Researchers in Canada have claimed that the federal government has effectively stymied scientific studies aimed at determining whether electronic cigarettes are a life-saving alternative to tobacco cigarettes or a magnet drawing more people to smoking, according to a story by Tom Blackwell on nationalpost.com.
And some experts have accused Health Canada of needlessly delaying the scientific study of electronic cigarettes while planning to dispatch teams of secret shoppers to test how willing stores are to sell the devices to young people. The department has apparently just issued a $350,000 tender for a contractor to provide the service, using teenagers who, while masquerading as ‘typical customers’, will try to buy the devices at 4,000 or more retailers and then report back to adult observers.
Canadian governments have used such programs regularly in the past to keep tabs on compliance with tobacco-marketing laws, but this would mark the first time they had been applied to devices touted as a much-safer alternative to conventional cigarettes.
Scientists need Health Canada’s green light for studies because nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes are not legally available in the country.
But one respected scientist has said the department is treating the products like an experimental drug, dragging out and muddying the approval process, even though millions of Canadians consume nicotine legally from an unquestionably more harmful source: tobacco.
The University of Waterloo’s David Hammond, a former advisor to the World Health Organization on tobacco control, said his Ontario-government funded trial was now all but dead because of the federal response.
“The lack of clarity and response from Health Canada has been very frustrating; at a certain point they simply stopped responding to our emails,” said Prof. Hammond. “There is an urgent need to conduct a proper scientific trial … In the absence of a proper trial, Canadian smokers will continue to serve as guinea pigs in a far less controlled experiment.”
Read the full story here.