POLITICS

Ontario restricts sale, use of e-cigarettes, bans flavoured tobacco sales

05/26/2015 03:04 EDT | Updated 05/26/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Electronic cigarettes are now treated in the same way as regular cigarettes in Ontario under a new law that also bans the sale of flavoured tobacco and requires restaurants to put calorie counts on menus.

E-cigarettes now cannot be sold to anyone under 19 years old, their promotion and displays are regulated and their use is banned in smoke-free areas.

The province's associate health minister calls e-cigarettes an "emerging technology" and says Ontario is leaving the door open to the possibility they can help some smokers break their addiction.

Dipika Damerla says if Health Canada gives its stamp of approval to them as cessation aids, the act can be changed through regulation to treat them as stop-smoking products in terms of where they can be sold and displayed.

A Progressive Conservative was the only member of the legislature to vote against the bill today, saying the law severely limits the availability of e-cigarettes, which he says help people to stop smoking.

Randy Hillier says they have helped him "substantially" reduce how much he smokes and three of his staff members have quit completely with the help of vaporizers.

"I am a longtime smoker," he said. "I've tried everything. I've tried gum and patches and every other device known to man and they have not been effective."

Some anti-tobacco advocates argue the devices perpetuate nicotine addiction, may entice teens to take up smoking, and could undermine hard-fought smoking bans. Others see the devices as a way to help people stop consuming nicotine in a way that endangers their health and the health of those around them.

A report by the health committee of the House of Commons in Ottawa recommended the federal government establish a new legal framework for e-cigarettes. Health Canada must respond to the report by July 8.

Ontario's Making Healthier Choices Act also:

— Increases the maximum fines for those who sell tobacco to youth.

— Bans the sale of flavoured tobacco products, with a temporary exemption for menthol flavoured products.

— Requires restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores and some other food service establishments to post calories for standard food and beverage items, including alcohol, on menus and menu boards