Charlene & John Haste
531 Park Street
Kenora, ON P9N1A3
March, 07 2017
Senator Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie
Senate of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A4
Tel: (613) 992-0331
RE: Senate Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Dear Senator Ogilvie,
We are writing this letter with hopes of opening a dialog about concerns we have and clarifications needed with Senate Bill S-5, introduced for first reading in the Senate on November 22, 2016.
Our apologies in advance Senator, but this letter ended up being a bit longer (5 pages) than we had initially intended. You may wish to grab a beverage of your choosing before continuing.
We are owners of a dedicated vaping products retail store located in Northwest Ontario. Both of us are former smokers since our pre-teen years and heavy smokers for decades. We both watched our father’s die of smoking related diseases and both continued to smoke. We both tried countless times and methods to quit smoking, individually and together, failing every time.
It is unfortunate that we have these things in common but when we discovering vaping products in early 2011 we both also share that we are no longer smokers. Senator Ogilvie, we are no longer smokers because of vaping.
We were just vapers for many months but during that time our smoking friends, seeing our success, were asking for our help to get them started with vaping because of their struggles with quit attempts. Then they told two friends, and so on, and so on.
Eventually we were compelled to open a retail store and have since helped thousands of smokers in their journey and transition from smoking to vaping.
Most of the other vaping products retail shop owners in Canada will likely have a similar story.
That brings us to Senate Bill S-5…
Harm reduction and relative risk
I don’t think we have to tell you that nearly 40,000 Canadians die every year from tobacco smoking related illnesses, one every 15 minutes.
Canada is one of the Global Leaders in terms of promoting effective, lifesaving harm reduction so when analyzing this Bill, it leaves us to wonder, "What the heck happened?"
This bill appears to completely ignore the hundreds of studies and clear evidence (with more studies being done daily) proving vaping products to be, perhaps one of the most significant harm reduction tools for the tobacco epidemic. Some public health experts have gone so far to say vaping "could be one of the biggest breakthroughs ever in public health."
Among the more significant studies is the Public Health England, 200+ page report[i] from 2015. Their report referencing 185 previously existing studies states:
- the current best estimate is that e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than smoking
They go on to say, with regard to the 95% estimate:
- the constituents of cigarette smoke that harm health – including carcinogens – are either absent in e-cigarette vapour or, if present, they are mostly at levels much below 5% of smoking doses (mostly below 1% and far below safety limits for occupational exposure)
- the main chemicals present in e-cigarettes only have not been associated with any serious risk
Effectively, there is currently no identified serious health risk associated with vaping, so it is best to see the residual 5% risk as an allowance for uncertainty, from an evidence based scientific standpoint.
Other studies of significant interest would be:
- Burstyn I. Peering through the mist: systematic review of what the chemistry of contaminants in electronic cigarettes tells us about health risks[ii], BMC Public Health 2014;14:18. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-18
- Farsalinos KE, Polosa R. Safety evaluation and risk assessment of electronic cigarettes as tobacco cigarette substitutes: a systematic review[iii]. Ther Adv Drug Saf 2014;5:67–86.
- Hajek P, Etter J-F, Benowitz N, Eissenberg T, McRobbie H. Electronic cigarettes: review of use, content, safety, effects on smokers and potential for harm and benefit[iv]. Addiction. 2014 Aug 31
We could certainly provide you with any studies that you might be applicable to any information you might need. Also, the Electronic Cigarette Trade Association of Canada, for which we are Founding Directors, has many studies listed on the website: http://ectaofcanada.com/category/studies/
Nowhere within the bill does it discuss, and it actually prevents industry from discussing any sort of benefit in switching to vaping from smoking when we all know this to be a scientific, evidence based fact.
Bill S-5 is entirely focused on the "potential" harms (not actual harms) of vaping products with no regard to relative risk compared to smoking.
The point being that we do not live in the 1950’s. The science of today is exceedingly better than the science of that time. If there was something of harmful significance about vaping products, we would already know about it.
The truth of the matter is if there was something of harmful significance, even remotely close to the harm caused by smoking, as former victims of tobacco, we would close our doors, immediately.
Senator, can you find and let us know what research and evidence was used to draft this bill?
Restricting of public information and silencing consumer opinion
The phrase "No person" is used throughout the bill within a number of different sections. This implies "anyone" and "everyone" whether they are members of industry, scientists, educators or members of the general public.
In general, our points of concern revolve around:
- Restricting comparisons of relative risk between tobacco and vaping products
- Restricting personal testimony regarding experiences with vaping products
- Restricting the recital of or providing of public information
Our assumption is that "No person" will be dealt with as intending to mean "Industry persons", but even so, this causes a significant conflict of constitutional rights and forces industry to break existing consumer protection law in the form of "deception by omission".
"Bob", a 47-year-old smoker walks into our vape shop. He tells us that his brother just died from smoking and that he is really afraid of meeting the same end.
He desperately wants to quit but was given information from the Heart Foundation quoting a Professor Glantz, who clearly thinks vaping is a poor alternative to continued smoking.
We ask you, Senator Ogilvie, is it fair for us to risk imprisonment for telling him the truth?
Banning of flavours based on "sensory attribute"
Banning of actual flavours is an extremely slippery slope. Numerous studies have been performed on the effectiveness of flavours and flavour variability has been found to be a significant contributing factor to the success of transitioning from smoking to vaping.
One particular study from 2013, Impact of Flavour Variability on Electronic Cigarette Use Experience: An Internet Survey[v] presented the following conclusion:
EC liquid flavourings play a major role in the overall experience of dedicated users and support the hypothesis that they are important contributors in reducing or eliminating smoking consumption. This should be considered by the health authorities; based on the current minimal adoption of ECs by youngsters, it is reasonable to support that any proposed regulation should ensure that flavourings are available to EC consumers while at the same time restrictions to the use by youngsters (especially non-smokers) should be imposed in order to avoid future penetration of EC use to this population.
The Bill already addresses the restrictions to the use by youngsters by preventing youth under 18 years of age from access to vaping products.
When discussing "sensory attributes", taste and smell are subjective and response will vary significantly from person to person. Aside from the fact that under 18 years of age would not have access to the product, thus would not have access to taste or smell the flavours, what one person thinks smells or tastes like vanilla cake, another person would think it smells or tastes like Lysol.
Anything that smells or tastes good at all could be banned based on "sensory attribute", when that’s part of the reason that vaping products are effective. From a public health perspective banning a flavour that a "few" youth might be attracted to which could potentially facilitate a transition from smoking to vaping products is counterproductive, given the relative risk.
The bill itself doesn’t balance harm reduction and relative risk. Do we assume that whoever is applying regulation is doing so in the best interest of smokers?
In your opinion Senator Ogilvie, what would constitute "reasonable grounds" that a flavour is appealing to youth based on "sensory attribute"?
Prohibited for youth under 18 years of age
As a rule, we completely agree with this approach and self-imposed a restriction to anyone under 19 (Ontario) when we first opened our store in 2011. It is doubtful that anyone in the industry would disagree with this.
However, what do we do with the 14 year old youth that started smoking when they were 12 years old that is unable to quit smoking? Do we force them to continue smoking for another 4 years (or 5 years in some provinces), further solidifying their addiction and continued damage caused by smoking, until they are able to legally purchase vaping products?
This has been an ethical struggle for the industry without regulatory guidance but most, that we know, have assumed the most restrictive stance and not provided vaping products to anyone less than 18 years of age.
To restrict access to a known less hazardous product to current smokers on the basis of age is discriminatory, a violation of human rights, and inconsistent with the goals of public health in general and this law specifically.
Senator, shouldn’t there be an exception to this prohibition for youth that are already smokers?
There are still a significant number of points that we are concerned about and are looking for clarification, but given that we are already on page 5 of this letter, we will save that for our future discussions.
Thank you, Senator Ogilvie, for your time and consideration of our questions and concerns. We are hopeful that this is just the beginning of many conversations and interactions!
Charlene & John Haste