Skip to main content

HESA Committee Meeting

Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at accessible@parl.gc.ca.

Previous day publication Next day publication
Skip to Document Navigation Skip to Document Content







CANADA

Standing Committee on Health


NUMBER 027 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
40th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

(1530)

[English]

     Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to welcome you once again to the health committee.
    I would like to welcome representatives from the Department of Health.
    Today is a very important day because we're going to get through another piece of legislation on which the health committee has worked extremely hard, as has the Department of Health. Let's begin.
    You all know the people from the Department of Health, so I don't need to introduce them today.
    I like your hair, Mr. Dufour. You've had a new hairdo since the last meeting. Have you noticed? There you go.
    Sorry, but I just forgot my....
    We noticed, Mr. Dufour.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 75(1), we want to go to clause-by-clause consideration. Clause 1 is postponed.
    (On clause 2)
    The Chair: I understand that Dr. Bennett was thinking of putting forth an amendment but she wasn't certain about it.
    Ms. Murray, do you have any knowledge about the amendment?
     I think we've circulated it. Does everyone have it?
    Everyone has it.
    The intention here, consistent with the advice of members of the affected industry, is to have wording that does not catch cigars that happen to be small. The wording based on weight catches cigars that are rolled in a tobacco leaf and marketed to adults. They are not intended to be what this bill deals with, in terms of products and flavourings aimed at children. This is an exclusion to reflect that these small cigars would be otherwise caught by the legislation.
    Mr. Glover, would you like to make a comment on that amendment?
    Thank you, Madam Chair, for the question and the opportunity to respond.
    We are very cognizant of this issue and the presentations that were made previously by different organizations to the committee. Upon further consideration, the department's position remains as it was when we were before you the last time. Any move we make to change the way it is written will create a loophole that will continue to allow small cigars and cigarillos into the marketplace in the flavours associated with them. In essence, this amendment would create a problematic loophole, in the view of the department.
    Is there any discussion?
    Ms. Murray.
    Are the products that this amendment is designed to exempt marketed at children? Are they predominantly used by children, or was the representation made that these are actually products smoked by adults in an industry that has legal products? Could you comment on that?
    I would refer to the handout we provided at the last committee appearance, particularly figure 2. It showed, if this amendment were to move forward, the types of products that would continue to be allowed in the marketplace that have a wide range of flavours, from chocolate to other things.
    Given that it is prohibited to sell them to minors, the vast majority of tobacco products tend to be used by adults. We understand that by the very definition. However, we see, and our research has shown, that these flavoured products are attractive to youth. So while they are never in the majority, it is something we see and it is a trend we are trying to address with this piece of legislation.
    (Amendment negatived)
    (Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to)
    (On clause 4)

(1535)

    There is an amendment on clause 4.
    Dr. Carrie.
    Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
    We want to ensure that the federal departments and provinces and territories have the ability to use colour markings should they require them for educational or contraband purposes in the future. This amendment is required to ensure there is no conflict with federal legislation.
    What I would recommend is this. I would propose that Bill C-32 in clause 4 be amended by replacing line 27 on page 2 with the following:
tobacco product or to display a marking required under this or any other Act of Parliament or of the legislature of a province or for any other prescribed purpose.
    Is there any discussion on this amendment?
    Mr. Glover, would you like to make a comment?
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Just for the record, I wish to make clear that the amendment as proposed does not cause concern for the department in terms of our ability to implement it should it pass. In fact, through informal discussions with a number of jurisdictions, there has been interest expressed about this type of potential usage, so from a provincial-territorial relationship point of view, it would be helpful in the long run.
    (Amendment agreed to)
    (Clause 4 as amended agreed to)
    (On clause 5)
    The clerk is advising me that the vote will carry to amendment G-2 for clause 5, and I'm not familiar with that. We will apply that vote to amendment G-2, if that is okay with the committee.
    Dr. Carrie, do you want to speak to amendment G-2 on clause 5?
    It is basically for consistency. I propose that Bill C-32 in clause 5 be amended by replacing lines 35 and 36 on page 2 with the following:
product contains a colouring agent used for a purpose referred to in subsection 5.1(2).
    (Amendment agreed to)
    (Clause 5 as amended agreed to)
    I am going to go through clauses 6 to 8. There are no amendments there.
    (Clauses 6 to 8 inclusive agreed to)
    (On clause 9)
    The Chair: On clause 9 there is an amendment from the Bloc. Who would like to speak to that?
    Go ahead, Monsieur Dufour.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Madam Chair. This amendment is only aimed at making sure that the Governor in Council has the power to amend the schedules if something has to be added.
    Thank you.

[English]

    Is there any discussion?
    Go ahead, Dr. Carrie.
    I was wondering if we could have comment from the officials. I understand that the amendment proposed is duplicative because the Governor in Council can already amend the schedule for this purpose. Could we have comment by the officials, please?

(1540)

    Would you comment, Mr. Glover?
    Thank you, Madam Chair, for the opportunity to comment on this amendment.
    The amendment as proposed is, in many respects, duplicative. It neither adds to nor detracts from powers already in the bill. From a drafting point of view, it raises some concern for us in that in another clause it is introducing powers that are already present. It neither adds to nor detracts from powers that are already present in the bill.
    (Amendment negatived)
    (Clauses 9 to 18 inclusive agreed to)
     Thank you.
    We will move on to the schedule. We have an NDP amendment. Who would like to speak to that? There is just one of you today.
    Go ahead, Ms. Wasylycia-Leis.
     Yes, but I'll speak like there are thousands behind me.
    I'm going to actually withdraw this amendment and the next one.
     If I could speak to the withdrawal, we did hear considerable testimony around the need to include smokeless tobacco in the bill. In particular, the young people we heard, who appeared before us and made presentations, were very concerned about the impact that chewing is having on the health and well-being of their friends and colleagues. However, from discussions with my colleagues on the government side I understand that pursuing this amendment at this time would complicate matters and would perhaps come in the way of speedy passage of this bill. As it is, assuming the House will rise by Friday, we'll have some difficulty getting through all the stages, and it will require some unanimous actions on the part of all of us in order to accomplish that.
    So I would like to withdraw the amendments, but on the understanding--and I'd like to get some comments from the department--that this issue, for which we have little data, will be studied, that data will be collected around the usage of smokeless tobacco and the ingredients within those products, and that there will be the possibility of draft amendments to the regulations to allow for these products to be added to the list of prohibited products at some point in the future.
    Mr. Glover, would you like to comment on that?
    Thank you, Madam Chair, for the opportunity to respond.
    The department is pleased to report a number of things. First, should this bill be passed, it will give the department the powers necessary to collect the type of information that the member is talking about. It will require manufacturers and importers to notify us about tobacco products, including smokeless, and in particular the ingredients in them, so we'll be able to determine how much of the smokeless product is flavoured, not flavoured, and to what extent. That will be useful information to us as we move forward.
    We will also continue, given the testimony we've heard about regional differences, to further study the use of smokeless tobacco, and we'll be pleased to report back to the committee through the clerk or to appear at another point in time on the results of that data and how we think we need to respond, using the powers in this bill.
    Thank you, Mr. Glover.
    Ms. Wasylycia-Leis.
    Could I just ask, Paul, how long you think it will take to get a handle on the usage and the ingredients in this product?
    Madam Chair, we believe that within a year we would be able to leaf through a full-use cycle in terms of usage and have sufficient data from the importers and manufacturers with respect to ingredients to be able to report back. But certainly, if it is possible and if we have data sooner than that, we would undertake to do so. So it would be within a year, and if possible, sooner.

(1545)

    Thank you, Mr. Glover, and thank you, Ms. Wasylycia-Leis.
    So we'll consider the two amendments withdrawn.
    We'll now go to the government amendment.
    Dr. Carrie.
    Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
    This one is fairly lengthy. I believe everybody has a handout.
    The intent of the schedule of Bill C-32 is to ban the use of additives, including flavours that make cigarettes, little cigars, and blunts more attractive to youth. The schedule is not intended to prohibit the functional ingredients that are required for the manufacturing of the products.
    After talking to industry about the technical requirements of the bill, we were told that restrictions would change the look and the feasibility of making their product. For example, the changes make it technically difficult for them to use existing cigarette papers, and filter paper would no longer be able to look like cork. This amendment will fix the technical requirements without compromising the intent of the bill.
    I would move to propose that Bill C-32 in the schedule be amended as per the text provided to the clerk and circulated to the committee.
    Is there further discussion?
    Monsieur Dufour.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    First of all, since this is a rather technical issue, as my colleague Mr. Carrie was saying, I would particularly like to question the officials of Health Canada.
    We know that there are major differences between cigarettes made in the US and cigarettes made in Canada. They do not use the same ingredients. There are many examples, such as Camel cigarettes which are not made the same way in both countries.
    This is an important issue for my colleague for Compton—Stanstead since the border between Canada and the United States crosses her riding. Could this have an impact on the boutiques hors-taxes?
    I was looking for the right word. It is « duty-free shops ».
    I would like to know what the impact of those differences would be on duty-free shops, according to Health Canada officials.
    Thank you.

[English]

    Mr. Glover, would you like to comment on that?
    I will comment on the amendment generally.
    Yes.

[Translation]

    I will also answer the honorable member.

[English]

    First of all, with respect to the amendment that's proposed, it is the department's view that this responds to a number of concerns the committee heard with respect to testimony from industry. For example, white is a colour, so what colour would we like the cigarettes to be? These were some of the practical issues we heard as we moved this stuff through.
    It would allow for cigarettes to continue to be manufactured as they are today without radically changing their appearance. There are a number of ingredients, particularly in the paper, that help them to burn in an even manner that we feel is both aesthetic and important from a variety of points of view. So this would not compromise our ability to deal with the flavours and additives as we move forward, but it would respond to a number of the concerns put forward by industry.

[Translation]

    There is a difference between American and Canadian cigarettes, mainly due to the type of tobacco used. In Canada, they use Virginia flue...
    It is Virginia tobacco, which is a slightly different from American tobacco. The taste is different. Also, in the US, they add things to improve the taste. Some American manufacturers have changed their formulations in order to meet the requirements of the legislation. Generally, there is no problem.

[English]

    Essentially, we're saying there is a significant difference between Canadian tobacco and American tobacco. And it has to do with the tobacco that goes into the product. Canadian tobacco is less harsh--it's a Virginia flue--whereas the American is a....
    A mixture of flue-cured Burley and Oriental.
    It's a mixture. Therefore, they add a number of sweeteners to it. And that is a concern people have been expressing.
    However, it is those very sweeteners that this bill is intending to address and deal with. But we are aware of a number of American-branded cigarettes that have been reformulated, had their recipes changed, in order to respond to the demands of the Canadian marketplace, some of which are already in place in advance of this bill.
    The requirement, therefore, essentially would be for those who haven't done so to look at the new Canadian requirements and adjust accordingly, and then they would still be able to market in Canada and deal with the issues that exist around the duty-free area.

(1550)

    Thank you very much for that, Mr. Glover.
    Ms. Murray.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    I going to speak on the same issue but ask the question a little differently.
     My key concern about this bill is the potential for an increase in contraband coming from the prohibition of certain products. Certainly that remains a concern. And the second concern I have is that there was a push by government to have this done so quickly that it was virtually absent of meaningful consultation, as far as we can tell. That's why we're seeing amendments put forward by industry, which never had a chance to see this until after the bill was tabled.
     So is this a complete and full reflection of those industry concerns? The question I have is, have you sat down with the groups representing duty-free sales--for example, the Frontier Duty Free Association--and identified whether their concern, which is that normal American cigarettes sold in cartons in the very regulated atmosphere of a duty-free store will actually be banned by this bill, has been addressed in these amendments? Have you specifically met with the duty-free interest groups?
    Mr. Glover.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    I have a number of comments. The issues around contraband obviously are separate from the particular amendment here and are dealt with separately by the federal government.
    With respect to consultations with industry, we have been consulting with industry and are aware of a number of their concerns. We have been working to respond to the concerns, quite frankly, that we feel we can respond to within the spirit and intent of the bill. We would suggest to the members that it is a regular process as these things move forward in terms of the amendments introduced to this and other bills. As we've noted in response to some other questions, there were some differences. But there were consultations with industry with respect to this.
    With respect to the particular organization in question, they have very recently been in contact with Cathy Sabiston, the director general. That was part of the conversations you literally saw me having before clause-by-clause started. So we attempt to reach out to all of those who are impacted by this bill, and we'll continue to do so. That is one of the benefits of the bill the way it has been structured, in that there are two schedules. Our intention is to maintain those schedules over time, as appropriate.
    Thank you very much.
    Ms. Davidson.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    I want to talk a little bit more about the issue with the duty-free shops in particular. It's the same issue as I brought up at our last meeting, when I talked about the trade issues and the controlled environment and the fact that cigarettes are always sold in carton sizes, and not individually or even in packages.
    What would it take in this bill to address their concerns? You mentioned sugar. Is that the only thing?
    Thank you, Madam Chair, for the member's questions.
    There are a number of manufacturers with different ingredients. But speaking in generalities, I will turn to my colleague Denis to help me out a little bit on this one. We're getting past my level of expertise.
    But there are flavours, such as vanilla and licorice, added to these to deal with the blend itself.
    But they're not marketed to kids at all. Isn't the intent of this bill to restrict the appeal to children?
    So I guess the question is, are vanilla and licorice flavours that appeal to children? The research we have shows that they are. Are they distinct flavours? Within that, is it branded as a vanilla flavour or a licorice flavour? No, they're American blended, and that has to do with the tobacco that goes into them and how they are made.
    But the department would certainly not recommend to the committee that you say vanilla is an allowed flavour and licorice is an allowed flavour as it moves forward and that would be the way to deal with it. Or, as other American cigarette companies have done, they have reformulated their cigarettes for the Canadian marketplace. So there are examples of different brands sold in Canada versus Europe versus the United States that are adjusted according to those markets and the tastes of the people in those markets. So we already have a number of American cigarette companies that have reformulated their cigarettes for the Canadian marketplace and don't use those flavours and additives.

(1555)

    When you say “the Canadian marketplace”, do you mean duty-free shops or other places?
    We mean the entire Canadian marketplace.
    Including duty-free shops.
    Including them.
    Mr. Choinière, did you want to make some comments?
    Yes. If you sell a tobacco product in Canada, such as cigarettes, you have to comply with the Tobacco Act. Tobacco products such as the cigarettes we see sold in duty-free stores along the border, but on Canadian territory--and also sold elsewhere in Canada, just not there—must have health warnings, just like the other cigarette brands. So those so-called American blend cigarettes that are sold in Canada at duty-free outlets, or not, are already the same brands we'll see across the country. We cannot disclose proprietary information provided to us, but as Mr. Glover was pointing out, a number of them had to reformulate in order to have some market in Canada.
    So the issue does not differ according to whether or not the cigarettes are being sold in a duty-free outlet or elsewhere. If you have a cigarette that is being sold, you have to comply with the health warning labelling requirements, and you will also have to comply with the new schedule. Technically, that seems to be feasible—at least to some manufacturers. We don't see those reformulated products disappearing form the marketplace, and just like other stores in Canada, duty-free outlets will still be able to sell them.
    Dr. Carrie.
    Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
    I want to go back to a comment my colleague made about contraband. Is contraband addressed in this bill, or is it outside the scope of the bill?
     Ms. Labelle.
    Contraband is not only outside the scope of the amending bill, it's outside of the scope of the Tobacco Act. The Tobacco Act is meant to deal with the health aspects related to tobacco products. It does not have the tools necessary to deal with contraband.
    Ms. Wasylycia-Leis.
    An issue was raised by witnesses that I think poses a very spurious argument. It is the suggestion that if we follow through with this bill and ban flavoured tobacco products and cigarillos, we'll just push it underground, leading to more contraband. I think we need officials to address that issue, if possible. It needs to be put to rest, because I don't think it has any legs to stand on. I don't have the expertise to address it, so I'll throw it back to you.
    Mr. Glover, it has been thrown back to you.
    Thank you, Madam Chair. I'll try to catch it and not drop it.
    The department, in moving forward with this legislation, consulted with other federal departments involved in the tobacco control strategy. So they are aware of this bill, what it intends to do, and what impact it might have on contraband activities. They are confident that within the activities they currently perform or are contemplating, they support this bill and are ready to deal with it. Some of our colleagues in other departments were consulted on the development of this bill, the impacts of it, and our positions accordingly.
     Ms. Labelle.
    The member states of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are presently negotiating a protocol on this very issue of contraband, so it's an international concern. Member states are trying to come together to fight the contraband issue.

(1600)

    Ms. Murray.
    I want to clarify that I'm not under the impression that these amendments deal with contraband or the Tobacco Act. We are concerned that prohibition has historically led to contraband, smuggling, and so on, and the wider the net we cast, the more products are vulnerable to being completely unregulated as contraband products. I was trying to identify whether regular cigarettes that are not marketed to kids and don't say “juicy pop flavour” or whatever on them are going to be caught in this net, as was the concern expressed to us by the duty-free interest groups.
    I didn't hear a yes or no. I heard that some American manufacturers have been able to accommodate Canadian regulations and reformulate, but I don't know if that's 5% or 95%. I wonder about those that have not been able to do that or will not be able to continue to sell legal products to Canadians, due to the unintended consequences of this regulation capturing products it didn't intend to capture.
    Mr. Glover.
    I will turn to my colleague to help me out, but first and foremost, the bill is intended to capture those types of flavours. They are in those products, so if those companies want to continue to do business in this country they will have to reformulate them. The bill is designed to capture flavours like vanilla and licorice. We are aware of their concerns, but as we have seen from the evidence of others, they have been able to reformulate. If we want to deal with the issue of flavours, these are the steps we feel we need to take as a department.
    On the flip side of that, we would be saying that flavours are allowed for U.S. manufacturers but not for Canadian manufacturers. It would be highly problematic for the department to move down that path and say one group can use flavours and another group can't. It's a fairly long and slippery slope as we move through this.
    The flavours being used are the ones this bill attempts to address, and we acknowledge they are used differently.
     Mr. Choinière, please go ahead.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    I would add that 15% of youth 15 to 19 years of age are smoking tobacco products, and they are typically smoking cigarettes. Cigarettes do not need special colours or flavours to be attractive. Youth are using them even when we don't want them to.
    What we're trying to do here is not to open the door, but actually to close the door on tobacco products that would make it even more tempting to experiment with tobacco products. We're trying to close that door. I'm not sure we can close the door on cigarettes yet, but we have many other measures--education and so forth--to try to close the door also on the use of plain cigarettes.
    We've made a lot of progress. I was pointing out that since 1998 we have gone from 28% to 15%. We just want to continue. What we were saying was that this should be helpful in not opening a new door to attractive new products to tempt youth.
    Ms. Labelle, did you want to make a comment?
    I don't have any additional comments.
    (Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
     Thank you very much.
    We now have an amendment from the Bloc. Go ahead, Monsieur Dufour.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    We have seen that menthol products can be just as attractive to youth. So, we are trying to eliminate as much as possible what could lead our youth to tobacco addiction.

[English]

    Mr. Glover, do you have any comment on this? Do you, Ms. Labelle?

(1605)

    I'm sorry, Madam Chair.

[Translation]

    Could the honorable member repeat the change, please?
    There is no change. This is what has been moved. We keep the amendment as is.

[English]

    Monsieur Dufour, could you please explain again what the amendment does? I think that's what they're asking.

[Translation]

    Madam Chair, the point of the amendment is to get rid of small cigars with menthol that can be just as attractive to youth as cigarettes with menthol and lead them to addiction. We only want to ban menthol like other flavours.

[English]

    Thank you.
    We'd like a comment from the department. Would you comment, Mr. Glover?
    I will attempt to respond to the member's question.
    I apologize for repeating myself, but I will reiterate what we have said at previous appearances. Given the amendment that has been put forward, menthol use in Canada is very different from what it is in other countries. The research we have done indicates that menthol use is actually declining. It is not something that youth view as attractive. When presented with it, they actually refuse it and prefer something else. We do not feel that it is a product that needs to be acted upon, and therefore we are not proposing action. In fact, it goes counter to some of the evidence we have.

[Translation]

    According to our information, the use of menthol is decreasing. We believe the amendment is not in the spirit of the bill.

[English]

    Go ahead, Ms. Wasylycia-Leis.
    Notwithstanding the fine arguments of Paul and his colleagues, I think it would have made sense to amend this bill to include menthol, just because it's closing one more door.
    However, given our decision to pull back on an amendment that deals with a far more significant issue, for which we do have significant data--that being smokeless tobacco--in order to ensure full passage of this bill before the House recesses for the summer, I will have to vote against this amendment, even though I strongly favour it, unless my colleagues from the Bloc would be willing to withdraw the amendment in the interest of unanimous consent.
    Monsieur Dufour, would you like to withdraw the amendment?

[Translation]

    No.

[English]

    Dr. Duncan.
    Oh, pardon.

[Translation]

    Madam Chair, I would like to backtrack. I withdraw the motion.

[English]

    Monsieur, you're going to withdraw the amendment?

[Translation]

    Yes.

[English]

    Does he have the consent of the committee to withdraw the amendment?
    (Amendment withdrawn)
    The Chair: Monsieur Dufour, thank you.
    Ms. Duncan, I guess the question is moot.
     (Schedule 1 as amended agreed to)
    The Chair: Shall the alternative title carry?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Chair: Shall the title carry?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Chair: Shall the bill as amended carry?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Chair: I'll report the bill tomorrow at the earliest time, right after question period.
    Shall the committee order a reprint of the bill as amended for the use of the House at report stage?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Chair: Congratulations.
    Ms. Wasylycia-Leis.
    I think we need a little more fanfare than that. I think this is rather an historic moment.
     I want to thank you, Madam Chairperson, and all members of this committee for working so cooperatively on a very important project, and especially all the departmental staff--Paul, Cathy, Denis, and all of your colleagues, and Diane as well. I'd especially like to thank those folks who really drove this agenda and were here supporting us--members of the Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac, and all of the youth groups in eastern Ontario, the Youth Action Committee, the Northern Ontario Youth Action Partnership, and many others who were so influential in making this happen.
    I thank everyone for this great historic moment.

(1610)

    I think they deserve a round of applause.
    Dr. Carrie.
    Madam Chair, I want to take this opportunity to thank the entire committee, but particularly Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis for all the hard work. I know this is something she has championed for a long time, and it's wonderful to see this brought forward.
    Thank you very much.
    That is really a nice way to end clause-by-clause.
    We will excuse our wonderful guests, because now we're going to be talking about future business. We're going to be going in camera for that. I would ask that everybody vacate the room except for the people who are supposed to be here.
    I'll suspend for one minute.
    [Proceedings continue in camera]
Publication Explorer
Publication Explorer
ParlVU