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eCigs & The Law

In Canada, the status of electronic cigarettes is confusing because of the claims by Health Canada and the medical community. In 2009, Health Canada issued an advisory that essentially does not say much other than warn Canadians about using electronic cigarettes (and e-cigars, etc.). What is known is that under Schedule F of the Canadian Food and Drugs Act, nicotine with a dose of under four milligrams is directly exempt from being classified as a new drug or a drug delivery system. The advisory includes specifics about the possible chemicals included with eLiquid. The one chemical listed in the advisory is "propylene glycol" which they state is a known irritant. I have seen Propylene Glycol (PG) used in eLiquids and can be mixed with Vegetable Glycol (VG) to achieve the same effect (producing the smoke effect). I have read that PG is the most popular of the two. Health Canada's advisory also includes a comment about the nicotine in eCigs to be addictive. That's sort of pointing out the obvious, isn't it? The purpose of my eCig quit-smoking strategy is to get rid of the 4000+ chemicals in regular cigarettes. My calculations show that, in my case, I can save more than $2000. each year by using eCigs – and get less than 25% of the nicotine that regular cigarettes would provide. A "typical" king size light cigarette has an absorption rate of about 1.4 mg of nicotine (for my usual brand). Smoking four cartons a month, that is equivalent to 3360 mg of nicotine per year. The equivalent in eCigs would deliver 360 mg. (A 30ml bottle of e-liquid at 1.8% nicotine is the equivalent of about 15 packs of cigarettes – 15 packs of cigarettes would contain 210 mg of nicotine).

In the United States, there is growing momentum to have electronic cigarettes (and other related products) banned. New York City has already banned using eCigs (December 19 2013). The law extends the ban on smoking regular cigarettes in public places, restaurants, bars and in private office buildings – and now includes e-cigarettes. New Jersey, Utah and North Dakota already ban the use of e-cigarettes where smoking is prohibited, while Los Angeles and Chicago also are considering such bans. More than a dozen other local governments including Concord City and Petaluma in California, and Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge, North Attleborough, Somerset and South Hadley in Massachusetts also have similar laws.

It's unclear what will happen in either country. The only clear direction is that this market is huge and growing. Estimates place the eCig market at over $1.2 billion in the US alone.

Regardless of the legalities, official health concerns seem to more aligned with the "pitch" from big tobacco companies. RJ Reynolds (Pall Mall, Camel, Winston, Salem, Doral, Kool, Misty, Capri) is in process of launching VUSE Electronic Cigarettes. Altria Group Inc. (Marlboro, Benson & Hedges, Cambridge, Chesterfield, Commander, L&M, Merit, Parliament, Players, Virginia Slims) are set to release Mark-Ten - an electronic cigarette. Lorillard Inc. (Newport, Old Gold, Kent, True, Maverick) has already launched Blu in the US.

Regardless of the regulatory health agencies, eCigs manufacturers and vendors are not making any health claims whatsoever. There is no claim from any eCig manufacturer that electronic cigarettes "cure" anything. There is no claim from any eCig manufacturer that electronic cigarettes are a smoke cessation product or nicotine replacement therapy. As a matter of fact, the local convenience store (Macs Milk) carries three different brands of electronic cigarettes. EVO is a company based in Montreal Quebec. DUNE is based in Calgary Alberta. Smoke NV is based in Edmonton Alberta. Only Smoke NV's website has an age checker prior to online shop purchases. Another variety store locally sells VAPUR, from a company based in Montreal Quebec. All claim that you can "vape" anywhere as long as there are no specific rules prohibiting electronic cigarette use. And, all of them sell through retail locations with their eLiquid featuring 0% nicotine. One of the vendors has a direct link to nicotine cartridges, though, and all of them are supported by other companies that make nicotine replacement cartridges specific to their products. And, here's an interesting note, Smoke NV is a company established by a group of physicians "with a goal of promoting 'Tobacco Harm Reduction' ...." ... WOW!

While it is unclear what the tobacco companies intentions are for the Canadian market, it is not likely far behind US launches. (As of the writing of this article, Blu is now available in Canada – within a few minutes of my home, there are at least six retailers carrying Blu eCigs).

I see this as a major lobby by the tobacco companies to retain control over the retail tobacco market (cigarettes, cigars, etc.).

The government health agencies concerns about health issues with eCigs is not valid. Logic says that eCigs have to be safer than regular cigarettes and cigars. Regular cigarettes (and cigars) contain more than 4000+ chemicals and compounds that are already proven to negative affect our health. eCigs contains only a handful of chemicals and compounds, and most of these are food grade and already in widespread use in food products.

In Canada at least, electronic cigarettes are already regulated. The labels on eLiquid are covered under the Food and Drug Act for content, ingredients, and nicotine. The electronics are consumer products and regulated by electrical, electronic, and consumer protection legislation.

And, I also want to point out, the entry of traditional tobacco companies into the eCig market provides no comfort. The traditional companies have their own skeletons – anyone remember the smokeless cigarette? Anyone recall the added chemicals to enhance nicotine delivery in regular cigarettes? Anyone recall the marketing campaigns over the years targetting youth?

Common sense tells me eCigs have to be safer than the 4000+ plus chemicals and compounds found in regular tobacco and I will continue on my strategy to use eCigs as a nicotine replacement during my quit-smoking campaign.

It also bears mentioning that electronic cigarettes from major tobacco companies are already available in just about every convenience store in Canada, along with some no-name imports. They are not hidden behind any doors, but are plainly visible and on front counters.