Quebec Canada has recently announced a ban on flavourings in nicotine products, citing the risk of youth vaping uptake. Is there a chance for vapers to oppose this ban? David Levesque brings us the latest info about the ban, and what alternatives are available for vapers and smokers in Quebec.
Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV.
The government of Quebec has recently announced a ban on flavors in nicotine vaping products,
which could go into effect in 90 days' time. Health Minister Christian Dubé says
the changes are designed to better protect the general public and especially young people.
But it seems that the regulation is not good news for nicotine vapers, small business owners
or for employees in Quebec's vaping industry.
Joining us today to discuss the impact of the Quebec flavor ban is David Levesque,
spokesperson for ABVQ, the Association for Specialty Vape Shops in Quebec,
and founding partner of Digital Smoke Supplies.
Hi David, thank you for coming on the program.
First, why has the government decided to introduce this regulation in Quebec?
Well, I mean, the government of Quebec, just like every other government,
is getting a lot of pressure from health lobbies, we'll call them health lobbies,
in regards to youth vaping. Youth vaping has been on the rise since 2018,
although it has kind of hit a sustained level since 2020 or 2021.
But they're basically doing this to prevent youth uptake.
And why flavored vapes? Why are these products so important?
Well, that's a very good question because that's the...
You know, it's a very good question because the reality is flavors are favored by everyone.
So, you know, 90% of a vape shop will sell 90% flavored vapes in comparison,
at least in Canada, in comparison to tobacco and mints and menthols.
It's about maybe 85% of the sales come from flavored vapes.
When you ask kids or youth or young adults why they start vaping,
flavor is... I mean, there's five reasons, and flavors is the number three reason.
So first one being, I wanted to try it, curiosity.
Second, peer pressure. And third being flavors.
So I think they're using the easy approach, ban everything.
But the reality is accessibility, enforcement of current regulation.
Those should be things that are put forward, not an outright ban on flavors.
So what impact would this regulation have on vape shops or retailers?
Well, look, I mean, vape shop, if they lose 85% of their product assortment,
they're either destined to fail and close their doors,
or they will have to adjust and, you know, add various product to their assortment.
Convenience stores, for instance, are not so much at risk because they do sell other products.
Vape shop in Quebec is categorized as a vape shop.
Therefore, you can only sell vape products. If you want to sell something else,
you have to change the category of store you're in,
and you have to hide every vaping product you have in the store.
So it's a big challenge. But I mean, realistically, you know,
there's no borders between Quebec and Ontario. People can still get their product online.
Sorry, people can still get their product online.
So I think that, you know, it's going to be very hard for people to keep their doors open.
Are there any routes to stop the regulation?
Well, currently, there is a website that's been put together that generates a letter for that consultation period.
So basically, what we do is we let people answer a few questions and we mail those letters.
Previously, you could send your comments by email.
We've done various email campaigns in the past.
So now they said we take those letters by mail only.
So we've, you know, helped consumers send their comments by mailing those letters for them.
Many nicotine vapors who rely on flavored products to stay smoke-free will lose access to these products.
Will the black market increase because of this?
Yeah, I mean, definitely. You know, in Canada, we've already had a few sets of regulations federally,
whether it's nicotine cap, whether it's now we have excise tax, there's also, you know, packaging regulations, etc.
And you don't have to go very far to find products that do not have excise stamp, sell levels of nicotine above the 20 mg.
You know, we we do have a flourishing black market and we also have somewhat of a gray market,
which is the natives reserve.
And these guys are exempt from from laws or not really exempt, but there's no enforcement on the native reserves.
So, you know, there's there's video circulating of stores filled to the brim with 50 mg non excise product.
So that's already in place. Obviously, it's just going to fuel that market even more.
So are there any other products that people can start using instead?
If your question is, you know, can Quebec come up with their short fill and DIY and things like this?
I mean, yeah, to some extent, but, you know, with the recent rise of disposable, it shows how customers they want it easy.
You know, they don't want anything complicated.
I mean, a disposable is much more expensive than just buying a bottle of e-liquid.
And consumers make the choice of spending more money for the convenience.
So there are possibly people looking at loophole and trying to figure out what they could do.
And but the reality is, I do not think that there's going to be mass adoption of those of those products,
even more so based on the fact that you can buy online throughout Canada.
It's not like it's difficult to find the product.
You do you go online and you find a shop in Ontario or anywhere else that will ship to you.
And and that's it. I mean, technically, that's also great, but there's no enforcement.
So the same way there was no enforcement for people selling to minors or minors selling inside their school,
there's very little enforcement for cross-border selling.
The head minister announced the decision last month.
At what stage is the ban and when will it come into effect?
Well, currently it's going through a comment period.
It's not a it's not like a regular consultation as when they present the new new regulations in Quebec,
they have to go through a consultation period.
This is not it. This is a period that's open for comments.
So people from Quebec have 45 days to give their opinion on the new regulations.
And from then from there, they should be analyzing the response and either move forward, adjust or and that's going to be it.
So the next step would be the second Gazette and then the regulation would come into effect in 90 days.
David, final question to you.
What are your personal views on this ban and how it will affect a vaping community in Quebec?
My personal feelings, it's.
I'm kind of lost for words, to be honest, to see to see government people we've elected
to just. Make blank statement across, not looking at both sides of the coins and analyzing and trying to come up and even discuss,
you know, the reality is, is none of these guys making those decisions have visited vape shops.
I've seen those customers and I've talked to those customers and, you know, it's fueled by media.
It's fueled by, you know, I mean, it's hypocrisy.
I mean, in Canada, cannabis is legal.
The state owned cannabis store sell flavored product.
And 27 percent of there is a bigger problem of cannabis consumption in Canada with youth than there is with vaping,
and cannabis is a lot more harmful than vaping.
And 27 percent of those kids say that they get it from those stores, you know, province ran stores.
And yet it's a non-issue, right?
I mean, we if if they could do it with cannabis in a age verified store, why can't we do it with vaping?
You know, the big increase with youth vaping came out in 2018, which is when the federal regulated.
And then basically they just let the wolf loose with the sheep's, you know, big tobacco came in, sold to every convenience store.
We went from in Quebec, we went from approximately 400 point of sale to about 8000.
So with no enforcement or very little to no enforcement, you know, it was due to happen.
Like it was it was born to happen.
So and now instead of looking at what they did and see how they can correct,
they're just going to ban the whole thing and putting a lot of businesses out of business and leaving consumers stranded.
You know, you're going to force some people to go back to tobacco flavors.
Some of them will, some of them will go back to smoking.
Some of them will buy black market not knowing exactly what they buy,
or they'll go back to buy online and we'll give our revenues to other provinces.
I mean, it's it's totally ludicrous.
So how I feel, I feel a little bit ashamed by our government and a little disgusted.
Thank you, David. That's all for today.
Tune in next time here on GFN TV or on our GFN TV podcast.
And don't forget to register for the Global Forum on Nicotine Conference taking place in Warsaw from 21st to 24th of June.
Thanks for watching or listening.
See you next time.