OTTAWA – LIVING – The Canadian Vaping Association (CVA) is concerned that Canada’s proposed flavour ban will disproportionately impact Canadian minority groups.
When comparing smoking rates in Canada, there is a higher prevalence in minority groups. In 2019, 11.9% of the Canadian population smoked. In contrast, 36% of the LGBTQ community smoked and for Indigenous groups, it ranged between 31%-65%. The need to aid adult smokers is particularly important from a social justice perspective, as new research finds vaping could help reduce smoking disparities.
Additional supports are in place to help these groups, but to date these programs have had limited success. Flavoured vape products have superior efficacy and must remain available to all adult smokers if Canada is to achieve Health Canada’s target of less than 5% tobacco use by 2035. With Canada’s current lack of resources, these laws will have an adverse effect on minority groups including but not limited to Indigenous, LGBTQ, and individuals with mental health and substance abuse issues. These communities may be more sensitive to nicotine addiction which can result in increased anxiety or physical cravings as well as other negative side effects from quitting smoking cigarettes.
“Addressing disparities in smoking rates is an important component of developing tobacco endgame strategies. Restricting flavours will remove a viable quit smoking tool, especially for population segments that already need substantially more interventions than the general smoking population,” said Darryl Tempest, Executive Director of the CVA.
Mental health and substance abuse are also underlying factors that will greatly contribute to the efficacy of the programs that will be catered to minority groups. One-half of Canadian smokers have experienced mental health or substance use disorders in their lifetime. They are also the most likely to see the largest impact in reducing the disparities that currently exist. “For smokers with serious psychological distress, two thirds of their 15-year loss of life expectancy compared with nonsmokers without serious psychological distress may be attributable to their smoking,” states the authors of Balancing Consideration of the Risks and Benefits of E-Cigarettes. Vaping could assist more of these smokers in quitting smoking and resolve disparities in life expectancy.
The proposed flavour restrictions may have adverse effects on marginalized groups who rely on vaping as a harm reduction tool. To understand how these bans will affect minority populations, disparities were examined in cigarette use between demographic groups. It is imperative to ensure that these communities are well served by the tobacco cessation initiatives that Canada is rolling out and that the very tools that are needed are not hampered by regulatory overreach.
For many privileged Canadians, smoking may seem to have already been mostly eradicated. For many Canadians, smoking does not exist within their social circles or workplaces and because they themselves do not smoke, flavour restrictions are inconsequential. Yet, 1 in 10 Canadians still smoke. Canada must ensure that regulation is equitable and that strides are made to end disparities.