Sellers Be Warned — Health Canada is Using Secret Shoppers to Catch Shops Selling E-Cigs to Teens

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2073032Canada was one of the first countries to lay down some rules about the sale and use of electronic cigarettes.  Very early on, Health Canada determined that electronic cigarettes marketed with health claims or containing more than 4 milligrams of nicotine were illegal.  As well, Canada banned selling e-cigs to minors.  For the most part, sellers stuck to this rule, but anecdotal evidence suggests that Health Canada never really enforced its ruling on e-cigs.  That’s probably an oversimplification of the e-cig political landscape there, but this article isn’t meant to tackle the entire industry as it is regulated there.

Recently though, it seems Health Canada is stepping up efforts to catch sellers that allow minors to purchase e-cigs and vaping products. They’re spending some $350,000 to stake out and bait some 4,000 stores across Canada with “typical customers” who happen to be underage.  This is no small effort, and odds are that if you sell e-cigs in Canada, you might be tested in the near future.

Certainly anti-smoking groups are applauding the effort.  I’m not going to complain about anything that punishes sellers for hawking products to minors which have no business purchasing said products under normal circumstances.  Or at least, I’m not going to complain about it as long as Health Canada spends more making sure sellers aren’t letting teens purchase tobacco cigarettes.  Although I can’t find anything that says that is the case, I would certainly like to believe it.

2014-05-05-10-23-29-A4-eCigs MK Apr9Unlike many other anti-e-cig efforts focused on teen use, this is one that aims to prevent teens from getting the products without impeding free adults from getting e-cigs for themselves.  More efforts like this need to happen.  If anti-smoking groups absolutely need to see a fight against e-cig use and purchase by teens, this is a much better option that proposals that would ban all flavors, treat e-cigs as medical products, or remove them from the market entirely.

As unpopular as it might be, I’m not actually opposed to teens using electronic cigarettes when said use replaces the smoking they would normally be doing.  And that’s exactly what seems to be happening.  Since e-cigs hit the Canadian market, smoking rates among 15 to 19 year olds have dropped to 11% — the lowest in recorded history.  Not only that, but preliminary evidence suggests that even electronic cigarettes containing nicotine aren’t nearly as addictive as tobacco cigarettes — and so individuals that start using them without ever smoking don’t actually seem to have a hard time quitting.

So far in the US, there have been some similar efforts to catch sellers in the act of selling to kids and teens, but these aren’t broad sweeping campaigns like Health Canada’s new effort.  You can read more about the effort right here.

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