B.C. has ordered that flavoured nicotine pouches be moved behind pharmacy counters instead of being sold openly in an effort to prevent youth from becoming addicted.
The order, signed by Health Minister Adrian Dix, means buyers of the pouches will have to consult a pharmacist first.
“By limiting access to these products and ensuring they are dispensed by trained health-care professionals, our goal is to prevent their misuse, especially among young people for recreational purposes,” said Dix.
Premier David Eby says the province is doing what it can to prevent children from coming into contact with the “hazardous” and “addictive” product while Health Canada works to address rules that allow the pouches to be sold in convenience stores and gas stations.
Eby said nicotine can cause changes in the brains of young people and that the government wants to prevent them from being exposed to the products, which experts say are designed to appeal to children.
Ottawa approved the pouches — produced by cigarette manufacturer Imperial Tobacco under the brand name Zonnic — as a product to help smokers quit.
Zonnic does not contain tobacco, and because the pouches contain less than four milligrams of nicotine each and are not inhaled, they do not fall under existing federal or provincial tobacco or vaping legislation.
In B.C., you must be 19 or older to purchase vape or tobacco products.
In November, federal health minister Mark Holland said regulators had been “duped” and vowed to close the loophole that allowed Zonnic to be sold openly.
“There are very serious questions about what the tobacco industry is doing here and what their intention is. And it would seem that their intention is to addict new young people to nicotine, which is disgusting,” Holland said at the time.
Colette Lees, a substance-use liaison with the Surrey School District, said the allure of nicotine products with enticing flavours and marketed as harmless alternatives to smoking “have proven to be a huge challenge” to youth who are often unaware of their addictive nature.
The Canadian Cancer Society applauded the move, noting that while youth smoking in B.C. is down, other methods of nicotine consumption are up significantly.
“With the introduction of flavoured nicotine pouches last year, youth once again can become addicted to these new tobacco industry products,” it said in a statement.