The Vaping Industry Trade Association (VITA) appreciates the opportunity to respond to Health Canada’s consultation on the Proposed Vaping Products Promotion Regulations (VPPR), as published in Canada Gazette, Part I on December 21, 2019.
VITA/ARIV is a non-profit trade association representing vaping industry stakeholders, including Dvine Laboratories, JUUL Labs Canada Ltd., Valor Distributions, Imperial Tobacco Canada (Vype), Atelier de Saveurs LaVapeShop, and JTI Canada Tech Inc. (Logic). As Canada’s largest Trade Association representing the industry’s manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers, VITA is committed to working with governments to set and uphold regulations for vaping products in Canada. Our mission is to represent and support the Canadian vaping industry in advocating for harm reduction, youth prevention, evidence-based regulations, and best in class quality and safety standards.
This submission will address VITA’S position on the proposed vaping product regulations which aim to restrict advertising at retail establishments and online. VITA holds that if further restrictions are placed on advertising, they should be accompanied with the release of authorized relative health statements and that retailers should be provided with clear guidance for communicating with adult customers at point of sale. The submission will also offer alternative solutions that support the dual objective of reducing youth appeal while informing adult smokers of reduced risk nicotine alternatives.
Restrictions on Advertising at Retail:
The prohibition of any advertising that youth could see will prevent most forms of advertising online and any form of advertising in retail establishments that youth have access to, such as convenience stores. Although these restrictions may be intended to prevent youth from becoming attracted to vaping products, they will have the unintended effect of further limiting adult smokers’ awareness and understanding of vaping products and will undermine the potential of these products to convert smokers.
Since the legalization of vaping products, vape products have entered nearly 20, 000 convenience stores across Canada. As a result, vapers can access these reduced risk alternatives in areas where there are no vape shops or at times when vape shops typically are not open. Another unique advantage of the convenience distribution channel is that this is where most adult smokers purchase their cigarettes.
The increased availability of vape products in convenience channels post-legalization only supports the goals of tobacco harm reduction if adult smokers know that vape products are available and if they are aware of the reduced risks associated with switching from smoking to vaping.
The proposed regulations stipulate that the only information that can be communicated about vaping products at point of sale is their availability and their price, which essentially positions vaping products the same way as tobacco within these establishments. This sends the message to the consumer that vaping is regulated in the same way as smoking and therefore carries the same risk, doing little to encourage adult smokers to switch from smoking to vaping. The misperception that vaping is just as or more harmful than tobacco is bolstered by a recent string of black-market THC vaping related illnesses and the uptake of youth vaping, which has swayed public opinion in the wrong direction. If the general public holds this view, then presumably the adult smoker understands vaping to be as harmful or worse than cigarettes and is not encouraged to change their behaviour. It is critical that these misperceptions are challenged with the provision of fact-based information. Adult smokers should know about vaping as a less harmful alternative and communication freedoms are critical to building this awareness.
The Government can ensure that adult smokers are informed of these less risky alternatives in two ways. First, the Government of Canada should release and enact the previous consultation on relative risk statements that industry received on September 4, 2018 titled: Health Canada Consultation on the List of Statements for Use in the Promotion of Vaping Products / Santé Canada consultation pour la liste d’énoncés à utiliser dans la promotion des produits de vapotage. These statements are clearly targeted at adult smokers and share the potential benefits of making a complete switch while not implying that the products hold no absolute risk. These statements should be made visible at retail so that adult smokers are consistently confronted with the availability of a less harmful option and may consider changing their behaviour or even quitting smoking altogether.
Second, Health Canada should consider allowing vaping advertising with certain conditions to prevent youth appeal. For example, all advertising should be required to include the statement “vapour products are intended for adult smokers only.” Health Canada could also impose a restriction that only the product be shown and that only those product features that are targeted at the adult smoker be communicated. For example, the product could be shown with a statement referencing the affordability of vaping in comparison with smoking, or the fact that compared to smoking there is no tar and no ash. As an industry association we are eager and willing to work with third parties like the Canadian Ad Standards Association and other third parties like the Broadcaster Association to develop standards and verify compliance. We look to Health Canada for leadership and partnership to this end.
The internet represents an important venue to target adult smokers. To this end, VITA requests clarification on online advertising, and what constitutes whether a website can be seen or heard by youth. If online advertising is restricted to advertising to sites with third party age-verification, it makes it extremely difficult to share important information with the adult smoker. Moreover, what initial advertisement would help to entice the adult smoker to click, age verify and then finally get access to information on vaping? What is the bare minimum form of advertisement allowed? An alternative solution would be to implement the above-mentioned conditions AND limit the placement of advertisements to those adult-oriented sites. Adult-oriented sites often have soft age-verification or use new technologies to demonstrate that their viewership is over the age of consent.
Without some form of advertising and promotion beyond what is allowed for tobacco products, adult smokers may not be aware that a much less harmful alternative is available. VITA is not asking for colourful signs, lifestyle advertisement, or enticing materials to promote vapour products but the opportunity to develop, and create information targeted at the adult smoker that communicates relative risks and benefits. We are eager to work with Health Canada and other regulatory agencies and third parties to meet the public health objectives of reducing the smoking rate via vaping and preventing youth from accessing vape products.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of VITA’s response to Health Canada’s Vapour Products Promotion Regulations.
We would be pleased to provide additional details on details included herein or meet at your convenience.
Vaping Industry Trade Association/ Association des Représentants de l’Industrie du Vapotage
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