With all the negative press attention that vaping has gotten lately, it’s nice to see that some folks can still see reason. Some of those folks happen to be sitting in the Canadian parliament, where some changes in policy could allow vape companies to promote the harm reduction that vaping provides to its users, particularly tobacco product users.
A change of heart
As of right now, vape companies are not allowed to make any health-benefit claims in their marketing or any of their messaging. This law is essentially something they carried over from the way they regulated cigarettes and other forms of tobacco in their advertising. They wanted to make sure that cigarette companies weren’t making misleading health claims about their products. Famously, cigarette companies once promoted the fact that smoking during pregnancy would lead to smaller babies and an easier birthing process, a concept that’s now hard to think about without cringing.
But, not only has the vape industry avoided making such ludicrous claims, but we now know that studies are showing a number of benefits to vaping, especially as an alternative to cigarette smoking. And that’s exactly where the big change could be happening, as the Canadian government may start allowing vape companies to specifically promote the fact that they are less dangerous than cigarettes.
What Health Canada taught us
This potential change in policy comes as a result of research done by Health Canada, the government agency responsible for monitoring and caring for the health of the Canadian population. An apt comparison would be the American Food and Drug Administration.
After releasing a consultative report to the federal government, Canadian politicians read that Health Canada believed that any claims made by vape companies “would be supported by science and expressed in clear terms to ensure that tobacco users are better informed about the relative health effects of using vaping products." So, as long as the claims they’re making have a strong foundation in scientific research and is presented as an alternative to cigarettes, these health claims could become commonplace rather quickly.
Health Canada went into even more detail regarding what would and would not be allowed in messaging from vape companies. Their examples of acceptable health claims would be “Switching completely from smoking to e-cigarettes will reduce harm to your health,” and “If you are a smoker, switching completely to vaping is a much less harmful option.” That’s quite specific, but when you consider the fact that a recent study in the UK found that vaping is 95% less harmful than cigarettes, this kind of language is accurate if not slightly limiting to vape companies.
Still not over
While the mere fact that the Canadian government is seriously considering this change in policy is a positive thing for the vape industry, there is still plenty of hill to climb when it comes to fair treatment of vaping in the eyes of the law and the media.
One doctor, in particular, Theo Moraes of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, believes this change could send the wrong message, particularly to young people. We’ve discussed the teen vaping “crisis” in another blog. While nobody is trying to say that teenagers should be vaping, it’s important to know the scale of the problem in order to respond effectively. The numbers tell us that while, yes, more teenagers have vaped in the past year than they had in the year previous, only a marginal number of those teenagers have made it a habit. And if habitual tobacco/nicotine consumption in teenagers is what we’re trying to avoid for the sake of public health, then there really isn’t much of a crisis going on here at all.
Helping smokers quit
Helping smokers kick their dangerous habit is at the forefront of Health Canada’s research, and that of many other health organizations involved with tobacco and nicotine. If that’s the case, then vaping might be one of the very best options that a quitting smoker has. We know that many of the health risks associated with smoking come from the inhalation of combusted plant matter, something that a vaper does not experience. While nicotine has its addictive qualities, it’s not necessarily a dangerous compound all on its own. So if a smoker needs a nicotine fix that isn’t going to coat their lungs in tar and toxins, vaping is an excellent substitute.
Research shows us, again and again, that vaping is healthier than smoking. A recent study in the UK showed that we should be encouraging smokers to try vaping as a way to kick the cigarette habit. The Royal College of Physicians even said that “Smokers can, therefore, be reassured and encouraged to use them, and the public can be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking.”
It’s tough to tell exactly where this potential policy change will lead, but we believe it’s a step toward allowing facts to drive the vape narrative rather than scare tactics and pearl clutching. We hope that the Canadian government does the right thing and allows vape companies to promote the fact that their product is significantly safer than any other way to consume tobacco, particularly smoking.