City’s response to provincial e-cigarette legislation remains hazy

The politics, risks and clear answers around electronic cigarettes seem to be about as fleeting as the vapour emitted from the devices themselves.

New provincial guidelines introduced last week sought to clear the air and legislation that came into effect Sept. 1 now treats electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, in the same fashion as tobacco: they can’t be sold to anyone under the age of 19 and storefronts must be completely devoid of anything advertising the products.

The Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act was also amended such that e-cigarettes can’t be sold in public buildings and their use is banned on public and private school grounds, in indoor public spaces and workplaces, and in vehicles where those under 16 years of age are present.

The legislation does include an exception for stores selling e-cigarettes to those over the legal age to allow for products to be tested in those shops.

The new regulations come into effect in light of stats that suggest vaping is rapidly on the rise. A 2014 study focused on school-aged kids in Quebec found that 5,000 children had already tried an electronic cigarette by the time they reached Grade 6. The Canadian Cancer Society study also concluded that one in three high school students, or 142,000 youths, had already tried vaping as well.

Given that surge, the Courier contacted the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Park Board to gauge several points around the new laws: will more bylaw officers be needed, how will the changes affect staffing levels at parks and beaches and how much money will be needed to facilitate any potential staffing or policy changes.

As it turns out, no new staffers will be hired to deal with smokers or vapers, largely because the city introduced similar municipal bylaws in 2014.

City spokesperson Jag Sandhu noted that bylaw officers don’t ticket individual smokers, but rather businesses or property owners.

Enforcement is maintained on a complaint basis and those breaking the city’s smoking/vaping bylaws must be observed by bylaw staff before any enforcement takes place.

The fine for smoking within six metres of doors and air intakes is $250, though Sandhu didn’t provide stats on how many tickets have been issued.

“Most enforcement involves advising the business/property owner of the prohibition and making sure the required signage is posted and all reasonable efforts are being made to prevent smoking on the premises and within six meters of doors and windows air intakes,” Sandhu said in an email to the Courier.

Most of those caught smoking in parks or on beaches get by with a warning. Park board stats supplied to the Courier show 10 tickets have been issued this year, compared to 26 last year and 10 in 2014.

Twenty-five warnings have been issued in 2016 so far, along with 44 last year and 122 in 2014.

B.C. has the lowest smoking rate in Canada, at just over 15 per cent.

jkurucz@vancourier.com

@JohnKurucz

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