Vaping Products – New limits on nicotine concentration and consultation on flavour restrictions

Backgrounder

June 2021

While youth smoking is at its lowest level in decades, vaping is putting a new generation of Canadians at risk of nicotine addiction and the harms related to vaping. Additional regulatory measures are necessary because too many young people are using vaping products-and they are doing so without understanding the short and longer-term risks to their health.

Vaping products are harmful. They can increase your exposure to potentially damaging chemicals that could harm your health (e.g., cause lung damage). Most vaping products also contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive chemical. Children and youth are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of nicotine, as it can alter their brain development and affect their memory and concentration. In addition, children and youth may become dependent on nicotine at lower levels of exposure and more rapidly than adults.

According to the 2018-2019 Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CSTADS), the prevalence of vaping among students doubled since 2016-17. Twenty percent (20%) of students (approximately 418,000) had used an e-cigarette (with or without nicotine) in the past 30 days, an increase from 10% in 2016-17. Regulatory measures, along with other measures, are being introduced to protect youth from being enticed to using vaping products and help address the high rates of youth vaping.

Data from the 2019 Wave 3 International Tobacco Control Youth Tobacco and Vaping Survey, a survey conducted by Dr. David Hammond from the School of Public Health and Health Systems of the University of Waterloo, indicates that for youth in Canada aged 16-19 who had vaped in the past 30 days, using vaping products "for the flavour" and "for the nicotine" were among their top five reasons. Research using Canadian youth aged 13-19 from the Exploratory Research on Youth Vaping project conducted by Quorus Consulting Group also found that for those who reported using vaping products containing at least 50 mg/mL of nicotine, experiencing a "head rush" or "buzz" was by far "the best part about vaping."

Research from several scientific studies show that flavours influence both product perceptions and usage behaviours among youth. Flavours other than tobacco, as well as the presence of sugars and sweeteners, are associated with increased product appeal, decreased perception of harm, and increased intention to try or use these products.

Health Canada analyzed over 800 vaping liquids to better understand their chemical composition. This analysis showed the presence of at least 630 flavouring chemicals across 18 different flavour categories. The results from this analysis were used to support the development of the proposal to further restrict flavours in vaping products.

New Nicotine Concentration in Vaping Product Regulations

In Canada Gazette, Part II that will be published on July 23, 2021, Health Canada is announcing the new Nicotine Concentration in Vaping Products Regulations (NCVPR), which set a maximum nicotine concentration of 20 mg/mL for vaping products marketed in Canada. They also prohibit the packaging and sale of vaping products if the nicotine concentration stated on the package exceeds 20 mg/mL.

The NCVPR prescribe a laboratory method, ISO 20714 E-liquid - Determination of nicotine, propylene glycol and glycerol in liquids used in electronic nicotine delivery devices - Gas chromatographic method, for determining the nicotine concentration of a vaping substance. Health Canada will use this method to determine compliance with the maximum nicotine concentration.

As well, the NCVPR amend the Vaping Products Labelling and Packaging Regulations, which until now allowed vaping products to contain up to 66 mg/mL of nicotine; this limit will now only apply to products intended for export. Vaping products authorized under the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) are not subject to these regulations.

The NCVPR come into force on July 8, 2021. Retailers have until July 23, 2021 to comply with these Regulations.

Enforcement actions to address non-compliance may include issuing warning letters, seizures, and/or prosecutions. The penalties for not complying with the NCVPR are set out under Part VI of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act.

Canadians are encouraged to report any suspected violations to Health Canada by email at hc.tcp.questions-plt.sc@canada.ca and to their local authorities such as municipal public health inspectors, provincial inspectors or law enforcement.

Proposal to further restrict vaping product flavours

Flavoured vaping products are highly appealing to youth. In Canada Gazette, Part I to be published on July 19, 2021, Health Canada is proposing measures that would:

  • further restrict the promotion of flavours to tobacco, mint, menthol or a combination of mint and menthol (mint/menthol), including through indications or illustrations on packaging;
  • prohibit all sugars and sweeteners as well as most flavouring ingredients, with limited exceptions to impart tobacco and mint/menthol flavours; and
  • prescribe sensory attributes standards to prevent a sensory perception other than one that is typical of tobacco or of mint/menthol.

Flavours other than tobacco, as well as sugars and sweeteners in vaping products, increase product appeal, decrease perception of harm and heighten intention to try or use vaping or tobacco products. Youth also tend to perceive flavoured vaping products, such as fruit and candy, as less harmful to health than tobacco-flavoured vaping products.

Health Canada is aware of the important role flavours can play in helping people who smoke transition from smoking. The proposed measures would leave some flavour options for adults who smoke and wish to transition, or have transitioned to vaping, which is a less harmful source of nicotine than cigarettes for those who switch completely to vaping.

Consultation period:

Interested persons may make representations concerning the proposed Order Amending Schedules 2 and 3 to the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (Flavours) and the proposed Standards for Vaping Products' Sensory Attributes Regulations until September 2, 2021. All such representations must be addressed to the Tobacco Products Regulatory Office, Tobacco Control Directorate, Controlled Substances and Cannabis Branch, Health Canada, 150 Tunney's Pasture Driveway, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9 (email: hc.pregs.sc@canada.ca).

Proposal to restrict flavours in inhaled cannabis extracts

The increase in youth vaping in Canada is not unique to nicotine vaping products; it has also been observed in cannabis vaping products. On June 19, 2021, Health Canada will publish the proposed Regulations Amending the Cannabis Regulations (Flavours in Cannabis Extracts) in the Canada Gazette, Part I, and launch a 75-day public consultation.

Health Canada is proposing amendments to the Cannabis Regulations to restrict flavours in inhaled cannabis extract products in order to reduce their appeal to youth and young adults.
Health Canada is proposing amendments in three areas:

  • restrictions on flavours in inhaled cannabis extracts, other than the flavour of cannabis;
  • rules for flavouring agents used to produce an inhaled cannabis extract; and,
  • restrictions on promoting or labelling an inhaled cannabis extract with a flavour, other than the flavour of cannabis.

The objective of the proposal is to protect young persons from being enticed to use cannabis by limiting the appeal of inhaled cannabis extracts. Vaping cannabis is increasingly popular for youth (individuals under 18 years old) and young adults (individuals 18-24 years old). Health Canada has identified that the availability of flavours is one of the factors that has contributed to the increase in cannabis vaping in youth and young adults.

Consultation period:

Interested parties can participate in the consultation via a questionnaire, which can be found on the Regulations Amending the Cannabis Regulations (Flavours in Cannabis Extracts) webpage or by submitting comments to cannabis.consultation@canada.ca until September 2, 2021. The feedback from the consultation will be used to inform the development of the final regulatory amendments.

Past Announcements on Vaping Regulations to Protect Youth

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