Once again, I'd like to thank the committee members for inviting me here this evening. I'm very pleased that you are studying this piece of legislation, as it's extremely important. Thank you so much for your hard work.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be here this evening to speak about Bill . I want to begin by thanking the committee members for the work they have done to help shape this bill.
Your report entitled “Vaping: Towards a Regulatory Framework for E-cigarettes” highlights the necessity to protect young people from the dangers of nicotine addiction while giving adults smokers access to vaping products as a less harmful nicotine source. Bill responds to this report’s recommendations; your efforts served to clarify important provisions of the legislation.
Colleagues, the necessity to update existing tobacco legislation is quite obvious. As you know, smoking remains a very concerning public heath issue in Canada. Despite decades of progress, tobacco-related diseases kill 45 000 Canadians each year, or one person every 12 minutes. These statistics are very sobering and, as Minister of Health, I find them unacceptable. As such, our government is trying to reduce smoking rates in Canada from 25% in 2015 to less than 5 % by 2035.
As we work towards this goal, we need to recognize that tobacco use in Canada is changing. Vaping products such as e-cigarettes are becoming more popular. From a public health perspective, we believe this poses both challenges and opportunities.
Bill strikes the right balance between protecting Canadians and leveraging the potential benefits of vaping products. It also addresses an important need by establishing a new legislative framework for the regulation of these products. This bill is a key element of the government's broader tobacco control agenda, which includes taking further action to ban menthol in tobacco products, implementing plain packaging requirements for tobacco products, and, finally, modernizing Canada's approach to tobacco control.
Since it was introduced, Bill S-5 has been thoroughly examined and amended. Last spring, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology embarked on a rigorous scrutiny of that legislation. It heard evidence from 22 witnesses representing 15 organizations, including consumer advocates, tobacco and vaping industry representatives, public health experts, academics, and government officials. Their invaluable comments clarified many recent amendments to the Bill under consideration today.
Many experts feel that vaping is a less harmful alternative to smoking. I have heard from Canadians who believe that vaping helped them quit smoking. Nevertheless, we must be cautious. There are risks to consider. Stakeholders have told us that they worry about how vaping products could affect young people. I want you to know that we share their concerns. We must ensure that the availability and prevalence of vaping products does not induce young people and non-smokers to develop nicotine addictions, which could lead them to start smoking.
That is why Bill would prohibit the sale of vaping products to youth under the age of 18, in line with the current minimum age of tobacco sales. Protecting youth from the dangers of nicotine addiction is a top priority of mine. I share some of the concerns expressed by the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control and others, especially regarding lifestyle promotion.
We do not allow lifestyle promotion of tobacco products, and we do not intend to allow it for cannabis products. To protect youth and non-smoking Canadians, I intend to support an amendment that would prohibit all lifestyle promotion of vaping products.
That said, I understand the potential of vaping products as a harm reduction tool. Marketing based solely on factual information will be allowed, with restrictions. For example, there are concerns that certain flavours could potentially make vaping products more appealing to young people. We recognize that some adults prefer flavoured vaping products, but we also know that certain flavours could attract youth to vaping, something that we absolutely want to avoid.
For this reason, Bill restricts the marketing and promotion of flavours such as candy, which would be appealing to youth. We have already taken significant action when it comes to flavoured tobacco by expanding the ban on menthol to cover 95% of all tobacco products. Bill S-5 was amended to go even further, to ban the use of menthol and clove in all tobacco products. We believe these measures will help protect Canadian youth from the serious, long-term health effects of nicotine addiction and tobacco use.
As I mentioned earlier, Bill has also advanced our objective of imposing plain and standardized packaging for tobacco products. Thanks to increasingly binding federal directives, the tobacco industry's capacity to attract new smokers, especially among young people, by promoting and advertising tobacco products has greatly decreased. In fact, packaging is one of the last restricted channels in which to do such advertising.
Research shows that promotion through packaging and product design is particularly effective with teenagers and young adults. Coloured packaging that includes logos, textures, and brand names can have a huge impact on young people at a stage of their life when they develop brand loyalty and adopt a smoker’s behaviour.
Conversely, plain packaging was shown to reduce access to tobacco products, especially by young people. Ninety percent of daily adult smokers over the age of 25 smoked their first cigarette before the age of 18. That is why tobacco-control leaders around the world focus on the plain and standardized packaging of tobacco products.
I think that we can all agree that tobacco companies should not be allowed to use packaging to make a harmful product more attractive. It is still important to adopt Bill in order for Canada to also implement those important and effective tobacco control measures.
In conclusion, Bill is a well-researched and balanced piece of legislation. It aims to protect young Canadians from developing nicotine addiction and from using tobacco. At the same time, it would allow adults to legally access vaping products as a less harmful alternative to tobacco. In addition, this legislation supports our government's efforts to implement plain and standardized packaging of tobacco products.
Bill reflects the considered opinions of many stakeholders, including public health experts, industry representatives, consumer advocates, and academics. The results of this strong piece of legislation will allow us to regulate the growing market for vaping products and advance the tobacco control agenda.
Thank you so much for your attention here this evening. I'd be absolutely pleased to take your questions.
Of course, we all know that nicotine itself is highly addictive. Once people start, no matter how it's ingested, it's very difficult to quit.
I'm glad to hear that you have seen one of the major flaws in this bill. We heard testimony on Monday from a variety of groups who spoke to the promotional advertising of vaping products. Now, we all know that vaping is a purer form of nicotine delivery, but as you just acknowledged, and I think you're right, we don't want Canadians to become addicted to nicotine. The value of the vaping that we heard at this committee in testimony was that it's probably estimated 95% safer than tobacco ingestion, and it's very useful, perhaps, as a harm reduction method, a smoking cessation tool for smokers.
My question to you then is, why did this legislation come forward, almost three years after it was promised, with provisions that would allow tobacco companies to market vaping with promotions and with advertising using billboards, television, radio, Internet, video games, newspapers, corner store windows, bars, text messages, and social media? They could use contests, trips, draws, tickets to concerts and sporting events, which are all directed at people who don't smoke, therefore leading them to be more likely to pick up the habit of vaping and ingesting nicotine. Are they the provisions of this bill that, you in your opening statement, you said we should amend?
Thank you very much for being here. Welcome back to the health committee.
There's been a good discussion already about the balancing act that's here in Bill . One one hand, we want to get our youth away from nicotine and away from tobacco. We don't want them to be enticed or brought in to become addicted to nicotine. For me, that is the number one priority. I've heard you say that as well. That is, to me, what must happen, and that's what Bill is continuing to further.
We have a second item, though, which is trying to move adults who have tobacco smoking habits onto a healthier way of consuming nicotine than smoking. Those are the competing agendas. Personally, I don't think the balance is there. I think you've mentioned a few times that you think it's there, so I was delighted to hear that you're entertaining an amendment on lifestyle. I think that's a very important one, so thank you for that.
My second point, though, is on location of advertising and location for vapour product advertising. I have a 13-year-old son. I don't want to be at my neighbourhood bus stop with him with a vaping advertisement on my local bus stop. I don't want to go to the movie theatre and try to explain what vaping is and why vaping is a product that's being advertised. I don't want to go to the local hockey rink and explain to him what vaping is and why it's done. Location is a critical issue. I believe that, with the way it's set up now, we're going to be exposing young Canadians to vape products when we don't have to.
The Canadian Cancer Society was very strong on this one. What they said about Bill was that the vaping restrictions are weaker than the Tobacco Act and Bill for cannabis, that the vaping product advertising restrictions are weaker than in almost every other developed country except for the United States, and—these are all location advertising—the provisions regarding the location of vaping advertising are so weak that they resemble those of the 1964 tobacco industry advertising.
I guess my question to you is this. Would you please consider an amendment—and I'd like to bring one forward—that also restricts the location of advertising for vaping? I think there are lots of ways to communicate to adults who are smokers that vaping is a better way to consume nicotine, other than putting it on hockey rink boards. Would you consider an amendment on location?
Please come back to the table. Thanks very much.
Our day has been turned inside out, as I'm sure yours has too, because of different things that have happened in the House. Now we have a short period here to go through a lot of questions, so I'm going to propose, when we come to questions, that our first round be five minutes. We'll just see how far we can get, but we won't have time for everyone to ask a question.
I'm going to welcome our guests from the Canadian Vaping Association, Mr. Marc Kealey, Member and Public Affairs Counsel, and Mr. Boris Giller, Member; and from Vap Select, Sherwin Edwards, Chief Executive Director.
I can assure you we're just beginning to learn about your business. We welcome your input and your information, and I'm sure you're going to be a big help to us in understanding a lot of what goes on.
I'm going to invite the Canadian Vaping Association to make a 10-minute opening statement, then we'll have 10 minutes from Vap Select, and then we'll go to questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate, through you, the members giving us an opportunity to share our perspective on this piece of legislation.
I'm a health public policy expert, Mr. Chairman. I'm a member of the Canadian Vaping Association, and I'm its lead on government affairs. With me today is Mr. Boris Giller, who's a CVA board member and the co-owner of one of Canada's largest vape product shops, 180 Smoke.
Together, Boris and I have expertise in the vape industry. The industry in Canada is a decade old. CVA has been the premiere advocate on behalf of the industry, its members, and those who vape. Our goal is fair legislation and regulation. Our reach goes across Canada, and our impact with government goes to all three levels.
I want to thank your committee members, the House of Commons, and the Senate for your leadership on this. It's a tough piece of legislation. As a government, as a committee, and as regulators, you said yes to vaping in Canada, and regulated it instead of an outcome that would have forced it underground. We appreciate that. It is a viable alternative to smoking. The Canadian model as we contemplate it today—if you travel in our circles—is envied around the world, believe it or not.
Let me further contextualize that. A few years ago, vaping in Canada was a hobby. Today it's a viable industry, increasing exponentially as vapers seek an alternative to smoking cigarettes. The number of vape product shops has grown exponentially in Canada as well, with the current numbers of almost 1,000 stores in Canada representing well over 5,000 employees, serving over a million customers, and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. At the same time, there are 100 e-liquid and hardware manufacturers representing significant pre- and post-market sales, which in turn underscores significant recurring and predictable revenues against a marketplace of those who want to vape and no longer smoke cigarettes.
Please understand that the growth of this industry has not been the result of expensive marketing campaigns. The CVA and our member organizations are not aligned with tobacco. In fact, the growth of vaping has been a direct result of the substantial demand for vape products by millions of ex-smokers. The market will only continue to grow, not only as a viable and less harmful alternative to cigarettes, but also because of government initiatives that legislate it as a less harmful product in Canada.
The majority of Canadian vape product shop operators, manufacturers of e-liquids, and advocates are, like many who vape, former smokers. They have chosen to vape rather than smoke cigarettes. They realize the potential of this disruptive technology as a less harmful alternative to smoking, both cigarettes and of course now cannabis.
CVA has taken substantial risks to pursue a mission aligned with Bill . Many people associated with vaping would assert a different path of perhaps fighting government on what they believe is their right to vape. However, contrary to that view, the Canadian Vaping Association believes that working with government on making this bill work is more palatable and more productive.
We believe Canada is a role model for other countries in developing and implementing effective ways of reducing the harms of smoking. At the provincial level, smoke-free legislation has taken hold. I've been part of the smoke-free Ontario campaign from the start, 10 years ago. At the national level, Canada's tobacco reduction initiative is enviable. Through Bill , we believe the Government of Canada has been responsible, implementing suitable and effective legislation that ensures adult smokers have access to products that substantially reduce the harm that cigarette smoking is known to cause, all the while recognizing that a less harmful alternative ought to be available.
To amend the Tobacco Act and create a category for vaping is not only welcome, but also suggests that vaping is a choice over smoking and has the potential for dramatically reducing disease and death caused by smoking. CVA encourages members of this committee to review the growing body of evidence, including qualified literature, global studies, and research on vaping that modifies our views. Frankly, it ought to form the thinking of your committee when looking to draft regulations for vaping going forward.
Over the last few years, the Canadian Vaping Association has met with several of you on the committee to encourage your support for our views and to offer advice. Let me be specific.
Recent studies in the aggregate have shown that vaping is less harmful than smoking. The former minister herself referenced this CVA messaging when she introduced the legislation in November of 2016. On that point, we're pleased that the legislation includes a timely review, so that as science and research prove out in favour of vaping as a less harmful alternative, those findings will in fact be reflected appropriately in your regulations.
With respect to overall industry regulation, we've been working closely with qualified organizations on the development and implementation of an accreditation program at the national level.
The patchwork of regulations from provincial legislative initiatives across Canada has confounded this industry while we wait for this milestone to occur. Bill does offer a national framework for retail and manufacturers of vape products, and we aspire to have this reflected in our national accreditation program plan.
CVA board member Sam Tam sits with Health Canada on the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada committee to establish global standards for technology, devices, and battery safety as they pertain to vaping. Furthermore, our board president, Shaun Casey, sits on a Standards Council of Canada committee chaired by Health Canada for the establishment of ISO e-liquid manufacturing safety standards.
An accreditation program, we believe, will provide comfort to you, as regulators, that vape products and services available to consumers are of a quality that is measured against a robust set of standards. A national accreditation program would require vape manufacturers, e-liquid and hardware manufacturers alike, as well as vape product shops, to commit to and submit to a program where a common set of standards for operations of their physical plants, policies and procedures, and other variables are measured. Any negligent behaviours or deficiencies would result in fines or perhaps remediation plans, respectively, to demonstrate compliance. We are committed to this process.
The utmost important piece of this legislation, in our view, ought to be the value of the information and the manner in which customers receive detail by a vape product shop employee. When they make the choice to acquire or consume a vape product, they need to know what they're buying. To that end, we encourage the committee to work with us at the Canadian Vaping Association as we develop a certification program for vape product shop employees. Purveyors of vape products anywhere in Canada ought to be well trained to help customers make the logical choice to a less harmful product than cigarettes.
We're considering qualified career colleges, not only to develop a curriculum, but to have it delivered in every province. It would be entirely helpful to make this certification program part of your intended regulations and mandatory in all provinces.
In fact, the FDA in the United States referred to our plans for certification in Canada as a beacon to follow in the United States. It contemplates national dialogue in the United States on its own vape legislation, and it has looked to Canada, and especially what we're doing on certification, as a role model to that end. Our president, Shaun Casey, and I have testified on many occasions in the United States on this issue.
The Canadian Vaping Association believes the goal of regulation should be to ensure that maximum benefits are realized while minimizing potential harms. We believe that sales should be restricted to those over the age of majority. We concede that restricting its use in public spaces is inevitable. We agree that certain lifestyle promotion or advertisements are not appropriate.
The amendments we put forward on Bill to the Senate committee ensure that youth are not able to access these products, and we agree that the use and acquisition of vaping tools should be limited to public areas that minors are prohibited from entering.
Additionally, the amendments that we originally put forward to the Senate provide adult smokers with access to assistance provided through qualified vape product shop employees, which can be crucial to the success of a smoker looking for an alternative to cigarettes.
Vaping technology has catapulted in quality by leaps and bounds. Research, too, has debunked the myths that have permeated mainstream media about vaping, and because the technology is getting better, vaping may yet prove to be an effective breakthrough in anti-smoking.
I welcome your questions, and thank you for your attention.
Good evening. My name is Sherwin Edwards. I want to thank you first and foremost for your time in allowing me a moment to bear witness. I am the President of Vap Select Inc. based in Mirabel, Quebec. Vap Select is a proudly owned and operated Canadian company, which was created in 2011 with the consumer in mind. We produce affordable, innovative vaping products for consumers, giving them an alternative to cigarettes. All Vap Select products are manufactured in GMP facilities and adhere to strict global certifications. To meet the growing consumer demand for these products, we recently expanded to a 6,500-square-foot facility.
However, that is only part of the reason why I am here today. I am also the sponsor of a 10,000-plus signature petition that has been tabled in the House of Commons on Bill , January 30, 2018. That petition calls on the government to halt and review Bill S-5, and to create a fair and logical category for vape products clearly setting them apart from tobacco.
Let me start on that point. It should be obvious to anyone that vaping products and tobacco products are two completely different things and do not belong in the same piece of legislation. You don't put alcohol and soft drinks in the same legislation because you drink both of them. Therefore, you shouldn't put vaping products and cigarettes in the same category because both are inhaled.
Vaping products like e-cigarettes are a much safer alternative to tobacco for those people unwilling or unable to quit smoking. They provide the nicotine that smokers crave without the harmful effects of combustion. That's an important point. Nicotine on its own is no more harmful than caffeine, and nicotine occurs naturally in many products that we all consume daily. It's the combustion that causes the negative health effects of smoking, not the nicotine.
That is why esteemed medical and scientific bodies like Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians have said that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than smoking.
Last week, Public Health England came out with an updated report on e-cigarettes, and let me quote directly from that organization's press release on the main findings:
vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits
e-cigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year and [probably] more
e-cigarette use is associated with improved quit success rates over the last year and an accelerated drop in smoking rates across the country
many thousands of smokers incorrectly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking; around 40% of smokers have not even tried an e-cigarette
there is much public misunderstanding about nicotine (less than 10% of adults understand that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine)
the use of e-cigarettes in the [United Kingdom] has plateaued over the last few years at just under 3 million
the evidence does not support the concern that e-cigarettes are a [gateway] into smoking among young people (youth smoking rates in the UK continue to decline, regular [e-cigarette] use is...almost entirely confined to those who have [previously smoked cigarettes])
I want to pick up on the fourth and fifth points that I cited from the Public Health England report, both of which deal with public misunderstandings regarding the risks of vaping and nicotine. I put the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of governments and health groups, some of which, deliberately or not, have misled Canadians about the risks of vaping products. Those who continue to do so deserve public shaming for scaring people away from these devices, which usually means they continue smoking, which is more harmful to their health.
I ask the committee a question. From whom would you rather get advice from vaping products such as e-cigarettes, organizations like Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians, or high-paid lawyers lobbying for tobacco groups? For me, when I want medical advice, I go to a doctor, not a lawyer.
You may have seen or heard that a public debate on vaping products was recently held here in Ottawa during National Non-Smoking Week. I was there. Dr. Ostiguy, who you heard from on Monday was there, as was the University of Ottawa's David Sweanor and a representative from the Tobacco Harm Reduction Association of Canada.
We had a great discussion on the value of vaping products for reducing tobacco use, but completely absent from the discussion was Health Canada, or any of those so-called health groups who are misleading the public about the risks of these products. None of the anti-vaping products groups or health advocates accepted the invitation to debate their position in public, but I see a couple of them appeared before your committee on Monday. They won't shy away from that.
These groups know their position is indefensible, which is why they refuse to debate people like myself, or Dr. Ostiguy or Dr. Sweanor, in public. If this committee wants Canadians to stop smoking cigarettes, as does the health minister and likely all Canadian citizens, then stop listening to the moralist and public health community who are deliberately misleading Canadians about the risks of vaping products. With that in mind I have two recommendations for the committee.
First, the vaping provisions of should be stripped out entirely and Health Canada told to go back to the drawing board to come up with legislation that treats these products as completely separate from tobacco. Health Canada didn't throw marijuana, which when consumed via the combustible process actually has higher levels of tar content than cigarettes do, into the Tobacco Act, so why are you letting them put vaping products in there? Tobacco products and vaping products are completely separate, different products that require their own distinctive legislative framework.
Second, whether in a new bill, or if is passed, smokers need to be properly informed about the relative health risk of tobacco products versus vaping products. Sweden has virtually eliminated tobacco-related cancer because smokers switched to non-combustible products. The U.K., which embraced the principles of harm reduction, has also seen smoking rates and smoking-related illness drop to an all-time low, hence, also reducing the burdens and the cost on their health system overall. There's enormous public health potential if Canadian smokers are well-informed and given choices to switch as well, but they will only do so if they know about vaping products such as e-cigarettes and understand the relative risk being greatly lesser than smoking tobacco. I have serious concerns about the constraints in that would prevent the vaping industry from communicating and sharing this information with smokers.
Finally, I want to make one more point about this whole debate and particularly the anti-smoking groups who continue to spread information about e-cigarettes and suggest that there are better ways of quitting such as cold turkey, or using the patch, or the gum, or something else. The people making those claims are not smokers and, quite frankly, I would encourage them to butt out. Some smokers do succeed in quitting through some of these methods I just mentioned, but for others it is a monumental struggle, in some cases impossible. For those people and the people who want to continue to use nicotine, vaping products are a lifeline. For governments to put unnecessary restrictions on these products and restrict the ability of those offering these products is unjust, and some experts like David Sweanor from the University of Ottawa will tell you it is even unconstitutional. I am of that opinion also and so are the 10,251 Canadians from coast to coast who signed petition E-1237 tabled in the House of Commons on January 30. That is another reason why you have to hit the pause button on this bill and work to get it right. Vaping is not smoking. E-liquids are not tobacco.
As you can probably tell I'm very passionate about this subject. I thank you for listening and I look forward to your questions.