Eliminating flavours won’t eliminate vaping—nothing can.

Will Quebec’s vaping regulations work?

On Oct. 31, Quebec will officially ban flavoured e-cigarettes. After that point, only tobacco and unflavoured vapes will be sold. The move, intended to make nicotine products less appealing to youth and diminish vaping habits, has sparked a debate in Quebec. Is the province justified in their decision, or will the black market fill the demand once people are lacking legal means for their nicotine fix?

The government’s intentions are well-founded, but I do believe that vaping will continue to be an issue, especially amongst youth. Removing flavoured vapes will improve the situation in a superficial sense, but nicotine abuse in general will likely never go away entirely. 

However, the removal of flavoured products is long overdue. While cigarettes have been required to advertise warning labels on their packaging since 2001, the packaging of e-cigarettes could not be more different. Walk into any vape shop and you’ll think it’s a candy store with their rows of brightly coloured boxes and endless list of absurd flavours. The fun fruity flavours can make a smoker forget what they’re actually doing. Being able to discreetly carry it anywhere makes vaping almost too easy, which can create a false sense of security and absent mindedness. Though vapes allegedly pose a lower risk due to the absence of tobacco, the chemicals in these products still have a negative effect on lung tissue. Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health reported that vapers are more likely to become tobacco smokers. 

The marketing and accessibility of vapes has undoubtedly led to an increase in nicotine consumption in young people. According to Health Canada, young Canadians aged 15-24 are more likely to vape than those 25 and older. I’m sure most young people can attest to this, whether they themselves vape or whether they have vivid memories of their high school bathrooms being filled with Watermelon Ice or Cotton Candy clouds. 

You won’t stop seeing flavoured vapes just because they’re illegal—they’re too popular. I’m sure nearly everyone knows at least one person with a secret stash and stubborn teenagers will be crossing the border into Ontario just to stock up. It seems that smoking—and now vaping—will inevitably remain mainstream. Various authorities on the issue cited similar perspectives and the CDVQ, a coalition dedicated to vaping rights in Quebec, warned that vapers would either return to tobacco or else obtain vapes through illegal (and therefore unregulated) means. 

As is true in many cases of substance regulation, the government’s intentions may not have their expected effect. Changing the legal age for cannabis consumption to 21 may have had seemingly logical reasons, but it certainly did not prevent youth from sourcing pot illegally. We can hope that the issue of nicotine abuse will improve, but I wouldn’t count on it. 


The line between conversation and action

France’s new catcalling law brings up a larger question about meaningful change

In light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood and the rise of the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment has become an issue at the forefront of everyone’s minds. France is hoping to take action against one particular form of harassment—catcalling.

Catcalling is the act of whistling or shouting sexually suggestive comments to passers-by, usually women. France is looking to make this form of sexual harassment a ticketable offence. A CNN report states: “Men who catcall, harass or follow women on the street in France could face on-the-spot fines under a new sexual abuse law.” However, France isn’t stopping there, according to a report in The New York Times. The law would extend the statute of limitations on reporting sexual assault involving minors as well as fining men who make overt, lewd comments or are aggressive towards women.

While this appears to be a major step forward for women in France, I have doubts about the effectiveness of these potential laws. In a perfect world, this new legislation would come into effect and women in France would feel much safer in their day-to-day lives. These kinds of laws could also set a precedent for other countries in Europe and around the world. However, for all that to happen, these laws will have to overcome many obstacles, the first and most cumbersome being existing free speech laws.

The right to express opinions is ingrained in the French constitution. The constitution states, “Any citizen may therefore speak, write and publish freely, except what is tantamount to the abuse of this liberty in the cases determined by Law.” Based on this, can catcalling be qualified as an “abuse” of this right? In my opinion, there is potential for catcalling and other forms of street harassment to be considered as such in France.

Also, there is a risk that even if this law does get passed, it will be respected and policed the same way jaywalking is. Most people jaywalk because, if they aren’t caught in the act, they won’t face consequences. I believe catcalling could fall into the same trap. If someone isn’t caught in the act, they won’t face any repercussions. The law would be on the books in France, but I think it would serve more of a symbolic role than anything else.

Symbolic laws and movements, like hashtags, have their advantages. Take the women’s marches that happened around the world after Trump’s election, or the #MeToo movement. All these actions started conversations. However, they also run the risk of fading away. In my opinion, real and recognizable action, like this potential law, is needed for meaningful change to occur.

Laws like the ones being considered in France could be the beginning of that real change. However, I worry this is just a really nice idea that will calm peoples’ rage about sexual harassment rather than actually take a step towards solving a real and pervasive problem.

The fact that these powerful movements have created such a strong outpour of emotion and caused governments to consider new laws fosters great hope. But talking about it and actually getting it done are very different things. The phrase “actions speak louder than words” rings true in this case. I don’t want to undermine how incredible it is that people are starting to have very open and honest conversations. Talking about important issues is always helpful for getting the ball rolling. However, if real, enforceable action isn’t taken in some capacity, whether it be through education or, in this case, new laws being implemented, then we risk living in an endless cycle of talking instead of doing.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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