History repeats itself, as Health Canada puts on “rose-colored glasses” by giving the benefit of the doubt to the nicotine industry, according to the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control. After having hooked thousands of young people to nicotine with its vaping flavors, the industry is returning to the attack under the cover of the regulation on natural health products with edible sachets that it swears it wants to keep young people away.
Despite the nicotine industry’s long record of repeat offenders, Health Canada explains that it has granted authorization to Zonnic nicotine sachets, linked to the tobacco company Imperial Tobacco, since they give Canadians “an additional tool to quit smoking” .
“It’s like putting on rose-colored glasses!” This is what we were told about vaping products. The goal was to give access to adults and more specifically to smokers. But statistics show that the rate of vaping is increasing more quickly among non-smokers, particularly those who are young,” insists the co-director and spokesperson for the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control (CQCT), Flory Doucas.
“It’s a gateway to nicotine addiction,” she adds.
Health Canada emphasizes in a response sent to The Canadian Press that a sachet containing 4 milligrams or less of nicotine is considered a natural health product and that it is subject to the regulations governing them. It is added that these products “are authorized for people aged 18 and over and must not be sold to minors”.
However, advocacy groups reveal that across Canada, nicotine sachets are marketed alongside candy, touting their “tropical breeze” or “frosted berry” aroma.
Moreover, while the manufacturer wraps itself in the virtue of promoting smoking cessation among adults, its advertisements instead sell an ideal of good times with friends and a trendy lifestyle, denounces Mme Doucas.
“Young people do not aspire to be young people, young people aspire to be adults and especially trendy young adults. This is exactly what is put forward in advertising campaigns,” she argues, recalling that the courts have repeatedly reprimanded the industry for such practices.
On this subject, Health Canada states that “marketing aimed at young people would be considered misleading advertising and could trigger post-market compliance measures” of the product.
In the office of Federal Minister Mark Holland, they say they are “very concerned” about the fact that products containing nicotine could be sold to young people. They say they are examining this issue to ensure “that these products are sold for the purpose for which they were approved.”
In a press release, Imperial Tobacco insists that its Zonnic is “a nicotine replacement therapy product” intended for adults wanting to quit smoking. The company would also be in favor of “regulations that would limit the sale” of these products to people aged 18 and over.
Reserved for pharmacies
In Quebec, the sale of nicotine sachets is already slightly more regulated than elsewhere in the country since the marketing of such products is reserved for pharmacies. Under the Pharmacy Act, “nicotine and its salts” are included on the list of “medications intended for humans and sold under pharmaceutical supervision”.
Despite everything, the national director of public health, Dr Luc Boileau, described this issue as an “emerging concern” and said he was “attentive to the situation” since it is “a relatively new product on the radar screen”.
At a press conference in Montreal on Wednesday, he mentioned that these products are part of the arsenal available to people who want to quit smoking. However, “secondary use by people who do not have this profile is a source of concern,” he admitted.
Flory Doucas, for his part, fears seeing young people being bombarded with advertising and seduced by the product. They could then very well obtain nicotine sachets in pharmacies since these could be found over the counter on the shelves rather than behind the counter from the pharmacist.
In addition to the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control, the Canadian Cancer Society, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, the Canadian Lung Association, Heart & Stroke and Action on Smoking and Health called on Federal Minister Mark Holland and Health Canada so that they act quickly to suspend the sale of nicotine sachets or to require a medical prescription.
The Canadian Press’ health content receives funding through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. The Canadian Press is solely responsible for editorial choices.