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Canada flavored e-cigarette ban

Time: 2024-03-29

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Canada has been criticized for poor implementation of the ban on flavored e-cigarettes. How are various markets doing?

Éric Gagnon, Imperial Tobacco Canada's vice-president of corporate and regulatory affairs, said the company's biggest concern is the inconsistent enforcement of the rule.


"While we found that 91 per cent of vape shops offered flavor enhancers or other flavored products, only one was found guilty of breaking the law and fined."


Additionally, online sales are ubiquitous and anyone, including young people, can order flavored e-cigarettes and have them delivered to their door.


With the exception of Canada, how do markets with flavoring bans implement policies? What is the current public opinion position of the "seasoning ban"?


WHO takes the lead to keep up and reduces Big Tobacco’s willingness to transform


In December 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged governments to treat e-cigarettes the same as tobacco and ban all flavors of e-cigarettes. Specific measures include banning the use of all flavorings such as menthol.


Canada has been criticized for poor implementation of the ban on flavored e-cigarettes. How are various markets doing?

World Health Organization logo Source: WHO official website


Many observers believe the initiative could shake up traditional cigarette companies' bets on alternatives to smoking. Because a big factor that makes new tobacco stand out from traditional cigarettes is taste. The rich flavor choices can also segment the market to the greatest extent and achieve maximum benefits.


In terms of business strategy, as JT (Japan Tobacco) once pointed out in its financial report, flavors can also expand the profile of target consumers, for example, attracting young adult women who have never had smoking habits before.


Based on various considerations, once flavors are banned, the prospects for the new tobacco business will be severely hit.


European heated tobacco flavoring ban wave in 2023


The flavors of heated tobacco have also experienced increasingly strict controls in Europe in the past 2023. Throughout 2023, IQOS's shipment growth has begun to slow down after years of rapid growth. When PMI released its annual report in early February 2024, it stated that the slowdown was mainly due to the European Union's ban on the use of flavored heated tobacco, and that shipments in 2024 were expected to be further hit.


This trend will continue until 2024: the Dutch government will no longer allow the sale of flavored e-cigarettes from January 1, 2024, and only tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes are still allowed; on January 16, Spain approved a sales ban Act on Flavored Heated Tobacco Products.


On February 29, the Polish government also made a decision to ban the sale of flavored heated tobacco products. Wojciech Konieczny, Deputy Minister of Health of Poland, said that the bill is being discussed internally and is expected to enter the legislative process soon and is expected to be implemented from 2025.


The pace of this wave of flavor bans seems to have no tendency to slow down, and it remains to be seen at what pace it will be expanded and even cover all of Europe.


The ban is in vain, and the underground market is in a dilemma that breeds controversy.


Imperial Tobacco Canada said the consequences of the flavoring ban in Canada include the creation of a black market, causing the e-cigarette market to become underground again, just as it was before e-cigarettes were legalized in the country in 2018.


On March 5, anti-smoking advocates in Oregon, USA, gathered in front of the state capitol building to demand a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and other tobacco products, saying that "flavored tobacco products are the number one reason why children become addicted to tobacco products." Retailers and convenience stores, on the other hand, say banning flavored tobacco products would only encourage adults and children to seek out the black market. Tony Aiello, a lawyer representing retailers, said that if flavored tobacco is banned, not only will the black market flourish, but retailers selling e-cigarette products may lose more than half of their revenue.


According to a 2023 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, although California has implemented a ban on flavored e-cigarettes from December 2022, teenagers under the age of 16 can still purchase these products online. The online purchase success rate of minors has even increased by 9% compared with before the ban.


Based on the precedent of California's flavored e-cigarette ban that was "in vain", Emil 't Hart, chairman of the Dutch trade association (Esigbond), also expressed concerns about the black market.


"Flavored e-cigarettes end up in criminal circles. There is no age limit at all. Interested parties can still buy them across borders or online. People are also likely to mix their own flavors, which can have more dangerous consequences."


Do consumers want taste after all?


Regarding the flavoring ban, the core argument of those in favor is that "flavors will increase the appeal to minors" and are similar to the appearance design of fashionable toy-type packaging; but according to the other party, this argument ignores the importance of flavoring. The importance of fragrance for adult smokers who want to quit smoking.


The Malaysian E-Cigarette Consumers Association told 2FIRSTS in an exclusive interview in December 2023 that restrictions on e-cigarette flavors are “illogical.”


"Although new types of tobacco avoid a variety of carcinogens produced by the combustion of traditional tobacco, if they do not provide a taste that is differentiated from cigarettes on the basis of ensuring nicotine intake, it will be difficult to correct smokers' taste for "tobacco flavor" in terms of consumption habits. "The preference will ultimately be unable to achieve its effect of helping people quit smoking."


Association president YM Tengku Dato Aslahuddin said.

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