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Should vaping products be regulated the same as cigarettes? - Toronto Star


by: Peter J. Luongo, Managing Director, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges

Today, nearly 5 million Canadians smoke. That means even if you are not a smoker yourself, chances are someone you know, love or work with is a smoker.


And at Rothmans, Benson & Hedges, we hope everyone would agree with us that the best choice for every Canadian is never to start smoking or to quit entirely.

In fact, we want to “Unsmoke” Canada.

But to do this, we also need to recognize that despite decades of government programs and regulations, millions of Canadian adults continue to smoke.

While governments must continue such programs, they should also consider a complementary way to reduce the risks from smoking: technology.

Innovation can help current adult smokers by switching them from cigarettes to better technology substantiated by science, such as vaping or heating.


Neither vaping nor heating is safe or risk free, and both type of products contain nicotine, which is addictive. But a strong and growing body of scientific evidence from around the world shows that they are much better alternatives compared to smoking cigarettes.

That’s because they do not involve burning, and therefore produce significantly lower levels of the harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, which are the primary cause of smoking-related diseases.

We need to eliminate combustion. With science and technology, we have.

This is why various health agencies see vaping and heating as different and better than smoking cigarettes.

Public Health England recently reconfirmed its long-standing position, based on independent expert evidence, that vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking cigarettes.


In fact, England’s National Health Service, Department of Health and Social Care, and National Institute for Health Care Excellence have joined Public Health England in “encouraging smokers of conventional cigarettes to switch to e-cigarettes.”

Health Canada also agrees that smokers who switch completely from cigarettes to vaping products significantly reduce their exposure to dozens of powerful toxins and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke.

And earlier this year the Food and Drug Administration in the United States authorized a heating tobacco technology for sale “as appropriate for the protection of public health.”

In doing so, the agency found that the aerosol produced by the heating technology “contains fewer toxic chemicals than cigarette smoke, and many of the toxins identified are present at lower levels than in cigarette smoke.”

Quite simply, governments should not regulate vaping or heating the same as cigarettes because scientific evidence shows that they are not the same as cigarettes.

We can all think of numerous examples where somewhat similar, but fundamentally different, products are regulated in appropriately distinct ways. You might think of rules for aspirin versus prescription pain medication, bicycles versus motorcycles, or many, many others. The same should be true for vaping and heating versus cigarettes.

In short, regulations are needed, but they should make sense for these new technologies.

We support new measures to prevent youth vaping, including: limiting flavours; requiring warning labels and ingredient listings; and enforcing stricter penalties for sales to minors as well as restrictions on advertising and promotion.

We also support product quality and tampering standards to ensure that products purchased by adult smokers are manufactured consistently and used as intended.

But if we think about the adults who smoke in our lives, shouldn’t they know that better alternatives exist? Shouldn’t they be able to make informed choices about which products are right for them? Isn’t it better if they switch to a better product if they don’t quit altogether?

That is why Canada needs to take a balanced approach — to help adult smokers while also protecting youth with smart regulations.

Wherever cigarettes are sold, scientifically substantiated smoke-free products, whether vaping or heated tobacco products, should also be able to be sold and marketed responsibly as a better alternative to cigarettes.

We fully support sensible regulations — regulations that give current adult smokers reasonable access to effective smoke-free products, while limiting features of these products that appeal to youth.

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About RBH

Rothmans, Benson and Hedges (RBH), a subsidiary of Philip Morris International Inc., is one of Canada’s leading tobacco companies. We are also leading the Unsmoke Canada conversation and helping Canadians go smoke-free.

We employ more than 780 people in seven offices and one manufacturing plant across Canada.

At RBH, we think big, start small, and move fast by celebrating diversity of opinions to ensure the best ideas win.