TORONTO – LIFESTYLE and Health – The Canadian harm reduction scene has been disrupted and has evolved over many decades. Despite years of efforts to reduce smoking, people are still smoking cigarettes. The move to legalize cannabis has also led to changes in usage patterns according to some experts.
The Canadian Vaping Association which represents the industry,
“Rather than be at war with vaping, we should be at war with tobacco. The objective is to provide smokers with a viable alternative to smoking. Vaping presents another option after NRTs and therapy have failed a portion of smokers,” said Darryl Tempest, Executive Director of the CVA.
It’s incomprehensible that the Canadian government would base its proposed regulations on Denmark.
For 35 years, Danes had a depanelized policy but is now moving towards a repressive and punitive governance. The flavour ban in Denmark is in its infancy, seeing its debut in April 2021. There is a lack of research to understand the controversial ban that hasn’t been in place long enough to assess the outcome of such a ban.
The progressive stance that has been taken by the nation is to support those in need by removing shame and stigma through initiatives such as legalizing safe injection sites and cannabis. When looking at the vaping industry, there is a counter-intuitive approach in play, that not only demeans the consumers that utilize vape products, but blatantly disregards their health and the continued use of the product. While countries around the world embrace vaping as a harm reduction tool, Canada lags with a prohibitionist mentality that will see the return to smoking for thousands of Canadians.
Implementing a vape flavour ban is a form of punishment to those that legally use the product. Furthermore, flavour restrictions as a method of curbing youth vaping has proven to be ineffective. This can be determined by looking at the UK and their proactive regulations that capped nicotine levels and strictly regulated marketing by vape companies.
In the UK, there was not a significant increase in youth vaping and these products continue to be supported by the government and associations. The UK plans to eradicate smoking by 2030; a goal that relies on vaping to be achieved. As the UK advocates for smokers to switch to vaping in support of their goal, Canada’s goal of 5% smoking prevalence by 2035 pales in comparison. Empowering and supporting smokers as they follow through with the challenging feat of quitting cigarettes should be a priority and not an afterthought.
Vaping is an alternative to cigarettes that allows the consumer to continue using nicotine in a less harmful form. The ultimate harm reduction nation is Portugal, which recently decriminalized drugs and has seen incredible success with their programs. Portugal decriminalized drug use and now has some of the lowest usage rates in Europe among those between the ages of 15-34. The efforts in reducing stigma and restructuring substance abuse programs to allow people with addiction to be treated for their health rather than as criminals generates a considerable outcome. These drug policy reforms have reshaped and renewed a nation, where drug users are supported in their health outcome as opposed to judged and penalized for drug use. In terms of vaping, Canada can look to Portugal for ways to stop demonizing vaping and to see its potential as a harm reduction tool.
It’s imperative that Canada look to other harm reduction nations for successful templates of how to integrate and regulate vaping correctly. The unnecessary overreach of the proposed regulations would harm current vapers and countless smokers that are confounded by mixed messaging and needless changes. For Canada to achieve its meager goal of 5% smoking prevalence by 2035, the changes must be focused on harm reduction strategies that consider the lived experience of smokers. Smokers lives matter, and this narrative must be inclusive of them and the negative outcome a flavour ban would have. As more nations move towards logical harm reduction, Canada must join in and once again prevail as a country that is compassionate and progressive.