Ban on e-cigarettes to be considered by Toronto’s board of health
Toronto's medical officer of health wants e-cigarette use banned wherever smoking is currently prohibited under local or provincial legislation.
By: Betsy Powell City Hall Bureau, Published on Mon Aug 11 2014
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health is recommending the city ban electronic cigarettes wherever smoking is prohibited if Queen’s Park doesn’t restrict their use province-wide by next February.
“There are possible health risks associated with exposure to second-hand vapour,” says a report to be considered by the Board of Health at its meeting next Monday.
Electronic cigarettes, known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices that mimic the use and sometimes the appearance and taste of conventional cigarettes, the report says. “They do not contain tobacco and produce vapour instead of smoke when used. In the few years since their appearance, use has proliferated in North America, including Toronto.”
The report says Toronto Public Health reviewed “available evidence on e-cigarette use, safety, health effects, and potential as a cessation aid,” as well as government response in different jurisdictions.
A number of concerns were identified, including the “impact on youth smoking initiation, and potential to normalize smoking behaviour and undermine existing tobacco control legislation.”
Dr. David McKeown, the city’s Medical Officer of Health, is recommending the province amend its Smoke-Free Ontario Act to include a ban on e-cigarettes wherever cigarette use is now prohibited in Ontario.
“If provincial action is not taken by February 2015, the Medical Officer of Health will consult with the city solicitor, other city divisions and relevant stakeholders and report to the Board of Health on municipal measures to prohibit e-cigarette use where smoking is prohibited under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act or city by-laws.”
In the meantime, the Medical Officer of Health will work with the city manager to explore the development of an internal policy banning e-cigarette use in city workplaces, the report says.
James Long, a clinical forensic psychologist and part-owner of a Mississauga-based e-cigarette company, says he understands McKeown’s cautious approach as the city’s chief medical officer.
However, Long says he has seen no evidence that a ban is necessary.
“E-cigarettes produce some odour, but I’m not aware of any noxious effects,” the 89-year-old said Monday.
Though 26-year-old e-cigarette user Nicole Rogerson says she understands McKeown’s rationale, she believes policy makers need to understand that there are no health concerns associated with e-cigarette smoking.
“You’re just giving off the same vapour as clubs use in their smoke machines,” Rogerson says. “I know it’s not unhealthy. It’s not putting any toxins in the air, like smoking a cigarette would.”
Long said he has seen many people quit smoking after transferring to e-cigarettes.
Health Canada has refused to approve the sale or import of devices or liquid refills containing nicotine.
But the e-cigarettes themselves are widely available, perhaps because experts say they fall into a grey area if they’re sold without nicotine. (McKeown is also recommending the board ask the federal government to amend legislation to better regulate e-cigarettes.)
When used with a nicotine “juice” cartridge the devices produce not smoke but water vapour — and also vapourized propylene glycol, an element in the cartridge’s contents.
Nevertheless, many experts say they are far safer than their tobacco alternatives.
Samantha Grant, a spokeswoman for provincial Health Minister Eric Hoskins, said the ministry is monitoring e-cigarette use along with emerging research and has asked Ottawa “to take a more active role in regulating e-cigarettes.”
Municipalities across Ontario have focused their policy positions on e-cigarettes by pushing the provincial and federal governments to regulate their manufacture, sale, promotion and display, the board of health report says.
Several places in Canada have taken steps to prohibit their use, including Red Deer, Alta. Peel Region also bans e-cigarette smoking in its workplaces as does York Region school boards.
The Toronto Transit Commission board is expected to consider amending their smoking bylaw to prohibit e-cigarette use on TTC property this fall, the report says.
Toronto Star with files from Rob Ferguson, Joe Hall and Tara Deschamps
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