A committee of Canada’s Senate plans to study proposed legislation that, if passed into law, would regulate electronic cigarettes under the federal Tobacco Act.
Currently, “all regulation of e-cigarettes takes place at the provincial or municipal level,” Quebec Conservative Senator Judith Seidman told the Senate last week. “Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories and Yukon have no regulation at all. Nova Scotia, one of the first provinces to implement significant restrictions on e-cigarette sales in Canada, passed legislation that treated e-cigarettes as conventional tobacco cigarettes in May 2015. New Brunswick passed similar legislation to Nova Scotia.”
She made her comments during second reading of Bill S-5, which was referred March 9 to the Senate social affairs, science and technology committee.
If passed into law, Bill S-5 will make changes to the Non-smokers’ Health Act and the Tobacco Act.
In August, 2014, Toronto City Council voted to ban e-cigarettes at City of Toronto workplaces.
Also in 2014, Swiss Re Ltd. warned that if electronic cigarettes “are proven to be more harmful to health than presumed today, respiratory diseases or other health problems may increase and trigger liability claims similar to tobacco claims in the past.
Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia and Alberta “have very basic restrictions that relate solely to the location of use of e- cigarettes and restrict them as in conventional tobacco cigarettes,” Seidman told the Senate March 9, 2017.
“There are differing opinions in Canada about what to do at this particular juncture: regulate, ignore and wait for more evidence about the product, or ban the e-cigarette all together,” Seidman added.
“Second-hand exposure to vapour from e-cigarettes has been tested to some extent and is found to be less toxic than cigarette smoke as it does not contain carbon monoxide or volatile organic compounds,” she reported. “However, the vapour does produce a measurable absorption of nicotine in bystanders, and how to measure that risk is not yet clear. All reviews of second-hand exposure have called for more testing to clarify the conflicting findings on the emissions of particulate matter, metals and other substances.”
In a 2014 report, Swiss Re SONAR: Emerging Risk Insights, the reinsurer said risks of electronic cigarettes include e-liquids, which when “ingested or absorbed through the skin, they can cause vomiting and seizures and can even be lethal.”
Electronic cigarettes “may include variable levels of cancer-causing chemicals and harmful ingredients,” Dr. David McKeown, then Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, wrote in 2014. Those ingredients include tobacco-specific nitrosamines, carbonyl compounds, such as aldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein, Dr. McKeown said at the time.
“Unlike conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes have been marketed through television, the Internet and print advertisements to promote a lifestyle as well as their use as a healthier alternative to tobacco smoking, for smoking cessation, and to reduce cigarette consumption,” Seidman told the Senate earlier this month. “However, there is insufficient evidence to support such premises, and even less evidence about the risks of exposure in long-term use.”