While marketing of tobacco cigarettes is illegal in the sporting sector, the rules for the nascent vaping industry are less clear. There are companies such as Vapz trying to secure a foothold. Their presence underscores widespread confusion in the sector as it awaits new regulation: Sellers of e-cigarettes, many of them small businesses, are operating in a grey area by advertising and selling unapproved products that deliver nicotine to users’ systems without approval and, in many cases, that, in many cases, without being reined in by Health Canada. While Vapz whas been mostly promoting its line of health and wellness products – which includes juices, teas and lotions – the company was also selling its namesake vaping products online.
E-cigarettes are not cigarettes. They don’t contain tobacco or tar and users do not inhale smoke. Instead, they electronically heat liquid that gives off a vapour that is inhaled. But some of those “juices” do contain nicotine. Sellers say they are offering a smoking-cessation product that can help save lives.
In November, Health Canada proposed an amendment to the Tobacco Act to regulate the sale, labelling and advertisement of vaping products – whether or not they contain nicotine – and any health claims about the products’ effectiveness as aids to quit smoking. It would classify e-cigarettes as a separate category of product from tobacco, but would impose some similar limits, such as banning promotion of candy-like flavours that could draw underage users.
In the meantime, all vaping products that have nicotine or are meant to be used with nicotine, are regulated under the Food and Drugs Act and require Health Canada’s approval to be imported, advertised or sold here. So far, none have received that approval.
All signs point to vaping becoming a big business. The global e-cigarette market is expected to grow to $27.6-billion (U.S.) by 2022, according to a report from Dublin-based firm Research and Markets. In Canada, vapour products were a $282.6-million (Canadian) industry in 2016, nearly 10 times the size of the market just five years earlier, according to research firm Euromonitor International.
Large tobacco companies are also wading into the space, but many have resisted doing so in Canada until the law is clear.
“Hopefully we’ll also be competing in e-cigarettes in Canada once there’s some clarity in terms of the regulations and the laws,” said Peter Luongo, managing director of Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. in Canada. The company does sell a vapour-emitting product called IQOS in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, but the vapour comes from a “heat-not-burn” device that heats a tobacco stick rather than vaping liquid, so it is categorized as a tobacco product. That’s also true for a similar product called i-glo, which competitor Imperial Tobacco Canada sells only in Vancouver for now. Imperial’s parent company, British American Tobacco, sells an e-cigarette product in 10 countries but has also been waiting for legal clarity in Canada before launching here.
“There needs to be a regulatory framework in place as soon as possible. There’s a lot of people doing stuff because there’s no regulation,” said Eric Gagnon, head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Imperial Tobacco Canada. “There is no grey zone. It’s just that Health Canada is not enforcing its own regulations.”