Health officials here in London are supporting their colleagues in the Big Smoke as they move to ban e-cigarettes wherever smoking is already prohibited.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health wants the municipality to introduce tougher rules if the government doesn’t restrict their use province-wide within the next six months.
“Similar to Toronto Public Health, the Middlesex-London Health Unit does not recommend the use of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes,” said Linda Stobo, Manager of the Chronic Disease Prevention & Tobacco Control Team at the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “The policy recommendations that were released by Toronto Public Health’s report are very much in line with the position that the Middlesex-London Health Unit took last year in September.”
Electronic cigarettes can look and taste like traditional cigarettes, but are battery-operated. According to a report being considered by the Toronto Board of Health at its meeting next Monday, the e-cigarettes “do not contain tobacco and produce vapor instead of smoke when used. In the few years since their appearance, use has proliferated in North America, including Toronto.”
The vapors produced by the e-cigarettes haven’t been proven safe, according to Stobo.
“Some of the particles [contained in the vapor] are very small, they’re an ultra fine particle,” said Stobo. “Those ultra fine particles contain heavy metals like nickel and chromium in that e-cigarette vapor, and because they’re so small, those particles go deep into the lungs. They are also able to cross into the blood stream, and they can be deposited and absorbed into the body tissues.”
Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, indicated a number of concerns in the report, including the “impact on youth smoking initiation, and potential to normalize smoking behavior and undermine existing tobacco control legislation.”
Like McKeown, Stobo believes many users don’t realize the harm they may be doing to themselves.
“We have to remember that nicotine is a drug, and it can in fact cause poisoning if used improperly,” said Stobo. “There have actually been an increase in the number of calls into the poison control center in the US in particular around poisoning because of the lack of controls and safe standards that are applied to the nicotine e-juice.”
Before moving to introduce a new municipal bylaw, McKeown is pushing the province to amend its Smoke-Free Ontario Act to include a ban on e-cigarettes wherever cigarette use is now prohibited in Ontario.
According to the report, “if provincial action is not taken by February 2015, the Medical Officer of Health will consult with the city solicitor, other city divisions and relevant stakeholders and report to the Board of Health on municipal measures to prohibit e-cigarette use where smoking is prohibited under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act or city by-laws.”
Stobo admits they’re taking a wait-and-see approach here in London.
“Where were would explore first is supporting Toronto Public Health with their work provincially,” said Stobo. “The best case scenario would be that we have consistent regulations regarding e-cigarettes across the province, as opposed to municipality by municipality.”
In the meantime, Stobo says they’ll continue to support local groups and businesses that ban e-cigarette use, including the LTC.
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