Nunavut asks retailers to temporarily pull vaping products off their shelves

Territorial government likely to draft regulations on vape sales

By Thomas Rohner
Special to Nunatsiaq News

If you are an e-cigarette user in Nunavut, you may have noticed your local store no longer sells the products more popularly known as vapes.

That’s because Nunavut’s Health Department sent a letter to all retailers in the territory in November requesting a temporary halt to sales of all vaping products.

Health officials noticed vaping products were often sold “surrounded by gum and lollipops” in flavours attractive to teenagers and young adults, Dr. Mike Patterson, the territory’s chief public health officer, told Nunatsiaq News.

“Any benefit vaping has—and that’s at best questionable—is greatly overwhelmed by the harm of creating another generation of children addicted to nicotine,” Patterson said in an interview in Iqaluit Jan. 9.

But one large manufacturer of e-cigarettes whose products were widely available in the territory, Juul Labs Canada, said vapes are a harm-reduction tool that could benefit many in Nunavut, which has the highest per capita smoking rate of any Canadian jurisdiction.

“Vaping products present a significant health opportunity to assist in the public health goal of reducing tobacco usage,” Juul said in a statement to Nunatsiaq News.

In recent years, the number of vaping companies and products available in Canada has skyrocketed.

There have also been increasing concerns and news reports about the possible health effects of such products.

As of Jan. 7, Health Canada reports 15 cases of vape-related lung illnesses in the country, including three cases involving youth. None of those cases have been in Nunavut.

Twelve cases required hospitalization, but there have been no confirmed fatalities related to vape use in Canada.

About half of the cases reported by Health Canada involved nicotine-only vapes, such as those manufactured by Juul, an American company based in San Francisco.

Health Canada says vaping is less harmful than smoking tobacco, and while research is still emerging, some evidence suggests vapes are linked to increased rates of success for those trying to quit smoking cigarettes.

But while switching from cigarettes to vapes reduces your exposure to a number of harmful chemicals, vapes are not risk-free, Health Canada says.

Vapes with nicotine contain the same addictive substance as cigarettes. Nicotine is known to be highly addictive and especially harmful to young people and pregnant women.

And vapes often contain other chemicals whose long-term health effects through inhalation are not known, according to Health Canada.

Juul Inc. said it recognizes the need to “earn trust as we combat underage use and convert adult smokers from cigarettes.”

But the territory’s decision to request that all retailers pull vaping products from their shelves sends a confusing health message to Nunavut’s adult smokers, the company said.

“We are deeply concerned that full removal of our products provides a contradictory message to the residents of Nunavut: a government leaving more harmful combustible tobacco products on store shelves… while removing a harm reduction alternative,” states a letter sent in December by Juul to Patterson.

Juul also disputes that its flavoured products are intended to appeal to youth.

“To be clear: vaping products are harm reduction products for adult smokers only.”

Juul says it doesn’t market its products as a way to give up using nicotine.

And, according to Juul, there are still some health risks associated with using vapes, but fewer than smoking cigarettes.

Patterson said the request to retailers to remove vaping products is likely a temporary measure while the territory drafts regulations to amend the Tobacco Control Act to regulate the sale of vapes and related products.

In consultation with retailers and other stakeholders, Patterson said the territory will consider such moves as limiting the flavours available and securing e-cigarette products the way retailers are already required to secure cigarettes.

But Patterson said the scientific community is still divided on whether e-cigarettes are effective in harm-reduction or as quitting aids for tobacco users.

And there is emerging research that suggests those who use vapes often still smoke cigarettes—and that may be linked to an increased risk of strokes, Patterson said.

“More to the point: whether they intended to or not, the ultimate result is that there are…young adults and teenagers who are consuming nicotine through vapes who would’ve been otherwise unlikely to pick up such a habit,” said Patterson.

For Nunavummiut who are vaping, Patterson advised against returning to cigarettes or smoking cigarettes while also using a vape.

January is Tobacco Reduction Month. Patterson said the Health Department staff includes specialists who can help you quit. A number of quitting tools, such as nicotine gum, sprays and lozenges, are available for free, Patterson added.

For help quitting, you can speak with a local health care provider or call the Nunavut QuitLine anytime at 1-866-368-7848.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Pft on

    But we can still sell cigarettes. Most the vape cases wereenclosed. Guess I’ll go back to buying them online instead of buying them from LOCAL businesses.

    • Posted by Shakes on

      Or you can overcome your addiction to nicotine so you don’t have to plan your life around it. It’s your choice, of course, but I’d rather not be a slave to something, especially when big tobacco is laughing all the way to the bank.

  2. Posted by Tim Smith on

    With increasing evidence suggesting vaping isn’t as harmless as initially thought or hoped, those Nunavummiut who are interested in reducing or stopping their use of tobacco or tobacco-like products may be best served by going to their local health centre or contacting their pharmacy.

    Health professionals such as nurses, physicians, and pharmacists can offer counselling and advice to address your tobacco triggers and can recommend or provide evidence-based treatments for nicotine addiction, such as the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler, or spray. These products undergo rigorous testing to be licensed by Health Canada and are available without charge for beneficiaries.

    Quitting tobacco is one of the best decisions an individual can make for their health and health professionals across Nunavut are ready to assist.

  3. Posted by Red Bear on

    Did we learn nothing from a half century of listening to tobacco companies lie to the world that their products were safe Have we not progressed at all from 50 years ago when Joe Camel was telling kids that cigarettes are healthy and refreshing? Or the cigarettes are great for women because they promote weight loss?
    Why is anybody even giving Juul any input on this? Juul will say literally anything in order to protect their profits. Of course they know their products are addictive. Of course they know they appeal to kids with fruit and candy flavors. That’s how they are getting customers for life – their market model depends on their product appealing to young people and getting them addicted. This is not a conversation with two sides worth hearing. Let’s not wait until we have another generation suffering from preventable cancers before doing something.

  4. Posted by Xerxes on

    Emerging evidence about the harms of vaping are showing that it is a great way to become highly addicted to nicotine. There have been reports of people using vaping devices who are consuming the equivalent of 3 to 4 packs of cigarettes per day of nicotine. Once these individuals want to quit vaping, they will likely have a very hard time to do so.

    Due to the lack of high-quality research (without the influence of the tobacco industry) about the long term health effects or safety of vaping, there is a risk of harm to users of these devices. So far, there has been documented 2,602 hospitalizations in the USA due to e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury (EVALI), including 57 deaths. These illnesses and deaths are 100% preventable if people don’t use vaping products.

    The extremely high smoking rate in Nunavut causes a tremendous impact on Nunavummiut as well. Some of the results of using tobacco are: COPD, lung cancer, increased risk of asthma, RSV/bronchiolitis (from second hand smoke exposure by children), increased risk of TB, increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight, and funds being used to support an addiction instead of being used to reduce food insecurity.

    Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is a proven and safe way to assist a person who uses tobacco to quit. It is covered by NIHB for Nunavut Inuit, as well may be covered by private insurance for others. Even if you pay for NRT yourself, you may find that quitting tobacco is less expensive than continuing to use cigarettes or chew.

    Some good information about emerging topics related to tobacco cessation and vaping can be found at the University of California San Francisco Smoking Cessation Leadership Center :

    Tobacco has no place here and everyday is a great day to quit tobacco!

    • Posted by Butthole Surfer on

      Good post. This puts to light the lie behind JUUL’s claim that they are the harm reduction business. They are in the addictions business and as others have said, there’s nothing quite like hooking them when they are young, just ask the Catholics!

  5. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Replacing one addictive habit with another isnt the answer. Given the high number of teens that are vaping and the potential harm vaping can gave have on developing lungs nipping this in the bud now is imperative.

  6. Posted by the patch on

    NIHB covers smoking cessation products such as the patch/gum – so for Inuit looking to quit, you can go to your local pharmacy get this through NIHB coverage. I’m not 100% sure if you need a prescription or not, they have made some changes and gave flexibility to pharmacists that no longer require a prescription – I’m pretty sure that tobacco cessation products are on that list.

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