Last week Health Canada released the results of its inspections of the instagram accounts of Canadian vaping suppliers. Just over half (53%) of the 304 suppliers failed inspection.

The industry fared somewhat better on this test than they did on the previous round of inspections of their retail stores in the summer and fall of 2019. On those occasions, fewer than 1 in 5 specialty vaping stores passed inspection (although the large majority of convenience stores did).

Implications for public health

The Canadian vaping industry was developed as a black market and appears to continues to operate with a level of disregard for the health regulations set by federal and provincial governments.

The three inspection reports made public by Health Canada establish the challenge governments face in setting standards for how these products can be sold.

Our review of the websites managed by the industry’s leaders provides additional evidence that the vaping industry’s failure to comply with health regulations is not likely because these rules are not understood, but more likely because they are not respected.

In 2019, Health Canada wrote vaping and retail organizations to emphasize that “this level of non-compliance is unacceptable.” To date, however, the department appears to have largely focused on sending warning letters, not imposing fines for non-compliance. Parliament set significant penalties for breaking the law (up to $500,000), but a penalty can only result from the federal government taking offenders to court.

Public health authorities currently cannot rely on vaping product suppliers to comply with health regulations. Increased enforcement activities are justified, as is consideration of alternative methods to manage this market.