Bill n°44 : An Act to bolster tobacco control
In Quebec, the recent Bill 44 came into force last November 26, 2015 and already led online retailers to shut down their curtain after the e-cigarette has been assimilated to a product of tobacco. This Bill 44 that clearly appears against vaping has been criticized by vaping and health professionals for its strictness.
Almost 3 months after the first stage of implementation, the owner of a vape shop, Valerie Gallant, is the witness of how the regulation applies to her business. She’s been interviewed in French by Myriam Segal on the Quebecois Radio FM93:
FM93: What has changed for you since the introduction of the law?
VG: First of all, it is forbidden to vape into the shop. It implies that a consumer is not allowed to try the device he just purchased into the shop. In order to experiment the device, the consumer must find friends who vape but cannot refer to professionals. Advertising for her business is forbidden on private or professional social networks. Even providing scientific updates on the e-cigarette or journal articles is illegal because it is considered advertising. It is frustrating not to be allowed to provide our customers a service of quality because we cannot offer information on our public pages.
FM93: Are you allowed to exhibit the e-cigarettes in your shop?
VG: No, we all had to blur the windows so that the inside of the shop cannot be seen from the outside. The name of the shop can however be displayed above the front door.
FM93: Can a consumer handle e-cigarettes in the shop?
VG: Yes, he can. Once inside, only if he is above 18 years of age, the customer can have access to the e-cigarette. But he must request it to the desk because it is not in self-service. Nothing must be accessible to the customer, according to the inspectors.
FM93: How is the information about bans and regulations conveyed to the retailer?
VG: The inspectors visit all vape shops in Quebec and make sure that they comply with the current regulation. They provide information on what is banned and what is legal. Since no official document is provided on the Assembly’s website, we have no other choice than to trust what they say. Some of my colleagues even received contradictory information.
As a first approximate, the inspectors adapted the regulation of tobacco products by adding the term “e-cigarette” to enforce it. Nobody knows the regulation in depth since it has not been published yet, and each time we ask for specific aspects of the law, the inspectors tell us that they will come back to us with the information. But “ignorance of the law is no defense”. In terms of enforcement, we noticed that the inspectors have still not fined retailers who don’t comply with the law, instead they give warnings. We are in a grace period but how long will it last?
FM93: I never thought that the e-cigarette could be treated on the same line as the poison that is tobacco…
VG: It indeed looks paradoxical. We fight against tobacco to provide what we find a good alternate to smoking for quitters but finally our fight is vain and we are seen like the retailers of tobacco cigarettes by the public.
FM93: Are you supported by an organization for the defense of your rights?
VG: The Canadian Vaping Association is working on the file but we are considering building our own to be closer to our case in Quebec. For most retailers in Canada, the business started 3 or 4 years ago and we are not robust enough to hire lawyers to help us. It is a young and small business and some of our colleagues have already shut down their curtain because of this strictness.
FM93: Does it weigh a lot on your business?
VG: Yes, sales are declining. We are less visible, accessible, but another reason is that because of the association made by the government between smoking and vaping, the customer perceives the e-cigarette like tobacco and no longer trusts in our discourse on its benefits for health. People want to stick with things they know and the unknown, like the e-cigarette, is not likely to be self-introduced in one’s habits unless it is promoted by professionals, what we are no longer able to do.
FM93: In what does your counselling consists?
VG: We provide a counselling based on our own experience and readings to help our customers quit smoking and gradually reduce their nicotine. The nicotine we provide ranges from 16 to 18mg/ml for smokers, down to 0. We notice that the gestures around smoking is what is the most difficult to abandon, that is in what the e-cigarette is interesting, in fact.
Bill 44, explanatory notes
This Act amends the Tobacco Act to further restrict tobacco use both in enclosed spaces and outdoors.
It prohibits smoking in motor vehicles in which a minor under 16 years of age is present, in outdoor play areas intended for children, on the grounds of vacation camps and at skating rinks that are used by minors, and on terraces.
It also prohibits smoking within a nine-metre radius from any door, air vent or window communicating with enclosed spaces to which the public has admittance.
The Act extends the scope of the Tobacco Act by including electronic cigarettes among the products considered to be tobacco. However, it allows the operator of a specialized retail outlet for electronic cigarettes to display such cigarettes subject to certain conditions, including the condition that they be visible only from the inside of the retail outlet.
It also sets rules for tobacco use in certain places, in particular by determining standards for outdoor smoking shelters.
Standards applicable to the tobacco trade are tightened by, among other things, prohibiting the retail sale or distribution of tobacco products having a flavour or aroma other than that of tobacco, prohibiting adults from purchasing tobacco for minors and prohibiting tobacco product manufacturers or distributors from offering rebates related to the sale of a tobacco product to tobacco retail outlet operators.
The Act prescribes standards for tobacco product packaging in connection with the health warning that must be displayed on it by, among other things, setting a minimum surface area and requiring that such packaging contain a maximum quantity of the product.
In addition, new penal provisions are enacted, the amounts of fines already prescribed by the Tobacco Act are increased and certain other penal provisions are reinforced by making employers and the directors and officers of legal persons, partnerships and associations more accountable.
Lastly, the Act contains the amending, transitional and final provisions necessary for its implementation.
Since November 2015:
- Advertising on electronic cigarettes is subject to the same rules as those for tobacco
- A maximum of 20% of smoking rooms in hotels and hospitals
- Obligation to show a valid ID with a picture
- Increase of the price of fines for retailers
- Prohibition of associating tobacco brands to electronic cigarettes
In May 2016:
- Ban of all flavors, including menthol, for all tobacco products – except for electronic cigarettes.
- No smoking/vaping in private vehicles in the presence of minors under 16 years.
- No smoking/vaping on children’s playgrounds (and within nine meters from the perimeter) and on sports fields (including the area of the spectators)
- No smoking/vaping on public terraces (bars and restaurants)
- No smoking/vaping on school grounds, child care centers, and other educational institutions at all times (not only the hours during which young people are there)
- Increase of the price of fines for various offenses under the Act. For example, anyone who smokes/vapes in a place where it is prohibited is now liable to a fine of $250 to $750.
In November 2016:
- No smoking/vaping within 9 meters of any door of a public institution, and any air intake or window. (The law foresees shelters for smokers outside a radius of 9 meters of any door and any windows or air intake)
- Ban on rebates, discounts that tobacco industry offers to retailers for advertising or selling their tobacco products.
- The warnings on packages takes more space and is more visible. The new standards will make it illegal to sell the small stylized packets, very popular among young people.