Some of the biggest e-cigarette companies in Canada have joined forces to create an industry association to lobby against proposed government regulations amid widening concerns over the health risks of vaping.

The Vaping Industry Trade Association (VITA) officially launched last month. President Daniel David said the goal is to help ensure regulations prevent youth access while allowing companies to advertise their products to existing smokers and continue to use flavours adults enjoy.

E-cigarette companies Juul Labs Canada, Imperial Tobacco Canada and JTI Canada Tech are three of VITA’s founding members.

The association, which formed last spring, has hired government relations firm One Persuasion to assist with lobbying efforts. It has also hired National Public Relations to help handle strategy and administration.

The Globe and Mail reported last week that One Persuasion received contracts to produce federal election ads for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Conservative Party.

Governments are facing mounting pressure to do more to address the rising rates of youth vaping, as the outbreak of vaping-related illnesses grows. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 29 people have died and 1,299 have fallen sick with a severe vaping-related lung illness.

There are several cases of the illness under investigation in Canada, with one confirmed case in Quebec, and the Public Health Agency of Canada said Friday they have two probable cases of vaping-related illness, both in New Brunswick. On Friday, Canada’s Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health issued a public statement highlighting growing alarm over the rising rates of youth vaping and the serious health consequences that could result.

“We cannot stand by and watch a new generation of Canadians become dependent on nicotine or be exposed to products that could have significant negative consequences for their health,” the statement said.

One of the association’s first lobbying efforts will be in Nova Scotia this week for meetings with MLAs over the provincial government’s proposal to ban flavoured vaping products, Mr. David said.

While health experts say fruit- and candy-flavoured e-cigarettes should be banned because they appeal to young people, Mr. David said banning flavours would be a “nuclear option” for the industry.

“Adults like the same kind of flavours kids do,” Mr. David said in an interview Friday. “It’s the wrong path. There are definitely a number of much more effective and productive solutions that need to be explored before we even consider anything like that.”

In addition to Nova Scotia’s proposed flavour ban, there are several other regulatory proposals on the table across Canada.

Earlier this year, Health Canada proposed federal restrictions on most forms of e-cigarette advertising. British Columbia’s government said it is looking at a number of new regulatory measures, which could include a licensing system for e-cigarette retailers. Alberta and Saskatchewan, the only provinces without laws regulating e-cigarettes, have both promised new legislation. Ontario’s government, which passed legislation last year allowing e-cigarette companies to advertise in public, has said it will also consider new regulatory measures.

Mr. David said the group had an introductory meeting with Health Canada this summer. Other founding members of the association are Dvine Laboratories, which manufactures e-cigarette liquids; Valor Distributions, which distributes vape products; and Atelier de Saveurs LaVapeShop, a chain of e-cigarette retailers. Each of the six founding members will give $100,000 to VITA every year for three years, according to the group’s website.

Mr. David said the group is committed to reducing smoking rates and preventing young people from accessing e-cigarettes while ensuring adult smokers have access to the e-cigarette market.

The Globe and Mail, October 14, 2019