included music festivals, parties and motor sports competitions. It also sponsored Freedom Project, a national tour by a number of bands. This year, tobacco control advocates criticized ads for the company s Blu brand e cigarettes that ran in Sports Illustrated magazine and featured women in bikinis, calling them an attempt to appeal to teenage boys.

Robert Bannon, a spokesman for Lorillard, said in a statement that the company does not advertise to youths. We have taken many steps to limit exposure of individuals under age 18 to our advertising and promotional activities and to prevent them from purchasing our electronic cigarette products, he said.

NJOY, an e cigarette company that does not make traditional cigarettes, said it does not market to young people. It added in a statement that it has long supported sensible regulations to ensure that the e cigarette industry is operating as an important alternative to tobacco cigarettes that cause the premature death of nearly a half million Americans every year.

Mr. Waxman said, We fought for decades to set strict rules for marketing of traditional cigarettes.

E cigarette manufacturers don t have to play by the same rules, he said. They are free to sponsor youth oriented events and make flavors that appeal to kids, and that s exactly what s happening.

The report also found that the six e cigarette manufacturers that provided full information to the inquiry more than doubled spending on marketing from 2012 to 2013, to a total of $59 million.

Also on Monday, the F.D.A. released reviews of scientific literature on e cigarettes. In one analysis, researchers at the agency said e cigarette use was increasing among youths, citing data from a Utah study that found young people there were more likely to report using e cigarettes than any other tobacco product. While e cigarettes do not contain tobacco like traditional cigarettes, regulators consider them tobacco products because they contain nicotine, which can be derived from tobacco.