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Province of British Columbia
NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
2024HLTH0004-000159
Feb. 7, 2024
Office of the Premier
Ministry of Health
Province takes action to prevent sale of nicotine products to youth

VICTORIA – To better protect youth from nicotine use and potential dependency, the Province is taking action to restrict buccal nicotine-pouch products to be sold only by a pharmacist on a non-prescription basis. 

“Raising safe and healthy kids is our most important job. It is also a tough job,” said Premier David Eby. “Regulating addictive and harmful products can protect young people from peer pressure, advertising, or poor decisions. By putting addictive nicotine products behind the pharmacy counter, we can ensure these products are only sold to the people they’re intended for.”

Effective Feb. 7, 2024, an amendment to the Drug Schedules Regulation will require buccal nicotine pouch products, like the ones sold under the brand name Zonnic, to be kept behind the counter at a pharmacy. Individuals wishing to purchase these products will need to consult a pharmacist. This will allow pharmacists to inform those purchasing the pouches about the health risks associated with nicotine dependency.

“B.C. is taking proactive steps to ensure nicotine cessation products are used for their intended purpose – aiding individuals in quitting smoking and improving their overall health,” said Adrian Dix, B.C. Minister of Health. “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.”

Nicotine is highly addictive and children and youth are more likely to develop nicotine dependence. Nicotine affects memory and concentration, can alter brain development, reduce impulse control, and cause cognitive and behavioural issues in children and youth. Nicotine dependence can result in withdrawal and cause symptoms such as headaches, shakes, dizziness and feelings of anxiety or depression.

Today’s action is being taken in recognition of the concerning trend of youth using nicotine-cessation products recreationally, which poses serious health risks and undermines ongoing efforts to reduce tobacco use. 

Buccal nicotine pouches are taken orally and contain up to four milligrams of nicotine, which is equivalent to the amount of nicotine absorbed from three to four cigarettes.

When used as intended, buccal nicotine pouches can be used as a nicotine-replacement therapy product to help people reduce nicotine dependency. However, public health experts have identified the concerning trend of youth using nicotine-cessation products recreationally.

“Our top priority will always be the health and safety of Canadians,” said Mark Holland, federal Minister of Health. “British Columbia took a strong stance today to help restrict the sale of nicotine pouch products to protect children and youth from the harmful and addictive effects of nicotine. The Government of Canada and British Columbia will continue to work together to keep Canadians safe.”

British Columbia will continue to work with other provinces, territories and the federal government to ensure that nicotine-cessation products are appropriately distributed to those who need them. Restricting access to buccal nicotine pouches is in line with provincial regulations for tobacco and vapour products.

These products are new to the Canadian market and there are few restrictions preventing the sale of these to children and youth. The B.C. government is taking action to limit the sale of these products to pharmacies and to require that a person wishing to buy this product to consult a pharmacist. This will allow pharmacists to exercise their professional judgment, expertise, knowledge and discretion in determining whether the sale is appropriate. 

The B.C. government remains dedicated to addressing the complex challenges associated with tobacco and nicotine use. This measure builds on broader efforts to protect youth from the effects of nicotine use and addiction, including the A-Z of Vaping marketing campaign that informs youth and families about the risks of vaping, and the website https://quitnow.ca/ aimed at encouraging young people to adopt a vape-free lifestyle.

Individuals seeking support to quit smoking are encouraged to talk to their health-care professional, who can provide personalized guidance to help meet their needs. Together, it is possible to work toward a tobacco-free future and ensure the well-being of current and future generations in British Columbia.

Quick Facts:

  • Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey 2022 data shows that 13% of youth in Canada vaped in the past 30 days. In B.C., the vaping rates are higher, with 16.1% of youth aged 15-19 having vaped in the past 30 days.
  • A person must be 19 or older to purchase tobacco or vape products in British Columbia.

Learn More:

To learn more about the A-Z anti-vaping campaign, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/vaping/the-a-z-of-vaping

Health information for youth is available here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/vaping/health-info-for-youth

For support and information on quitting vaping, visit: https://www.quitnow.ca/

 
Contacts:
 
Jimmy Smith
Deputy Communications Director
Office of the Premier
jimmy.smith@gov.bc.ca
 
Ministry of Health
Communications
250 952-1887
 
Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect