Canada’s New Regulatory Framework for Vaping Products
On May 23, 2018, Bill S-5 (“An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts”) became law in Canada, representing a major shift in Canada’s regulatory framework, as the Bill establishes a nationalized approach to the regulation of vaping products and tobacco products through the implementation of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (TVPA).
This legislation represents a milestone for vaping products. Prior to the TVPA, vaping products were not expressly acknowledged as legal at the federal level in Canada. Further, vaping products containing nicotine were regulated under the Food and Drugs Act and required premarket approval. Canada’s modernized approach seeks to strike a balance between the goals of restricting access to tobacco and vaping products for minors, while allowing adult smokers to access vaping products and less harmful alternatives to traditional tobacco products.
General Overview of the TVPA and Related Legislation
Under the new TVPA framework, vaping products that are not marketed with therapeutic claims are now legal and may be manufactured, distributed, and sold in Canada. A “vaping product” is defined in Section 2 (Interpretation) of the TVPA as: (a) a device that produces emissions in the form of an aerosol and is intended to be brought to the mouth for inhalation of the aerosol; (b) a device that is designated to be a vaping product by the regulations; (c) a part that may be used with those devices; and (d) a substance or mixture of substances, whether or not it contains nicotine, that is intended for use with those devices to produce emissions. Therefore, e-liquids, including zero-nicotine e-liquid, fall within this definition.
While vaping products will be permitted under the TVPA, they will be subjected to substantial regulation. The Act addresses the manufacture, sale, labeling, and promotion of tobacco products and vaping products, and major provisions will:
- Largely apply existing tobacco regulations to vaping products;
- Prohibit the sale of vaping products to minors;
- Place heavy restrictions on advertising and promotion of vaping products by restricting lifestyle advertising, use of testimonials, and related claims;
- Restrict the promotion of certain flavors—especially those that may allegedly appeal to minors, e.g., dessert flavors; and
- Empower Health Canada to implement regulations, including plain and standardized tobacco packaging.
Certain provisions of the TVPA became effective upon Bill S-5 receiving Royal Assent on May 23, 2018 (e.g., prohibition on sale to youth), while other provisions give manufacturers and importers 180 days to comply, following Royal Assent (e.g., provisions that prohibit the manufacture and sale of vaping products containing an ingredient set out in Schedule 2, such as “colouring agents”).
Stakeholders and Health Canada are working together to ensure that the various restrictions set out in the TVPA, including those impacting promotional claims and advertising, are not overly burdensome. Health Canada has acknowledged competing interests that push back on its obligation to ensure that the public is not misled by promotional practices, including a strong interest in allowing adults to access the information needed to make informed decisions about the vaping products available on the market (especially adults who are working to quit the use of tobacco products). One example is the current dialogue between Health Canada and stakeholders related to TVPA Section 30.43. Specifically, while TVPA Section 30.43 seeks to prohibit the use of certain promotional statements, e.g., statements that could lead a consumer to believe that certain health benefits will result from vaping, Health Canada has distributed a draft list of relative risk statements about vaping products that would be permitted under the TVPA, if finalized. The September 4, 2018 draft of the “List of Statements for Use in the Promotion of Vaping Products” was circulated, and Health Canada accepted comments until September 17, 2018. The list is now under review with the Scientific Advisory Board on Vaping Products (SAB). The seven proposed statements are:
- If you are a smoker, switching completely to vaping is a much less harmful option;
- While vaping products emit toxic substances, the amount is significantly lower than in tobacco smoke;
- By switching completely to vaping products, smokers are exposed to a small fraction of the 7,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke;
- Switching completely from combustible tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes significantly reduces users’ exposure to numerous toxic and cancer-causing substances;
- Completely replacing your cigarette with a vaping product will significantly reduce your exposure to numerous toxic and cancer-causing substances;
- Switching completely from smoking to e-cigarettes will reduce harms to your health; and
- Completely replacing your cigarette with an e-cigarette will reduce harms to your health.
While the list has not yet been finalized, the collaborative effort between Health Canada and stakeholders in bringing clarity to the TVPA through exemptions and other regulatory measures evidences an effort to balance the goals of the legislation. This is in stark contrast to the Tobacco Control Act in the United States, which bans all “modified risk” claims made with FDA authorization. As we have previously blogged about here, this provision of the Tobacco Control Act is being challenged by the vapor industry.
Additional legislation, such as Canada’s Food and Drugs Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act, will play a role in the approval of vaping products that contain therapeutic claims and will address other issues, such as exposure to second-hand smoke in public spaces and workplaces. The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act(CCPSA) will also play a role in the regulation of vaping products as a whole.
The CCPSA sets forth mandatory reporting and document retention requirements, as well as a prohibition on the manufacture, import, advertisement, or sale of any consumer product that is a “danger to human health or safety,” as defined by Paragraphs 7(a) and 8(a) of the CCPSA. Further, the CCPSA empowers Health Canada to order recalls (including less severe actions, depending on degree of risk), as well as to order that testing be conducted on the consumer product of interest.
Health Canada intends to introduce regulations under the CCPSA to address health and safety risks posed by vaping products. While there are currently no product-specific regulations for vaping products under the CCPSA, the CCPSA and applicable regulations, including the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations, 2001 (CCCR), will apply until regulations specific to vaping products are implemented. After specific regulations take effect, general provisions of the CCPSA will continue to apply.
Canada’s Guidance Document, Vaping Products not Marketed for a Therapeutic Use (July 12, 2018), provides an overview of the health and safety requirements that exist under the CCPSA and related CCCR regulations that relate to vaping products marketed without therapeutic claims (i.e., vaping products that are not regulated as drugs under Canada’s Food and Drugs Act). The CCCR sets forth a classification-based approach to rules for consumer chemicals, including a prohibition on the sale of very toxic substances and requirements for labeling. Child-resistant containers are also required for toxic substances.
Importantly, Section 3 of Health Canada’s Guidance Document summarizes the classifications related to nicotine that are applicable to vaping products “manufactured, imported, advertised, or sold as consumer products.” The summary from the Guidance Document states the following:
- Vaping liquids containing equal to or more than 66 mg/g nicotine meet the classification of “very toxic” under the CCCR, 2001 and are prohibited from being manufactured, imported, advertised, or sold under Section 38 of the CCCR, 2001.
- Vaping liquids containing between 10 mg/g and less than 66 mg/g nicotine meet the classification of “toxic” under the CCCR, 2001. Stand-alone containers of these liquids must meet the CCCR, 2001 requirements for “toxic” chemicals, including child-resistant containers and hazard labelling.
- While the CCCR, 2001 excludes ingredients present between 0.1 mg/g and 10 mg/g when calculating a chemical product’s toxicity, Health Canada has determined that nicotine is potentially toxic via oral exposure in this concentration range. Therefore, vaping liquids containing nicotine between 0.1 mg/g and 10 mg/g or under 1% (m/m) (representations of nicotine concentration in mg/mL and mg/g are not necessarily interchangeable as mass varies with the density of the vaping liquid) that do not meet the requirements for the “toxic” classification under the CCCR, 2001 are a violation of the general prohibition set out in Paragraphs 7(a) or 8(a) of the CCPSA and are subject to enforcement action.
Section 4.3 of the Guidance Document (“Vaping Liquid Considerations”) describes additional considerations regarding whether a consumer product that is a “danger to human health or safety,” as defined by Paragraphs 7(a) and 8(a) of the CCPSA. As noted above, products that are considered to be a “danger to human health or safety” may not be manufactured, imported, advertised, or sold as a consumer product. Specific considerations for e-liquids include those related to nicotine, as described above, diluents, additives and flavors, impurities and thermal degradations products, and microbial contamination. Considerations for vaping devices focus on electrical and mechanical aspects of the product, batteries, and chargers.
Importing E-liquids into Canada from the United States
Under the TVPA, vaping products such as e-liquids may now be imported into Canada, according to Customs Notice 18-05. A step-by-step guide to importing commercial goods into Canada is available here, which serves as a valuable tool.
While many manufacturers and distributors have looked to Canada as a potential market, navigating the process of importing vaping products does not come without its challenges. In addition to licensing and permits, tariff classification numbers are needed for each item, and duties and taxes must be determined prior to shipping the goods and having them released from customs. Further, provincial or territorial legislation may impose additional requirements that retailers must follow. We expect that additional guidance will be forthcoming in this regard.
Joint Efforts to Regulate Vaping Products in North America
The North American Vapor Alliance (NAVA) recently emerged as an outlet to ensure practical regulation of vaping products, and to create a unified approach to standards and regulatory regimes across the U.S. and Canada. On September 5, the American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association (AEMSA), the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA), and the Canadian Vaping Association (CVA) announced that they would be engaging in this joint effort. For a copy of the press releases, see here and here.
We will continue to provide updates regarding the evolving regulatory landscape that will impact vaping products in Canada.
 We note that vaping products that make therapeutic claims continue to fall within the scope of Canada’s Food and Drugs Act and require premarket approval.
 See TVPA, Part I.1 (Vaping Products); see also Part III (Labelling).
 TVPA, Part II (Access).
 TVPA, Part IV (Promotion), Division 2 (Vaping Products).
 See TVPA, Sections 30.48 and 30.49 and the “Flavours” table set out in Schedule 3.
 See, e.g., TVPA, Sections 30.1 through 30.8.
 In preparing the list of statements, Health Canada considered public opinion from the 2018 Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes report, prepared by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (report highlights are available here), and consulted with the external Scientific Advisory Board on Vaping Products (SAB).
 The draft list of statements was circulated in a September 4, 2018 email from Mathew Cook, Manager of the Regulations Division of the Tobacco Products Regulatory Office, which is part of Health Canada’s Tobacco Control Directorate.
 See Sections 12(a), 31, and 32 of the CCPSA.
 “Commercial shipments of vaping products with no health claims and no health product ingredients (can contain nicotine as a sole ingredient) may now be imported into Canada under the TPVA [sic].” (See Customs Notice 18-05 (May 24, 2018), Paragraph 5).