A Liberal MLA hopes his bid to curb vaping among youth will include help from the NDP.
Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone introduced a private member’s bill in the legislature in early April, calling for three amendments to B.C.’s laws surrounding e-cigarettes to keep them out of the hands of young people.
The bill would see a ban on the sale of flavoured nicotine juices, which has made vaping appealing to youth, Stone said.
It would also restrict the sale of vaping products to adult-only tobacco stores and pharmacies and impose stiffer penalties for non-compliance with regulations.
Stone also called on the government to dole out more funding in order to implement vaping-prevention programs in all middle schools and high schools.
The fate of Stone’s bill lies in the hands of the B.C. NDP as only the government can call a private member’s bill for second reading and debate.
“Whether or not they do that, I don’t know. But I am heartened by the fact that Health Minister Adrian Dix has reached out to me,” Stone said.
“We have had several good conversations since I introduced the bill and I’m led to believe the government is committed to working with me and my Opposition colleagues to bring about the kind of changes that are proposed in my bill.”
Whether that’s done through his bill, the government’s own bill or other regulatory changes are details the health minister is now working through, Stone said.
It’s not common for private member’s bills to be called for debate, but Stone said vaping is an issue that appears to have unanimous support as all 87 MLAs supported the bill’s first reading.
“I think there will be action on this file at some point this year,” Stone said, noting he received positive reactions from both sides of the legislature’s aisle regarding his bill.
Stone said he introduced the bill because, as the father of three high school-aged girls, he has seen a rapid rise in vaping among teens, along with statistics suggesting its use is prevalent among youths.
“I’ve heard from countless parents, lots of teachers and administrators, who are very concerned about what has been deemed by health professionals as a very concerning trend in our schools and potential health epidemic for our youth,” he said.
Data from a recent Health Canada survey showed 23 per cent of students in grades 7 to12 have tried vaping — the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol produced by an electronic cigarette that heats a liquid, often flavoured and containing nicotine.
According to the federal agency, vaping nicotine can alter a teen’s brain development, increase exposure to harmful chemicals and lead to nicotine addiction.
The long-term health impacts of vaping on youth are unknown.
Vaping seems to have become a popular activity among Kamloops high school students, with multiple principals having noticed a rise in usage this school year.
Stone said he is confident eliminating flavoured vape juices would diminish the attractiveness of vaping to youth.
At the moment, he said, vaping products can be purchased “virtually anywhere,” but Stone believes restricting access will also help curb appeal.
Like cigarettes, it’s illegal in B.C. to sell vaping products to those under the age of 19. In addition, they cannot be sold in hospitals, schools, government facilities, public libraries or public sports facilities.
Penalties for breaching B.C.’s Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act can range from $345 to $575 and Stone said his bill would see a retailer lose the right to sell vaping products altogether upon a third offence.
Imposing stricter controls on online sales of vaping products wouldn’t fall under provincial purview, but Stone said it is an area he understands the government is looking at addressing.