The Ontario government will release a “new approach” to vaping within weeks but concerns are already being raised about whether the plan will create an uneven retail market.
Travis Kann, a spokesman for Health Minister Christine Elliott, said she has been engaged with stakeholders, including experts, to determine the best policies to protect children and youth from the dangers of vaping.
“While the government is in the midst of finalizing these new policies, the province will take a balanced approach that keeps Ontario’s children and youth safe while also avoiding fuelling an underground market for unsafe vapour products,” Kann said in an e-mail Tuesday.
“Any new approach will also continue to promote smoking cessation treatment for all Ontarians. We will have more to say over the next couple of weeks as any new policies are finalized.”
One of the options that convenience store owners believe is on the table is a restriction on the sale of flavoured and higher-nicotine vaping products to certain retail outlets.
Anne Kothawala, president and CEO of the Convenience Industry Council of Canada, said there have been conversations that suggest the government is considering allowing vaping stores to carry these products while banning their sale in convenience stores.
While vaping stores have signs warning that those under 19 cannot enter, convenience stores have a better record of ensuring no sales to minors, she said.
Convenience stores also already sell tobacco products and are expecting to be able to sell alcohol, too, she said.
“We’re either responsible retailers or we’re not,” Kothawala said. “And we would suggest that all of the evidence and all of the facts prove that we are responsible retailers for a number of age-restricted products and we hope very soon to include beer and wine in that.”
Although the industry promotes vaping as a smoking cessation product, anti-tobacco advocates are concerned about young people accessing vaping products and have recommended a severe restriction on flavours, especially those that would appeal to children and teens.
Kothawala said convenience stores sell a limited number of flavours.
“So when you read those articles about candy cane and bubblegum and cotton candy, those are actually illegal flavours and we do not sell them,” she said.
However, banning the sale of flavoured vaping products would impact convenience stores where mango is one of the popular choices for adult consumers, she said.
The Canadian Vaping Association (CVA), which represents retail and online vaping businesses, has argued that eliminating convenience and gas station sales of vaping products would limit the availability to adult-only locations.
The CVA argues that the marketing of these products, not flavours, is the cause of youth vaping.