Monday, 11 June 2018

See Vype Go!

The ink was barely dry on Bill S-5 before British American Tobacco had its e-cigarette Vype on the market to Canadians. The domain went live the week after Royal Assent was given to the new federal law which legalizes recreational nicotine products.

Although only the tank system (left) is currently
available in Canada, BAT is illustrating two other models
on its new GOVYPE.CA web-site
On-line sales 

BAT's e-cigarette portal does more than offer on-line sales in the provinces where door-to-door delivery is allowed (online sales are banned by law in Quebec and Nova Scotia). The web-site also provides a list of the convenience stores (Circle K/Macs Milk) and gas stations (PetroCanada) where they can be bought directly, and gives some advice on using the product. (As a service to other researchers who may not be able to access the Canadian site, the text from some of these pages is pasted below).

To see health warnings on,
the customer must scroll
down the page repeatedly

With small health warnings

The information on the web-site presents raises more profound concerns. The most notable aspect of the web-site is not what is visible on it, but what is nearly invisible. You have to scroll down several times to find the small print warning (circled above):
Vype products may be harmful to health and contain nicotine which is addictive. VYPE PRODUCTS ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR USE BY: persons who are not adults; persons who are under the legal age to purchase vaping products; persons who are allergic/sensitive to nicotine; pregnant or breast-feeding women; persons who have been advised to avoid using tobacco or nicotine products for medical reasons; persons with reduced physical, sensory, mental capabilities or lack of experience/knowledge unless they are under supervision or have been given instructions concerning the use of the product by a person responsible for their safety; and persons with an unstable heart condition, severe hypertension or diabetes. Keep Vype products out of reach of children.
Illustrations and specifications that appear on the web-site caution users about the "risk of fire, injury and damage" that could result from using a non-compatible charging device, but make no reference to any addiction or human health impact unrelated to device failure.

In-store displays (despite laws banning them)

Vype counter-displays, such as that shown below, are now prominent in the Circle K stores in our neighbourhood.

This may seem rather odd, given that the Smoke-Free Ontario Act clearly states: "No person shall, in any place where tobacco products, tobacco product accessories, vapour products or any prescribed products or substances are sold or offered for sale, display or permit the display of any of the following products, in any manner that would permit a consumer to view or handle the product before purchasing it."  

Vype counter displays at Circle K, รน
Wellington Street
Ottawa. June 11, 2018

Although neither the law nor the guidance document issued last year make any reference to a grace period for the display ban, the clerk at our local Circle K explained that the Ontario government had given a one-month exemption to the law before e-cigarettes would be stored behind shutters as cigarettes are by the end of June.

Voluntary package warnings (but proportional to harm?)

One advantages of the open displays at the retail store is the opportunity to look at the packaging of both nicotine-free and nicotine-containing e-liquids.
The warnings on nicotine-bearing and nicotine-free products are not the same. The nicotine free product carries a black-box warning "This product may be  harmful to your health" with the French version on the opposite side.

The nicotine-free version of the vype e-liquid had a larger text
warning on the package front than did either strength of the
nicotine-bearing version

The version with nicotine carries no black-framed warning.  On the front side there is the household chemical safety symbol for poison with the signal word "danger". On the back, in much smaller font, the following warning is printed: "This product may be harmful to health and contains nicotine which is addictive." 

The contrast between the visibility of the large-print nicotine-free warning (right) and the smaller text on the nicotinized version (left) is readily apparent. Curiously, the inside warning leaflet and bottle warning was identical in both the packages below, other than the poison symbol on the version with nicotine.

The back panel of the nicotine-free liquid has larger
text warning than the nicotine-bearing version.

Health Canada is letting the industry decide the warnings

S-5 gives the federal government the authority to regulate packaging and web-site advertising, and to require the manufacturers to provide "information ... about the product and its emissions and about the health hazards and health effects arising from the use of the product and from its emissions."  It also authorizes regulations to cover point-of-sale promotions.

No such regulations are yet in place, although Health Canada has had at least 18 months since the bill was introduced to prepare some. In the consultation paper issued last year, the department proposped the following warning: "Health Canada proposes to require that vaping products that contain nicotine display a warning such as:  'WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance. Use of nicotine during pregnancy may harm the fetus.' "

The warning required by the European Union requires that consumers be warned that nicotine is a "highly addictive" substance.

More on Health Canada's communications on e-cigarettes in a later blog!