Bill 60 passes, but opposition vows change

Sale of e-cigarette products to minors banned, e-juices and flavoured tobacco still OK.

The stunning conclusion to our coverage of the e-juice and flavoured tobacco legislation. Photo: Ameya Charnalia

Your e-cigarettes and menthols are safe for now.

After a long back and forth struggle fraught with delays and public outcry, Bill 60 became the last legislation to pass in the House of Assembly this session.

The bill passed, 27-15, after its third reading in the chamber thanks to a Liberal majority which says it will continue to seek consultation on the matter and seek further legislation against e-juices and flavoured tobacco in the future.

The current version of the bill only bans the sale of e-cigarette products to minors under the age of 19 and prohibits the display of such items in places where minors may be present. It will go into effect on May 31, 2015.

Originally the bill sought to also ban e-juices, vaporized in e-cigarettes, and flavoured tobacco, with an exemption for menthol cigarettes.

Those two clauses were dropped after the Liberals received backlash from individuals saying e-cigarettes actually help smokers to buck the habit. Local hookah lounges also said they would have to shut their doors if the original legislation went through.

Both Progressive Conservative and New Democrat opposition members opposed dropping the clauses and voted against the updated bill. They say they will seek to change it in the spring session.

“This is the first time, Mr. Speaker, in the 17 years in this house that I will not be voting for a piece of tobacco control legislation,” said Maureen MacDonald, MLA for Halifax Needham. “ It is a seriously flawed piece of legislation.”

Opposition members have continually insisted the Grits were pressured by the tobacco industry to include exemptions and eventually drop the two clauses on e-juices and flavoured tobacco.

“[Tobacco industry lobbyists] are very effective in getting governments to weaken and defer legislation that will have an impact on their bottom line, and it troubles me greatly.” MacDonald said.

In the future, MacDonald says she’d like to see measures allowing convenience stores to return or rid themselves of e-juice and flavoured tobacco inventory at no large cost to them.

“We’ve already said everything we could possibly say to convince this government, to convince this minister there is a gaping hole in this legislation,” said Chris d’Entremont, MLA for Argyle-Barrington, “We started this debate with a lot of optimism. We all spoke in favour of this next tobacco legislation.”

Leo Glavine, MLA for Kings West, had the last word in the house.

“Mr. Speaker this is important legislation to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians from the risk of smoking. It will help us to continue to promote a culture, in this province, where not smoking is the norm.”