The Ontario government is making the correct decision in seeking to impose tobacco-like restrictions on e-cigarettes.
If legislation introduced on Monday becomes law (and it most certainly will in the Liberal-dominated provincial legislature), the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 19 will be prohibited, as will the use of the device in the same places that tobacco is not allowed.
Moreover, advertisements for e-cigarettes will face the same provincial restrictions as imposed on tobacco, and the sale of flavoured tobacco products will also be banned.
Such prohibitions are the only logical recourse for Queen’s Park, which is trying to keep up to the increasing popularity of the electronic devices. Indeed, more than a few public health units have already registered their strong concern with the use of e-cigarettes, while acknowledging the devices’ practical assistance in getting tobacco smokers to quit their habit.
Therein lays the only possible criticism of the government’s prohibition against e-cigarettes. The devices would appear to be helping smokers quit their habit, although much of the evidence appears to be anecdotal for now. There have been few studies done on the use of e-cigarettes in Canada; again, the introduction of the electronic devices has been so swift that public agencies and their governments haven’t been able to keep up.
It would seem that the major goal in this legislation is to protect young people. And that’s part of the public conversation that’s been ongoing since the electronic devices started to appear in Ontario. Even though e-cigarettes are ostensibly used to help smokers kick their habit, does the use of the device encourage or normalize the smoking habit for young people? And is it possible that a young person who uses an e-cigarette might be compelled to smoke a tobacco cigarette?
Until these questions are answered to some satisfaction, the proposed tobacco-like restrictions on the use and sale of e-cigarettes are logical. The government in its proposed legislation isn’t saying you can’t use e-cigarettes. But their use and sale will be limited.
And the proposed legislation does not seek to ban e-cigarette use completely. Those who believe the device can help them kick their tobacco habit would be free to use e-cigarettes – but under the same restrictions they’ve faced as tobacco smokers.