CVA’s response to Flemons and Walker op-ed published in The Globe and Mail

Hamilton, ON, Aug. 05, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Canadian Vaping Association (CVA) is troubled by the recent op-ed published in The Globe and Mail, “When will Canada get on the same page about the risks of vaping.” Throughout the op-ed, the authors Ward Flemons and Brandie Walker, lung specialists at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, state vaping is ineffective for smoking cessation and a tool intended to lure youth to smoking. Flemons and Walker call on the federal government to follow the lead of Nova Scotia and British Columbia by implementing plain packaging and restricting nicotine concentrations.The CVA is aligned with the recommendation to limit nicotine concentrations to 20 milligrams per millilitre, an action our organization has also recommended numerous times. This would be identical to the nicotine cap imposed many years back in the European Union, where the data continues to show minimal youth uptake. However, the authors of this op-ed are misinformed on several other points. The inaccuracies within many of their other statements are of great concern since their status as lung specialists can lead others to believe their false statements, which would be to detriment of public health.While Flemons and Walker claim that vaping is ineffective as a smoking cessation tool, many studies have proven otherwise. National Health Services (NHS) conducted a controlled trial in which participants were randomly assigned to varying nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products (patches, gums, etc.) or e-cigarettes. After one year, 18% of e-cigarette users had completely quit smoking compared to only 9.9% of NRT users. The trial concluded that vaping is nearly twice as effective as the leading NRT products and that smokers increase their chances of quitting smoking by 83% using e-cigarettes compared to NRTs. The findings in this NHS study were validated through the peer-review process and were subsequently published both in the New England Journal of Medicine and British Medical Journal.The Rutgers School of Public Health and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health also conducted a study into vaping effectiveness which concluded that 50% of daily vapers are individuals that have successfully quit smoking completely. This study also clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation.Darryl Tempest, Executive Director of the CVA stated, “While the research clearly demonstrates that vaping is the most successful smoking cessation product available, the harm reduction component of vaping is alone a significant reason to encourage smokers to switch completely to vaping. The Royal College of Physicians was first to conclude six years ago that vaping is at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking. Since that time Public Health England has conducted annual independent studies to further validate these findings and to date all studies have shown the same positive results. Lung experts must be held accountable to presenting the facts, rather than their own biased opinion.”Inaccurate statements such as the ones made by Flemons and Walker led Public Health England to release a series of statements reassuring the public of the harm reduction potential of vapour products. “There are over 6 million smokers in England and smoking is still the leading cause of premature death and disease particularly among the most disadvantaged in our society. Helping more smokers quit is vital if we’re to achieve the government’s vision of a smokefree society by 2030, and vaping has a role to play. Vaping has helped many thousands of smokers quit to date. But many thousands more could benefit if they were not put off by the persistent, worsening and inaccurate beliefs the public hold about vaping. Smokers should be reassured by today’s authoritative and detailed report which shows that the UK’s e-cigarette regulations are effective and vaping remains a safer alternative to smoking. I urge smokers to have confidence in our regulatory system and not be put off by alarmist headlines about the risk of vaping which are not backed up by the evidence.”In the op-ed published in The Globe and Mail, the authors also challenge the federal government to implement plain packaging legislation. This statement alone makes it glaringly clear that they have no understanding of the current regulations in place at a federal level. The Vaping Products Labelling and Packaging Regulations, which came into effect nationwide on July 1, 2020 after months of stakeholder input, addressed the concern for plain packaging by requiring that more than two thirds of the label contain mandatory federal government statements, amongst various other labelling restrictions. Furthermore, federal regulations in place prior to this already do not allow for any characters, cartoons, or person’s to be on the label and prohibit naming conventions and flavours that would entice youth use including those that relate to any and all confectionery products, desserts, energy drinks, soft drinks and cannabis. With these various regulations in place, in all but the name, the federal government has already mandated plain packaging.Flemons and Walkers’ claim that the vape industry is using vaping as a tool to entice youth to use tobacco is also completely unsubstantiated by the data. Health Canada’s recent study, “Canadian Student Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs Survey,” found that while 8.4% of youth used vapour products, youth smoking rates were continuing to decline. Additionally, 75% of youth indicated that they understand there are risks associated with vaping, which goes against the authors’ notion that vaping products were being poised as a risk-free product to lure youth to tobacco.In Health Canada’s recent study, 65% of youth indicated they acquired vapour products from social sources. Since most youth are not acquiring vapour products through legal channels, further restrictive legislation surrounding the sale of vaping products will not protect youth and will instead discourage adult smokers from switching to a significantly less harmful product. While the authors commend the action taken by the Government of Nova Scotia, they fail to recognise the unintended consequences of Nova Scotia’s legislation. The legislation imposed there has caused a spike in Nova Scotia’s smoking rates and a significant rise in unregulated and thus potentially dangerous products. Nova Scotia has thus made it easier for youth to acquire these unregulated and dangerous products, while disincentivizing law abiding adult smokers from converting to the most successful harm reduction product globally. Nova Scotia should not be commended for the regulations imposed but instead condemned by public health experts everywhere for the detriment this regulation has and will continue to cause to the public health of their citizens.Given the significant damage smoking causes to the lungs, our organization would expect that those who specialize in lung health would embrace an alternative to combustible tobacco that greatly reduces harm. We encourage Flemons and Walker to review the research and regulations surrounding vaping and to cease their unsubstantiated claims. It is absolutely critical that health advocates in trusted positions provide accurate data on vaping as false statements can deter the millions of Canadian smokers from switching to an alternative proven time and again to be at least 95% less harmful.Darryl Tempest
The Canadian Vaping Association 6472741867
[email protected]

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