Health Canada has made its stance on electronic cigarettes very clear. They don’t like them. According to Health Canada you can sell non-nicotine e-cigs but you can’t sell e-cigs with nicotine north of the 49th.
We get it, Health Canada doesn’t like them at all. That does not tell the real story of Canadian electronic cigarette regulations.
“E-cigarette products, including e-liquids, that contain any amount of nicotine or have a health claim fall within the scope of the Food and Drugs Act and require approval by Health Canada before they can be imported, advertised or sold in Canada,” said Health Canada Spokesperson Gary Holub.
Okay so Mr. Holub would apparently rather that people stick with tobacco. That may not be his intention but if he cannot see that as the outcome of Health Canada’s position or if he cannot see that there is orders of magnitude in difference between vaping three GRAS, generally recognized as safe, ingredients vs sucking in the burning fumes of a cigarette with thousands of toxins, then he will never be a candidate to become Captain Obvious.
Have you seen Captain Obvious? The guy is the Hotels.com TV commercials? Hilarious!
Anyway, there are more enlightened thinkers in Canada. Dr. Gaston Ostigay of the Montreal Chest Institute’s Smoking Cessation Clinic said that there is a moral imperative to make e-cigs available to addicted smokers.
Health Canada’s limitations are putting smokers at risk. That is not an overstatement. Despite making good progress, there are still between six and seven million smokers in Canada. The fight against smoking is far from over and millions of Canadians need an alternative. They deserve an alternative. They can’t affor to wait for a perfect solution.
Many critics argue that e-cigarette will normalize smoking. Studies suggest that the reverse is actually true. E-cigs may actually contribute to decreasing teen smoking rates. Besides, almost 20% of Canadians are smokers so it is a stretch to say that smoking is abnormal behavior.
Attacks on electronic cigarettes are noting new. Recently, the World Health Organization called for strong regulations citing alarmist viewpoints. Is Health Canada just following a trend or do they have any real reasons to limit access to a less harmful option.
The fight always seems to come back to the 2009 Health Canada advisory.
Canadian Electronic Cigarette Regulations
In 2009, Health Canada issued an advisory warning Canadians to avoid e-cigarettes but an advisory does not constitute a law.
In fact, many vape shops across Canada are currently selling e-cigarettes and ecig liquid with nicotine.
Nicholas Ethier owns ‘Electronic Cigarette Ottawa’. He is not about to stop providing Canadian smokers with a less harmful option because Health Canada has not approved it. “All of my life I have been telling smokers to quit. Now I have a product that can actually help. I am finding more and more people are quitting,” said Ethier.
Ethier is actually working toward developing a lab within Canada that can provide nicotine extraction services. Given Health Canada’s rigid stance, he may have his work cut out for him. Currently, he does import shipments to Canada. They don’t all get through. He has lost numerous shipments at the border. The best e-cig brands all use high quality ingredients. They have taken every effort to screen out any impurities and deliver top quality products that are safer. Blocking Canadians from accessing e-cigarettes is simply a sad state of affairs.
According to Health Canada, they are not a lot of enforcement efforts being directed toward stopping nicotine infused e-liquids at the border. Enforcement is basically carried out when a complaint is received. In 2013, Health Canada recommended that 2,555 shipments be refused at the border. The language is interesting. The shipments blocked at the border are based on “recommendations”. Again, this all stems from the 2009 advisory but advisories are not laws.
Health Canada claims that nicotine falls under the country’s Food and Drug act. Let’s examine that claim. Under the Food and Drug Act, the criteria for being considered a drug, or more specifically a medicine, are as follows:
- A substance or combination of substances that are used for the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of a disease, disorder or physical abnormality (including symptoms) in human beings and animals.
- A substance used to correct or modify organic functions in humans or animals.
- A substance or substances used in the disinfection of premises where food is prepared, manufactured or stored.
E-cig liquid is not intended to cure anything. E-cig brands do not claim to cure anything. E-cigarettes are marketed as an alternative. Nicotine is already sold in tobacco form, and sold everywhere. E-cigarettes simply offer a cleaner source of nicotine while mimicking smoking.
Caffeine is a drug. Of course coffee shops do not claim to cure anything either. Nicotine and caffeine may be drugs, and they are, but they are not medicines. They are not intended to treat any conditions.
Nicotine is toxic in higher concentrations but so are a lot of other chemicals. E-cigarette users are fully capable of taking basic nicotine safety precautions.
The nicotine in an e-cig does not change anything in a smoker’s organic functions. They are already getting nicotine from tobacco. They are just getting it in a safer form.
Natural health products are categorized by similar criteria as drugs and medicines. Once again nicotine does not fall into any category designed to treat any medical condition. The fact that e-cig brands do not make any such claims, technically they should not require a drug identification number from Health Canada.
E-cig liquid, e-cigarettes and the ever popular vape kits fall into a category of consumer chemical products and simple consumer products. Obviously there is no issue with the hardware of an e-cigarette. It is simply a battery and a heating element. What about consumer chemical products?
It is legal to import consumer chemical products into Canada. Before the importer can sell the products, they must ensure that labeling meets standards.
When you consider the entire picture, Health Canada’s “recommendations” to block importations at the border seem ripe to be challenged in court. For e-cig industry watchers in the US, this story sounds all too familiar.
Fighting Restrictive E-Cigarette Regulations
Once upon a time the FDA blocked the import of e-cigs and e-cig liquid to the US. It was not until several companies combined their efforts and brought the matter to court that the FDA was forced to end its blockade.
The US Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit ruled that the FDA had overreached its powers in blocking e-cig imports. Earlier this year, the FDA proposed long-term e-cig regulations. These proposals did not include a ban of any kind. The FDA has accepted that e-cigs are here to stay and they even admitted that there might be some value to e-cigs as a smoking cessation aid.
Health Canada does not block all e-cig imports but the next time that they do issue a recommendation to block an import, it seems that a challenge to their authority could have similar results to the injunction granted against the FDA in 2009.
Basically, someone in Canada needs to fight off the check, grab the puck, gain some speed through the neutral zone, go to the net, deak out Health Canada and go top shelf to light the lamp for smoker’s right’s to a less harmful option. Score!
Canadian smokers deserve full access to a less harmful alternative. The best e-cig companies have developed technologically advanced smoking alternatives that are changing millions of lives around the world. In fact, the lifestyle changes that many e-cig users are experiencing is almost miraculous. The right to that option is worth fighting for.
The best electronic cigarettes utilize laboratory grade ingredients and production processes. They provide excellent products that have helped millions of people worldwide. E-cig health risks have been over stated. They do not cure nicotine addiction but neither does the patch, or nicotine gum. What electronic cigarettes do accomplish is the avoidance of toxins and carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. Even the American Heart Association and Cancer Society have finally admitted that e-cigarettes are an ally in the fight against smoking. They are not the enemy.
On the other hand, Health Canada seems to be inclined to wait for a perfect solution to smoking. More than six million Canadians need an alternative right now. They do not deserve to be condemned to using tobacco until some pharmaceutical company creates the perfect solution. Since when is waiting for perfection a remotely viable strategy for anything?