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No minor issue over e-cigs

A Lake Country father is outraged that his 12-year-old son was able to purchase an e-cigarette at a nearby store.

He says the e-cigarettes are dangerous, they promote smoking in youth and stores should butt out the policy of selling them to minors.

Brett (last name withheld to protect his son's identity) was shocked when he found out about the purchase after his son was suspended from school. He went down to the store right away to ask them why they are selling them to minors.

“The owner had no problem with it, he compared it to buying the old candy cigarettes to energy drinks and that it was perfectly fine,” said Brett.

He went to the RCMP, the District and the school principal to voice his concerns.

“You know at 12-years-old they are starting to explore and ready for high-school next year and that means they are out and about and can get their hands on these things,” said Brett. “My concern is encouraging smoking and other drugs and getting kids to want to try it.”

Brett says buying fake smokes is as easy as buying penny candy.

“I feel it needs to be brought to the public's attention. These things aren't regulated and they are encouraging the idea of smoking,” says the upset dad. “I wasn't an innocent teenager any more than anyone else was, but I don't need someone encouraging it or making it easier with this tool.”

The law allows the sales of non-nicotine e-cigarettes to all ages, but BC’s Medical Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall wants that changed.

Dr. Kendall completely agrees with Brett and feels the e-cigarettes are not safe for kids.

“The issue is if kids get used to these e-cigarettes and are using them to puff away with pumpkin flavours or toffee flavours or chocolate or whatever, they can also very easily get nicotine to put in the devices,” said Kendall.

“So what you have is kids that have gotten used to 'vaping' the devices and it is very easy to switch to a nicotine containing product and I don't think we need to run the risk of encouraging or letting or permitting nicotine addiction in young people.”

Gary Scott Holub, Media Relations Officer for the Public Health Agency of Canada says that electronic cigarettes with no nicotine and no health claims can be legally sold in Canada and are subject to the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA).

Under this act the the products do not require authorization by Health Canada prior to being sold in Canada, but he claims that the CCPSA requires that companies who make the product ensure that they do not pose a danger to human health or safety.

But Dr. Kendall doesn't buy it, he feels the e-cigarettes do pose a risk.

“We really don't know what is in these cigarettes, some of them do contain irritants, some of them do contain carcinogens, some of them do contain metals. So, yes they are likely less harmful than cigarettes, but it is not good for kids to smoke these particulates into their lungs,” said Kendall.

He knows that their contents have technically been approved for all ingestion, but adds that they have never actually been tested for inhalation and he says those are very different things.

“You can have a spoonful of sugar in your stomach, that is one thing, but if you are to inhale a spoonful of sugar it is something else,” said Kendall. “There are a bunch of studies that say the vapour does potentially cause some adverse health affects, plus the contents of the vapour are entirely unregulated and there is no quality control.”

The Woodsdale Store in Winfield is where the kids bought the e-cigs and Store Manager Chris Hagel says suppliers have informed them they are totally harmless and safe for kids.

“If they are approved in the province how is it for us to say who should or should not buy them?,” said Hagel. “The vendor we get our e-cigarettes from said there is nothing illegal in the e-cigarettes and they are legal to sell to minors. Interior Health says they are fine, they are CCPSA approved, there is no nicotine in them.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada adds that as it stands only those containing nicotine are banned from sale.

“E-cigarette products, including e-liquids, that contain any amount of nicotine or have a health claim fall within the scope of the Food and Drugs Act and require approval by Health Canada before they can be imported, advertised or sold in Canada and no such products have been approved to date,” explained Holub.

“This means that currently, the advertisement and sale of electronic cigarette products, including e-liquid, that contain nicotine and/or have health claims is non-compliant with the Food and Drugs Act, and is therefore illegal.”

Woodsdale Store is now looking at other options as Hagel says the store was totally unaware of the issue until some angry parents brought the issue up with the store Friday morning. The store has decided to put its own rules in place.

“As for the time being we are going to stop selling them (to minors) because we didn't realize there was that big of a problem with them, says Hagel”

Dr. Kendall believes the devices should not be sold to anyone under the age of 19 and wants stores throughout the province to join places like Shoppers Drug Mart who restrict the sales to those underage.  

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