FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CBRC Call on Health Canada to End Poppers Ban
Current crackdown does more harm than good by making it difficult to access a safe supply
July 8, 2021 – This Pride season, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBM) across Canada are raising their voice over the need for a safe supply of poppers. Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) have called to end the federal poppers ban by launching a letter writing campaign to the Health Minister and local MPs. GBM and allies across the nation are being asked to sign in support of a safe supply.
Used by GBM for decades, poppers (also known as alkyl nitrite products) increase sexual pleasure and reduce pain. In 2013, they became illegal to distribute in Canada when Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government enacted a ban. CBRC believes this crackdown to be harmful, ineffective, overreaching, and rooted in cultural ignorance and prejudice—continuing a tradition of health policy discrimination against GBM throughout history.
“The harms of poppers have been generally overstated and the positive effects are legitimate,” says Len Tooley, Advancement & Evaluation Director at the CBRC. “There is a very little risk of dependency because they have no psychoactive effect. They are also an effective means of enabling safe and enjoyable anal sex by reducing pain and injury.”
The federal ban has also largely failed. CBRC’s Sex Now survey has shown that poppers use has not significantly decreased following the 2013 crackdown. Approximately 30% of sexual minority men reported using poppers in 2019, comparable to reported rates of use before 2013. “The ban’s sole accomplishment is an increased health risk to sexual minority communities by cutting them off from a safe and regulated supply of this otherwise benign substance,” says Matt Troy, Director of Vancouver Art and Leisure and local activist.
Overwhelming evidence shows that where substances are concerned, harm reduction has much greater positive public health outcomes than prohibition. The poppers ban has forced otherwise law-abiding GBM to obtain poppers through unregulated, illegal sources. “If poppers were regulated, they could have warning labels explaining how to use them safely and buyers could be sure of exactly what they were getting. Our research shows that most incidents of poppers related harm today come from unclear instructions and dubious sources—both easily solvable problems,” says CBRC Executive Director Jody Jollimore.
Poppers were banned without adequate consultation with queer communities and health organizations, and without understanding of their health benefits and cultural significance. Canada has a more bullish policy on poppers than the USA, France, Australia, and the UK, where poppers are all accessible. “We have to call out discrimination where we see it and the poppers ban is government sanctioned homophobia,” says Troy.
Community-Based Research Centre promotes the health of GBT2Q men through research and intervention development. CBRC’s core pillars—community-led research, knowledge exchange, network building, and leadership development—position the organization as a thought leader, transforming ideas into actions that make a difference in our communities. CBRC was incorporated in 1999 and is a non-profit charitable organization. Our main office is located in Vancouver, British Columbia; we also have satellite offices located in Edmonton, Toronto, and Halifax.
For more information, to take the survey, or to sign the petition go to https://www.cbrc.net/poppers.
For interviews, please contact Chris DiRaddo, CBRC’s Content Strategist: [email protected]