NNSL Photo/Graphic

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Electronic smoking devices unregulated in the city, territory
Other places have made rules around e-cigarettes, vaporizers

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Friday, January 15, 2016

The jury is still out on exactly what, if any, health hazards are associated with electronic cigarettes or vaporizers, according to Dr. Andre Corriveau, the territory's chief public health officer.

NNSL photo/graphic

Vaporizers, like this one purchased in Edmonton, appear to be increasing in popularity across Canada including here in in Yellowknife. Despite that, the city says that at this point it has no intention of enacting a bylaw governing the use of vaporizers or e-cigarettes in public places. - Walter Strong/NNSL photo

There are currently no laws or regulations governing the use or sale of such products in the NWT, despite such rules being put in place in other jurisdictions. In Ontario, for example, as of Jan. 1, it became illegal to sell e-cigarettes and vaporizers to anyone under 19, advertise the products and use e-cigarettes anywhere smoking is prohibited.

The devices, which have been around since 2003, are often used by people trying to quit smoking tobacco but they've picked up steam as a popular form of smoking with some larger cities even seeing "vape lounges," designed for people to gather under one roof and use their vaporizers.

E-cigarettes and vaporizers are inhaled like regular cigarettes but emit only water vapours, sometimes flavoured, which disappear within seconds.

Health Canada made e-cigarettes that contain nicotine illegal in 2009. Yellowknifer could not find any establishments in Yellowknife selling vaporizers. E-cigarettes and e-cigars being sold in the city do not contain nicotine, according to the packaging. One local retailer, who stocks e-cigarettes, said they are not a big seller.

Ordering e-cigarettes or inhalable doses of nicotine from outside the country and having them mailed here will result in the package being seized at the border, according to Canada Post's website.

In the United States, the federal Food and Drug Administration has proposed expanding regulations, such as a ban on sales to those under 18 years of age, to cover devices like e-cigarettes. Bans on sales to those under a certain age and regulations on use have been passed in multiple states.

"There's a big debate within public health on what's the place for these cigarettes," Corriveau said. "We are taking a cautious approach to this because we recognize that it might be an aid for people who are having a hard time quitting smoking. We don't want to dismiss that. But there are a lot of things we don't know about what they put in the vapours. There's some oils and other product mixed in and what those long-term health impacts will be is still an unknown."

Corriveau said he is also very concerned about youth being attracted to vaporizers and e-cigarettes.

"With flavours for instance - it might be a subtle way to get people addicted to nicotine and then they move onto other delivery methods like smoking cigarettes. That could cause harm to the work that has been done over the past 25 to 30 years to bring smoking rates down," Corriveau said. "That success could be eroded very quickly so we're still wanting to see significant restrictions to access for youth, how it's promoted and where it's allowed. It portrays an image that it's all fine and it's even cool. We have concerns related to that as well."

The process of how regulations pertaining to the devices would come to be in the NWT could not be determined by press time.

Corriveau said he understands some provinces have banned use in public places. That's been done, at least in part, to prevent the message conveyed to youth that this is somehow OK, he added.

Jason Perrino, co-owner of After 8 Pub and Twist Lounge, said it has not been an issue in either of his establishments. He does say that at least two people have used vaporizers inside his bars.

"Because it is not a popular thing at all up here ... the people who did vape did it for a few puffs and felt out of place. It seems to regulate itself," Perrino said. He does not think there is a need for vaporizing to be regulated, at least not at this point. He said he did not receive any complaints from his other customers or staff over people using them.

In an e-mail to Yellowknifer, Nalini Naidoo, director of communications for the city of Yellowknife, stated that the city has not had a request to look into this issue nor has it received any complaints or questions from residents. "At this time, the e-cigarette issue has not been brought forward as a community or council concern that staff have been asked to review," she stated.

- with file from Shane Magee

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.