Should e-cigarettes be sold to minors? That's the question, and the debate continues to rage on.
Castanet's recent article about a 12-year-old boy who bought one in Lake Country created a heated debate on the topic that included everything from people calling out the father for bad parenting, to e-cigs being a gateway drug.
In the above mentioned article, Health Canada says e-cigarettes are safe to sell to minors but BC's Medical Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall said the battery operated vapour machines are far more problematic then we think.
And the debate is not exclusive to BC by any means. The province of Nova Scotia is currently undertaking legislation to ban e-cigarette use in public places and has plans to make it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors.
The US Food and Drug Administration is also set to propose new regulations on e-cigarettes that would include how the products can be marketed, rules on health warning labels and ingredient lists, and bans on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
A day after the original article, Castanet conducted a poll on the basic question of whether they should be sold to minors.
Of the 1,340 votes cast, almost 90 per cent (1190) voted in favour of banning the sale to minors while only 7.39 per cent (99) felt the e-smokes should not be banned for minors and 3.81 per cent (51) indicated they didn't care either way.
The debate revolves around whether the e-cigarettes, which do not contain nicotine, are entirely safe or whether they can lead kids down a more dangerous path of smoking real cigarettes.
All of our Castanet readers seem to agree that e-cigarettes for adults are a great alternative to smoking and an excellent tool to help adults quit, but when it came down to 12-year-olds getting their hands on the flavoured devices, opinions were mixed.
“There should absolutely be a ban on e-cigarettes to minors. This shouldn't even be a question we're asking ourselves,” said one reader named Michael.
Another called M agreed, “These e-cigs need to be regulated and not sold to children, whether they have nicotine in them or not, it does promote a negative habit.”
Many parents were also vocal.
“If you are smoking and trying to quit this is one thing, but children shouldn't be able to purchase these. As adult you can make that choice!,” said mother Donna.
“These should be ban and definitely illegal to under aged youth. In other countries this is a medical device to stop smoking but here its a toy, sounds like we don't care about ourselves or children. This is a promotion to young people to be more interested in trying smoking.” said another mother Nicole.
While others wrote that they are an excellent alternative to real cigarettes and something kids will do regardless of laws.
“Youth can get cigarettes if they want them and they will, at least e-cigarettes give a much, much healthier, less smelly and harmful option.” said Cody.
“They will experiment regardless of what we want, or do, so let them have a harmless example to experiment with. If they want to smoke cigarettes they will find a way. An e-cigarette will not be their "gateway". Perhaps it will stop them from smoking actual tobacco products because all they really wanted was to see how it looked on them. It is well worth the chance.” said Candace.
Interior Health's Senior Medical Health Officer Dr. Andrew Larder joins Kendall in wanting the government to restrict the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
He says the medical health officer group and Interior Health have discussed the issue at length and have been involved in discussions with other health authorities across the province, who all believe that at this time e-cigarettes should not be sold to minors.
“There is a profound lack of information about these devices and I think it would be prudent to be cautious about allowing them to be distributed and used in a completely unregulated way,” says Dr. Larder.
"There is very little evidence related to the safety of these devices. There is very little information about the quality control with which these products are made, so there are no standards on how they are constructed or how they operate.
“There are no standards for the composition of the liquid that is actually vaporized when people use these devices. So for those reasons alone it would be grounds for not wishing to make these things available in a completely not restricted way.”
He says that although the e-cigarettes contain no tobacco or nicotine products they are not safe or advisable for children.
“This may be a way that young people will develop an addiction to nicotine and it also normalizes the whole process of smoking even though it is not actually using tobacco products."
The medical health officers went to the schools with their concerns writing a letter to school superintendents in our region encouraging them to include e-cigarettes in their tobacco policies on school grounds which Larder says most did.
He adds that any chance they get they are also advising city councils to include e-cigarettes in their smoking bylaws
“There is a regulatory gap right now on the law, but we are raising this issue, identifying the issue and it is our hope that those who do have control over legislative processes and policies will actual hear what we are saying,” says Larder.
Ideally he hopes with other medical health officers bringing the issue to the forefront it will progress toward “regulating them appropriately.”