HALIFAX — Nova Scotia has joined a growing list of provinces clamping down on vaping.
Health Minister Randy Delorey announced Thursday the province will be the first to ban sales of flavoured e-cigarettes and juices in regulatory changes that take effect April 1, 2020.
"This decision is in response to our concerns about the growth in particular of youth vaping," said Delorey.
Though Nova Scotia has drastically reduced youth smoking rates in the last 30 years, that progress has been stalled by the popularity of flavoured vaping products, he said.
"This is not just about reducing vaping access and use, but it's also a means to stem potential transfers into traditional tobacco usage as well," Delorey said.
Between 2017-18, the number of young people smoking and vaping in Canada increased for the first time in several decades, Delorey said.
A recent survey conducted by Smoke Free Nova Scotia suggested 95 per cent of young Nova Scotians who vape said they preferred flavoured juices — and 48 per cent of those surveyed said they would quit if flavours were banned.
A 2016-17 survey suggested 37 per cent of Nova Scotia students in grades 7 to 12 had tried vaping at least once — one of the highest rates in Canada.
Delorey said the province plans to roll out a public education campaign and more vaping legislation next year. Under Nova Scotia's current law, e-cigarette products cannot be sold to anyone under 19.
Delorey wouldn't tip his hand on what further restrictive steps would be included in new legislation, but said he has taken notice of what's being done in other provinces. He said it's also important that any potential changes align with steps taken at the federal level.
"It doesn't make sense to duplicate the legislative and regulatory framework between the federal and provincial jurisdictions, so what's being done at the federal level will have some influence and impact on what we decide to do here provincially," he said.
New restrictions on vaping were recently adopted in Prince Edward Island, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
The P.E.I. government passed legislation last month that sets the highest age limit in the country, raising the legal age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes from 19 to 21.
The legislation also bans certain flavours of e-cigarettes and restricts where the products can be sold.
In British Columbia, a 10-point plan is aimed at protecting youth from the health risks of vaping, including legislation that would boost the provincial sales tax on such products from seven per cent to 20 per cent.
Earlier this week, Newfoundland and Labrador banned the introduction of cannabis vape products when pot consumables go on sale later this month.
Last month, several health advocacy groups called on the Nova Scotia government to take urgent action to curb what they called a youth vaping epidemic.
Kelly Cull, of the Canadian Cancer Society, called Thursday's move to ban flavours an "excellent first step."
"It represents an opportunity to really curb one of the major drivers in terms of how and why youth are using these products in high numbers, and the key driver in terms of what is getting youth addicted," said Cull.
She said she'd like to see upcoming legislation raise the minimum age to 21, restrict where e-cigarette products can be sold, cap nicotine levels, and ban online sales.
Robert MacDonald, president and CEO of the Lung Association of Nova Scotia, said the province should also consider taxation as a means to reduce vaping.
"We've seen that in tobacco (and) it's reduced rates," said MacDonald.
In the United States, 47 deaths have been attributed to vaping, and 2,000 cases of severe lung disease have been reported. Thirteen cases of vaping-associated lung illness had been reported in Canada as of Dec. 3, but so far there have been no deaths.
Delorey said to his knowledge, none of the health-related cases have been reported in Nova Scotia under the province's reporting protocol.
"We want to get ahead of this situation rather than battle it years down the road," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2019.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press