Press Release

January 19, 2015

Health Canada should close the black market for e-cigarettes and replace it with a legal market directed towards health goals. 

On the occasion National Non-Smoking week, a physicians' group is calling on Health Canada to adopt a new regulatory approach to conventional and electronic cigarettes.

"The sale of nicotine-based electronic cigarettes is currently illegal in Canada, yet these products are openly sold in a rapidly increasing number of stores," said Dr. Atul Kapur, president of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC).

Dr. Kapur provided a number of concerns with the government's decision to allow these sales despite their illegal status.  "It undermines the integrity of the government as a health regulator, it exposes Canadians to products which have not been tested for safety and it creates a new illegal market for recreational drugs."

"In addition, the government is missing the opportunity to ensure that any potential benefits of "safer" nicotine products are not undermined by the threat that new products will be used to expand nicotine addiction and prolong the tobacco epidemic."

He recalled that this is not the first time that governments have been challenged with the marketing of new products that promise to reduce harm. Filter cigarettes and low-tar cigarettes harmed public health precisely because the suggestion that they would reduce harm was not matched with an obligation on manufacturers to make sure they did so.

"This time, government should bind manufacturers to a legal obligation to use this new technology to reduce the exposure of smokers to harmful products, and to support the success of smokers trying to quit."

The regulatory regime proposed by PSC, and illustrated in a prototype law, would:

  • allow electronic cigarettes to be sold under the same provisions of the Tobacco Act that are applied to conventional cigarettes
  • impose safety standards on electronic cigarettes under the Consumer Product Safety Act.
  • impose a "sinking lid" on conventional cigarettes, requiring each manufacturer to reduce the number of more harmful products sold each year.
  • impose a cap on the market for recreational nicotine products, with a modest reduction each year to reflect the reduced number of smokers that result from quitting and death.
  • allow the government to establish cap-and-trade or other  programs to allow the market to adjust to these legal requirements, including adjustments for contraband cigarette sales.

"Ours is not the first proposal to apply a "sinking lid" or "cap-and-trade" approach to tobacco," said Dr. Kapur, "nor would it be the first time that the government has required manufacturers to switch consumers to less harmful versions of their products."

PSC urges the government to draw on experience in Canada and elsewhere by which manufacturers have been obliged to phase out incandescent light bulbs, leaded gasoline, acid-rain emissions, and other undesirable products or by-products.

 "We are confident that there is time before the next election for the approach we propose to be put in place," said Dr. Kapur.

For more information: 

Cynthia Callard
(613) 600 5794; ccallard [at.] smoke-free.ca