E-Cigarette Seller Fights Health Canada Warnings

Saanich business owner John Overall is fighting a cease-and-desist letter from Health Canada that claims selling nicotine e-juice at his electronic-cigarette store is a violation of the Food and Drugs Act.

According to Overall, Health Canada has only issued an advisory on e-cigarettes, which produce a vapour from nicotine serum, and electronic devices are not approved by Health Canada, but there are no laws banning or regulating them.

Overall is only one of many ecigarette vendors across the country, and he feels that the agency is trying to push people around and shut down businesses like his. He does not market e-cigarettes as a health product or a drug. He notes the act provides an exemption for nicotine “administered orally by means of an inhalation device delivering 4 mg or less of nicotine per dosage.” However, one dose from an e-cigarette cannot possibly produce this amount nicotine as described in the FDA’s definition.

In the letter, Health Canada states: “Nicotine is a highly addictive and toxic substance … electronic smoking products may pose risks such as nicotine poisoning and addiction.” The agency says the product is being marketed and sold as a drug as defined by the FDA.

In the U.S., the $1.5-billion-dollar industry has tripled in the past year and use has doubled among middle and high school students, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There’s definitely some of the cachet and coolness cigarettes once enjoyed,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief medical health officer. “Like Humphrey Bogart might light two e-cigarettes and pass it to a lady.”

“The evidence is chasing the product,” he said, comparing the teens using e-cigarettes today to heavy smokers who got hooked in their teens during the 1960s and 1970s.

Already, the European Union has ruled the products need more health warnings and regulation, the mayor of New York is seeking a ban, and Nova Scotia is promising to move quickly on regulations.

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