The Court of Appeal upholds Quebec law restricting the advertising of vaping products

MONTREAL – Anti-smoking groups on Tuesday hailed a ruling by Quebec’s highest court upholding the province’s right to subject vaping products to the same tobacco laws.

In a unanimous decision released on Monday, the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal overturned parts of a 2019 lower court decision that overturned certain provisions of the Tobacco Control Act relating to tobacco products. vaping – known as electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

The Superior Court of Quebec has ruled that while the government has the right to legislate on the matter, some of the province’s restrictions on vaping products – including a ban on advertising e-cigarettes to people seeking to quit smoking – went too far because they could prevent smokers from switching to a less harmful product.

But the judges of the court of appeal disagreed, ruling that the Quebec government had the right to limit the potential effect of electronic cigarette advertising on young people and on non-smokers.

In their ruling, the judges cited research from the World Health Organization and other experts expressing concern over rising rates of vaping among young people, and questioned whether it was possible to target ads only to smokers, without influencing others.

“In this case, it was therefore reasonable for the legislator to intervene to limit the potential effect of advertising on electronic cigarettes, in particular on young people,” wrote Judge Benoît Moore on behalf of the panel. He added: “The risks associated with the fact that the vaping industry is evolving and that it is gradually taken over by tobacco companies cannot be excluded from the legislator’s analysis.

The court also upheld the government’s right to ban demonstrations of vaping products inside specialty stores or clinics, arguing that vaping groups had failed to show that seeing and trying the products was a necessary condition. for smokers who wanted to switch to vaping.

The Canadian Cancer Society, which was granted intervenor status in the case, described the decision as “an extremely important public health victory to reduce vaping among young people and protect young people from Internet marketing. tobacco industry ”. Spokesman Rob Cunningham said in a statement the decision could have “Canada-wide implications” by making it harder for vaping industry groups to challenge federal legislation restricting cigarette advertising. electronic.

The Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control, an anti-tobacco group, called the decision a crucial victory for public health.

“The judgment highlights several key principles that should prompt the government to act quickly to further reduce the appeal of e-cigarettes among young people, for example by banning flavors other than tobacco,” the co-spokesperson said. Flory Doucas in a press release.

The 2019 decision was appealed by both the Quebec government and, on the other side, an association representing Quebec vapers and the Canadian Vaping Association. The latter two groups contested Quebec’s decision to put vaping products on an equal footing with cigarettes by including them in the Tobacco Control Act in 2015.

They argued that electronic cigarettes are a form of “harm reduction” because they can be an effective way for smokers to quit smoking, and that overly strict regulations compromise the safety of smokers by restricting their access to one. less harmful product.

The Court of Appeals said Monday that it recognizes experts agree that vaping products are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. But the court said experts were divided over whether it was an effective way to quit smoking, and the judges noted that the World Health Organization and Quebec’s director of public health cautioned against their description of anti-smoking treatments.

While admitting that research into vaping is ongoing and at times controversial, the court concluded that the potential risk of vaping products, especially to young people, justified the province’s restrictions.

He noted that the risks are both “intrinsic” – related to direct health issues such as increased nicotine addiction – and “extrinsic” – related to the fact that access to electronic cigarettes will lead to increased nicotine addiction. to a “social renormalization of the act of smoking” which could lead more young people to make a habit of it.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 16, 2021.


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