Published on March 7th, 2017 | by Jimmy Hafrey
A bill in Canada is silencing vape advocates by making it illegal to discuss the health benefits of vaping.
The Toronto Sun is reporting that a new bill, known as Bill S-5, is making the rounds in Canada’s federal government and could lead to stiff fines and even jail time for vape advocates who choose to continue to talk about how vaping can benefit smokers. The bill is also said to be aimed squarely at scientists and researchers who work in the field of vaping and would effectively block them from sharing the results from their studies under the law.
The tactic of refusing to allow scientists to divulge accurate information to the public is not new to politics; the former Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, famously was criticized for putting a gag order on scientists. That led to a CBC report that showed how his government designed and implemented “strict procedures around how its scientists are allowed to speak about their research to the media.”
Now, under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the tactic continues.
Bill S-5 was introduced in Parliament in November 2016 and has since passed through two of the three branches needed in order to become law. It was designed to not only limit the amount of access the public has to scientific data on vaping, it was also designed to forbid vaping businesses and advocates from sharing scientific information with the public that would compare vaping to traditional cigarettes.
The ban is broad and refuses to distinguish what kind of scientific data would be found to be in violation of the law. In fact, it is so broad that even by mentioning an article about vaping in a shop or business could see that advocate who shared that information responsible for a fine of up to $500,000 and a two-year prison term. There is no word on what repeated offenses could mean in terms of punishment.
The prison time and arbitrary fine schedules will undoubtedly call into question the ban’s constitutional veracity, as prison time for speaking freely on scientific journal articles could be seen as a violation of the right of freedom of expression. As the bill has not yet passed into law, there is still time to review the punishments and adjust accordingly; however, there has been no movement to do that from any legislator in Parliament.
Anti-vaping legislation that effectively puts a gag on scientists has serious implications going forward, including the idea that other legislation could be passed in the future that would ban scientists from giving the public necessary information that could save their lives. It could even go beyond that and begin to give gag orders to reporters, doctors, or other professions of authority in order to decimate an opposing view that flies in the face of the federal government.
In a word, it’s an incredibly direct way for the federal government to get away with silencing opposition in whatever form it takes, and it’s all done with late-night votes and the stroke of a pen.
For vapers, this legislation has severe and long-lasting effects. Because vaping is less dangerous than smoking, it is actually a great alternative to other nicotine replacement therapies; unfortunately, the legislation would make it difficult to explain that to potential customers.
The ban would also make it impossible to point customers with more questions to scientific studies and reports that show how vaping is different from smoking. Customers, for instance, would not be told that vape products do not contain tobacco, don’t burn, and do not produce smoke. Those customers would have to find another way to learn how vape products use battery-operated devices that heat up a liquid to produce a vapor that may or may not contain nicotine.
Bill S-5 is the polar opposite approach of how the UK government has handled vaping.
It was in 2015 when the UK’s health governing body, Public Health England, issued a press released that focused on conclusions made by an independent expert review of available studies on vaping. It found that vaping was 95 percent less dangerous than smoking and was not, in fact, a gateway to smoking, as many anti-vaping advocates would have you believe.
That independent expert review also found that the public was not adequately informed of the health benefits of switching from traditional cigarettes to vaping.
If this bill comes to pass, however, even mentioning Public Health England’s inquiry and report on vaping would be tantamount to breaking the law. This is a far cry from the UK’s very public stance that vaping could be used to help smokers quit their habit; it is also a tragic turn of events, as Canada currently has 4.6 million citizens who smoke regularly and could be helped by vaping.
Canada could also benefit financially from the vaping industry, as it could help stave off burdens brought on by health complications; it’s reported that this financial burden sits at $17 billion annually. Smokers could also save hundreds of dollars by switching from cigarettes to vape products, even if high taxes are imposed on the products.
So why adopt such an extreme view on the dissemination of scientific facts and studies? One could only hazard a guess as to what Canada’s government is thinking, but it seems that backroom agendas matter more to the governing body than the health of the people they were elected to protect.
This publication understands that vaping is not without some risk; however, it is our belief that vaping is still the first and best alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes and that the information that proves this should be free and available publicly to all citizens, including Canada.