Vaping Advocates Rip Canada’s ‘Abstinence Only’ Tobacco Policy For Undermining Public Health

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Public health experts are blasting the “abstinence only” approach to tobacco control in Canada, where lawmakers recently approved new restrictions that block access to smoking alternatives.

The emergence of new technologies for nicotine delivery are giving countries across the world a historic chance to drastically reduce smoking rates and tobacco-related cancers, but some governments remain opposed to anything other than prohibition.

A refusal by Canadian lawmakers to recognize the harm reduction potential of vaping is leaving smokers in the country confused about their options, ultimately risking lives, Brian Lee Crowley, managing director for the public policy think tank Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Candada, wrote in an op-ed Wednesday in the Toronto Sun.

Lawmakers recently passed a measure that will prevent vaping businesses from making any claims about products that are not approved by the government. The legislation is currently awaiting a vote in the House of Commons.

“Worst still, tobacco products that eliminate combustion, such as Swedish snus (taken orally, with comparatively minor risks) and ones that release nicotine by heating tobacco but not burning it, will be forbidden to make similar claims even when the scientific evidence supports them,” Crowley wrote. “Violators risk not just hefty fines but jail time. These draconian rules will apply to us all, and trample on the right of Canadians to hear information that might allow them to reduce significantly the health effects of their tobacco use if they find abstinence unrealistic.”

Safer products that satiate smokers’ appetite for nicotine are key to reducing smoking rates and ultimately eradicating the habit, public health advocates focused on harm reduction say. After all, it is the combustion of tobacco, not nicotine consumption, that is behind the vast majority of smoking-related illnesses.

Experts in the field of tobacco control also note that restrictive laws on alternative smoking technologies are actually keeping people hook on cigarettes.  Policies that falsely conflate nicotine-based devices with tobacco products will result in less smokers ditching the habit for alternative, and safer, technologies, the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank based in Washington, D.C., argues in a report published Monday.

The products deliver nicotine to the user, not tobacco, reducing the harm to themselves and largely eliminating second-hand risks, vaping advocates note.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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