Canada’s Policy on E-Cigarette Marketing is “Death By Mandated Deception,” says Canadian Professor of Health Law Policy


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University of Ottawa professor releases a scathing editorial this week tearing into Canadian Parliament for being “exceedingly and irrationally risk averse” with Bill S-5

David Sweanor has been helping develop and enact tobacco control laws in Canada and around the world for over 30 years. Currently he is an adjunct law professor with the Centre for Health Law Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa. Recently he released an editorial through the Canadian Editorial Outlet, Troy Media. In it he attacks Canadian Parliament for moving on to banning the marketing of e-cigarettes as relatively less harmful, after previously failing to ban them outright. He says this will undoubtedly lead to fewer people actually quitting, a move he calls “death by mandated deception.”

The large number of smokers who want to improve the health and well-being of themselves and their families are forced to overcome an “avalanche of abstinence-only messaging” if they want to understand the harm reduction value of vaping over smoking. In this way, legislators are focused on nicotine risk aversion to such a degree that it is actively helping big tobacco companies, says Sweanor. He makes the case that Canadian regulations have not only failed to facilitate the “massively lower-risk” e-cigarettes, but are in fact actively hampering their development and adoption in Canada.

Bill S-5

One such piece of legislation, says Sweanor, is Bill S-5. He says this bill would essentially make it illegal for e-cigarette companies to market their devices as lower-risk. Sweanor calls the strategy, “exceedingly and irrationally risk averse,” arguing anything that may give smokers a much safer and viable option should be supported and certainly not suppressed. Bill S-5, which has already passed the Canadian Senate is still waiting for the House of Commons ruling. Those who support it say they strive to find a balance, but Sweanor retorts, “there is no middle ground between rationality and irrationality.”

Success with Preventable Death Elsewhere

Using the example of Japan, he proposes that given the right exposure, marketing, and location, vaping could realistically displace up to 18% of cigarette sales in just two years. Professor Sweanor argues over a million Canadian deaths could be avoided over the next 25 years if legislators wake up and realize that abstinence only policies are only helping the cigarette industry. Traditional cigarettes success at convincing the general public that their risks are similar to those of electronic cigarettes is always one of the biggest obstacles facing vaping in any country.

He also referenced “revolutionary” comments from the United States Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb. Dr. Gottlieb said during an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box, “It’s not the nicotine that kills you, it’s all the other carcinogens in lighting tobacco on fire.” He went on to explain what he described as a continuum of risk involving nicotine. Acknowledging that while e-cigarettes are not 100% harmless, it would be misleading to suggest their known risks are anywhere near as bad as the known long term effects of smoking cigarettes. David Sweanor applauded the new FDA commissioner for agreeing that nicotine is not only the problem, but a major part of the solution. Approaches based on shaming and punishing smokers into quitting can never be as effective as ones that “empower them to succeed,” Sweanor says.

What do you think about Canada’s stance on vaping? Do you agree with Professor Sweanor’s diagnosis? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Jimmy Hafrey

Jimmy, lover, blogger, vaper and ex-smoker. I’ve been blogging about and supporting Vaping since 2009. They changed my life and I think history will show them as one of the most significant public health invention of the 21st century.

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