Electronic Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are small devices designed to emulate tobacco smoking without combustion and all of the related toxic emissions. They are often promoted as smoking cessation aids but they are also growing in popularity among never-smokers, and particularly young people.

Regulation of e-cigarettes is desperately needed at both the federal and provincial level.  How these products are regulated will in large part determine whether they are a net benefit or a net harm to public health.

Today, more Alberta youth are trying e-cigarettes than those who are trying tobacco cigarettes.1 Some evidence suggests that youth who experiment first with e-cigarettes are almost twice as likely to intend to smoke conventional cigarettes compared to those who have never tried either.2 Due to the unregulated manufacturing, sale and use of e-cigarettes, youth who use e-cigarettes may be vulnerable to nicotine dependence which can lead to tobacco use.3

Health groups are also concerned about the potential renormalization of tobacco use that could result from e-cigarette use in public areas. Many e-cigarettes are designed to look and function like regular cigarettes and most have visible emissions. Some even have glowing tips like traditional cigarettes.

Significant progress has been made in tobacco reduction due to the reduced social acceptability of smoking which has largely resulted from smoking bans. Tobacco reduction legislation has the potential of being undermined by the public use of e-cigarettes in places where smoking is currently prohibited.

Student Tobacco Use in Alberta

Self reported past 30-day use by students in grades 6-12 4

In 2016, the federal government announced plans to regulate e-cigarettes and it introduced a new bill in the Senate to achieve this objective.5  The proposed new law would regulate manufacturing, sales, labelling and promotion of both nicotine and nicotine-free e-cigarette products. When this law comes into effect, e-cigarettes containing nicotine will be legal to sell in Canada, thus the use of these product may continue to rise and complementary provincial regulations will become even more important.

A handful of Alberta municipalities including Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer have included e-cigarettes in their smoking bylaws and are prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes anywhere smoking is currently prohibited.

The Campaign for a Smoke Free Alberta urges the Alberta government to ban e-cigarette use in all public places where tobacco use is currently prohibited. A telephone survey of 1,200 Albertans aged 18 and over conducted in 2016 revealed that 82% of respondents support such a ban. The 2016 Chronic Disease Prevention Survey was commissioned by the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention.

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Footnotes

  1. Cumming, T., Rynard, V. (2017). In Brief: Student Tobacco use in Alberta, 2014/2015 Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey. Waterloo, Ontario: Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, University of Waterloo. Accessed June 2017: https://uwaterloo.ca/canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/sites/ca.canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/files/uploads/files/cst14_tobacco_use_ab_20170515v5_a.pdf
  2. Bunnell RE, Agaku IT, Arrazola R, Apelberg BJ, Caraballo RS, Corey CG, Coleman B, Dube SR, King BA. Intentions to smoke cigarettes among never-smoking U.S. middle and high school electronic cigarette users, National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2011-2013. Nicotine and Tobacco Research. 2014 Aug 20. [Epub ahead of print] http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/youth/e-cigarettes/
  3. World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Electronic nicotine delivery systems. FCT/COP/6-10 Rev.1. 2014.
  4. Cumming, T., Rynard, V. (2017). In Brief: Student Tobacco use in Alberta, 2014/2015 Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey. Waterloo, Ontario: Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, University of Waterloo. Accessed June 2017: https://uwaterloo.ca/canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/sites/ca.canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/files/uploads/files/cst14_tobacco_use_ab_20170515v5_a.pdf
  5. An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-Smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts Accessed at: https://openparliament.ca/bills/42-1/S-5/