Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to address what I would argue is a very important health issue for all Canadians.
It is estimated that every 14 minutes a Canadian dies from a tobacco-related illness, which is approximately 37,000 Canadians every year. Therefore, it is no surprise that this is an issue the government wants to move forward on. That is what this legislation is all about. It is about protecting the health and well-being of Canadians.
This is not a new issue. Many of us are from a generation that can recall the problems nicotine and smoking have caused over the years. I was a health critic for a number of years in the Province of Manitoba. One of the greatest expenditures in our health care system is related to tobacco or cigarette smoking, second-hand smoke, and so forth. Literally hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year on smoking-related illnesses in our health care system. One could argue that this is part of the economic or social cost, which is that much greater.
Through time, we have seen a great deal of changes. I recall that, when I was going through school, smoking was perceived as a cool thing to be doing. It was very much encouraged. We can recall watching television programs where often the actors and actresses were smoking cigarettes. At the time, it was perceived as an okay thing to do.
As years went on, we found out that not only was it not overly cool to smoke, but the science became clear with respect to the cost of smoking, the health cost in particular. Unfortunately that science came out far too late. A high percentage of our young people and adults were already engaged in smoking at a substantial cost to society.
Fast-forward from the days I went school to the time when my daughter and son attended school. There were more educational programs in place. There were student bodies leading the educational fight to discourage individuals, particularly young people, from smoking.
Canada at one time was on the leading edge in terms of providing necessary legislation, promotional material, and education for student bodies that highlighted the negatives of tobacco. There was a push on issues such as cigarette packaging and how to ensure the proper communication was out there to say it was not healthy to smoke. The government and Canadians as a whole really started to recognize that.
When I was younger there was always smoke in the air at my house. I was breathing in secondhand smoke every day. Today, many individuals will exit their house and go outside if they smoke because they understand the value of having clean air in their homes.
Through municipal, provincial, and national governments, and so many other stakeholders, we have seen changes over time of great benefit to non-smokers and ultimately even smokers as they have become more educated. Not that long ago, people were critical of putting a tax on tobacco. They said the government was raising taxes again by increasing the tax on cigarettes. They did not realize that the cost with respect to the consequences of smoking was much more than there ever was in terms of the revenue generated from cigarettes. It is in the government's best interests to see less people engaged in smoking and that has been well established for decades.
When we look at the legislation we are debating today, much like yesterday, when there was a great deal of support on an issue that was important for Canadians, this too is a very important issue that all Canadians are concerned about. It is an issue that all parties inside the chamber are sympathetic toward, and that is the issue of addiction and the cost to society that nicotine has had over the years and continues to have today. In other words, there is so much room for improvement and I believe that all members, no matter what side of the House they sit on, recognize that we can do more. This legislation is a positive piece of legislation.
Our government is committed to working with many different stakeholders to make a difference. When we talk about stakeholders, we are talking about the different levels of government, including Canada's indigenous people, as they work alongside the national government to look for ways to improve our situation overall.
In fact, there was a national consultation done just last year in which there was a report that was provided and targets were set. We talk about wanting to see an ongoing decrease in dependency on nicotine, or in the smoking of cigarettes. I believe the target was set at a 5% reduction over the next couple of decades. I think that is an applaudable approach and I would encourage others to get engaged in terms of establishing and supporting that particular target.
As it has been pointed out, the government has a very important role. In particular, I want to highlight the provinces. I made reference to when I was the health critic at the provincial level. The provinces, in many different ways, participate at a grassroots level in terms of the regulations and the legislation that they have put in place. I will be getting into the issue of vapour shortly. Many provinces have already introduced and brought forward legislation dealing with vapour. It is important for us to recognize the need for national standards, understanding, and better promoting those standards throughout the country, and also for developing a long-term policy that will make a positive and profound difference for all Canadians.
We look at it in terms of the government supporting different initiatives and working with, for example, our first nations and Inuit communities in the development and implementation of tobacco-controlled products that are socially and culturally appropriate. This is something that the government has already done.
However, today it is all about Bill , which amends the Tobacco Act to regulate vaping products as a separate class of products. As such, the Tobacco Act would be renamed the “tobacco and vaping products act” and would include provisions to protect youth from nicotine addiction and tobacco use.
The new federal regime would regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling, and promotion of vaping products. It would include provisions to restrict sales to youth and to restrict the promotion of certain enticing flavours such as candy that may be used to get more young people to engage in vaping. The inclusion of provisions to restrict sales to youth and restrict promotion of certain flavours will have a positive impact. It will also enable the government to put in place regulatory measures to reduce the health and safety risks related to vaping products by requiring, for example, child-resistant packaging to help protect children from nicotine poisoning.
The issue of cigarette packaging is once again dealt with in this legislation. We know that there are some countries that have gotten ahead of Canada in terms of taking a proactive approach to dealing with this type of packaging. One of the countries that I think we need to look to is Australia. Even though we have seen other countries' approaches, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, and France, Australia has somewhat led the way in terms of the generic packaging or standardized packaging that has been brought forward.
Within this legislation we see that we have a government that is committed to looking at the types of things Australia is doing in regard to that standardized packaging. Once again, it is ultimately meant to discourage individuals from being brought into smoking in the first place.
We know there is a high percentage of 18-year-olds and young adults who begin smoking at a much younger age and dealing with the packaging issue would assist us in preventing some young people from smoking cigarettes.
The Tobacco Act would allow for requirements to be set out in regulations in this regard. Following the passage of these legislative amendments, regulations specifying requirements such as the permitted colour, font, and even font size on tobacco packages and products, and restrictions on the use of logos, graphics, and promotional information would need to also be developed. That is a major part of Bill . It would enable the government to develop the regulations, which would bring us closer to what other countries are doing. It is the will of the to protect the interests of young people.
As for vaping, the key message that needs to be emphasized is that while scientific knowledge is still evolving on the issue, there is much more work to be done. There will be many more reports on the subject. It is clear that vaping products may bring public health benefits, if they reduce tobacco-related death and disease by helping smokers quit or switch completely to a less harmful source of nicotine, but it may also harm young people, in particular. That concerns me greatly.
I want, as much as possible, legislation that takes a proactive approach to the health of young people, the health of all Canadians but, in particular, on this issue, the well-being of young people. I believe there is a misconception today about vaping. People think vaping is a healthy thing to do and in certain circumstances, I suspect it is healthy, but there needs to be so much more research done on this. Until we see that additional research done so that we better understand both the good and bad of vaping, if we are going to err, I would rather err on the side of caution for better health.
A concern, for example, that I have is that many young people have led the fight in discouraging youth from cigarette smoking. To what degree is there an educational component for young people today about vaping? We know nicotine is being used in vaping and there is an addictive side to that. I would argue that we do not have enough information on the number of young people who may take up vaping, as an example, which would ultimately cause them to give up vaping and smoke cigarettes instead. There is a real risk of that and I have not seen information that clearly demonstrates that is not the case. That is why it is important for us to recognize the vaping industry, which is a growing industry. It is relatively new. The last 10 to 15 years is when it became quite popular in society. Now, with the many flavours offered and the imagery projected on the issue, it is a lure for many individuals, smokers and non-smokers alike, who look at it almost as a lifestyle issue.
I am not convinced that it is positive. In fact, I have grave concerns. That is why it is good that what we are doing in the legislation is bringing vaping under the tobacco legislation. I would like hear the different perspectives on that issue from members opposite.
Vaping has grown in popularity with the introduction of e-cigarettes. It is important that we recognize that vaping is an act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol, which is often referred to as vapour. This is produced by what is most commonly known as an e-cigarette, but there are many similar types of devices used for vaping. They do not produce tobacco smoke. Rather, it is an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapour, that actually consists of fine particles, and it is those fine particles we need to be concerned about. They can contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals that have been linked to many negative health effects.
Generally speaking, when we think of vaping, it is done with a device with a mouthpiece. There is a battery component, which often causes issues we should be concerned about. There is a cartridge containing the e-liquid, or the juice, and a heating component for the device, which is powered by the battery. That is the makeup of something used for vaping.
There has been a great deal of concern, and harm has been caused. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that the chemicals in these products may be dangerous. There are many health advocates who are recommending caution and are calling for additional research on the potential risks versus benefits. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the same drug found in cigarettes.
There was an NBC report that highlighted issues related to the nicotine and the cigarette aerosol causing bodily harm. A recent study conducted by the UNC School of Medicine highlighted that particular problem. The flavouring can target the very young.
I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts and concerns.
Madam Speaker, let me begin by extending my sincere thanks to the member for , our shadow minister of health, for her excellent work in this area, particularly with respect to Bill , and also regarding many other issues I deal with in the agriculture portfolio, including Canada's Food Guide.
We are here today to discuss Bill , which regulates the vaping industry, a fast-growing industry. We are seeing more and more of these shops popping up in our municipalities and people coming out of them in a huge cloud of vapour. Vaping, which is very different from cigarette smoking, can be seen from quite a distance. We can even spot people vaping while driving their car and see the huge cloud of vapour that comes out. This is a fast-growing industry, and I think it will continue to grow over the next few years. Unfortunately, this industry is still not regulated.
The bill also provides for plain packaging in the tobacco industry. I will come back to this point a little later in my speech.
Bill deals with a very serious issue, one that is a very hot topic, given that the decisions we make here in the House will have an impact not only on us today, but also on all future generations.
Let us look back into the past. Had they been aware of all the health risks posed by tobacco, would the legislators in those days have made the same decisions? Would they have wanted to use tobacco as a source of revenue for the government? Would they have condoned the widespread use of tobacco in our society?
It is important to understand that the scientific knowledge back then was not what it is today. Legislators made decisions based on the information they had available to them. The tobacco industry today is in a downward slide, but it grew exponentially for years. Tobacco was a cash cow for many private corporations and for all levels of government that taxed tobacco.
Today, we have the responsibility of regulating electronic cigarettes. Do we have all the information we need to make the right decision, not just for the short term but also for the long term?
Let us come back to the situation and tobacco use, nicotine, and the costs of tobacco use in Canada.
Health Canada's Tobacco Control Directorate recently released a report, reviewed and commented by the Conference Board of Canada in 2017, summarizing the costs of tobacco use in Canada. The figures are from 2012. We know that tobacco is one of the leading causes of preventable morbidity and mortality worldwide. According to the WHO, the World Health Organization, tobacco kills more than five million people annually.
The report entitled “The Costs of Tobacco Use in Canada, 2012” provided an overview on mortality and costs in Canada, the provinces, and the territories based on 2012 data. An estimated 45,464 deaths were attributable to cigarette smoking in Canada, with about half of those deaths occurring among those 75 and older, and more than three-quarters among those 65 and older. This included 26,610 deaths among men and 18,000 deaths among women, or nearly 60% of deaths attributable to smoking among men.
This cause of mortality accounts for 18.4% of all deaths in Canada every year, or nearly one in five deaths in 2012. In other words, 125 people die every day in Canada from smoking. This surpasses the total number of deaths from motor vehicle collisions, other external causes of accidental injury, intentional self-harm, and assault.
In 2012, nearly 600,000 potential years of life were lost as a result of cigarette smoking, from causes such as tumours, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory diseases. In other words, even if smokers do not die, there is still an impact. There are costs for society, because we must treat the individuals suffering from tobacco-related diseases.
These diseases cost our society $16.2 billion every year. Indirect costs represent more than half of that amount, while direct costs account for the rest. Health care costs obviously account for the largest part of the direct cost of cigarette smoking.
I could go on for quite a while about the costs. I think everyone agrees that when Canada authorized tobacco use, we had no idea that it would cost our society so much. There are significant human costs, financial costs that affect our society as a whole, and costs for smokers and non-smokers. Essentially, it costs every single one of us.
Everyone has their own history with tobacco. We all have a personal history with smoking. We might be smokers or former smokers. We may have never smoked. We may hate smokers. Someone in our family may have smoked so we were exposed to second-hand smoke. Maybe no one in our family smoked and we cannot tolerate cigarette smoke at all. Everyone has their own personal history.
I would like to talk about mine. I began smoking at age 15. Why? I was not really interested in smoking, but I wanted to be cool. Some of my friends smoked. There were also some nice young women I knew who smoked. I had to start smoking to be part of that group, so I did. I smoked half a pack of cigarettes in one evening. Of course, I was sick, but impressing those young women who were smoking was more important to me, so I continued to smoke. I smoked for several years. In the end, I was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day before I even turned 23. It is unbelievable. That is my personal experience, but how many young Canadians share that history? It is our history.
Tobacco causes addiction. Depending on the circumstances, some people are more likely than others to get addicted. I have to admit that I probably fall into that category myself. When it gets to the point where you have to smoke in the shower because you got up late, you know you have a problem. That is what it was like for me. None of this ever made me stop smoking.
What was the turning point for me? One day, my father, who was in his forties, went to the hospital with a sore throat. Sadly, it turned out to be throat cancer. For the next eight months, I stayed at my father's side as he dealt with the consequences of smoking. It ended badly. At the end of those eight months, my father passed away.
When did I decide to stop smoking? The day my father went in for his first throat cancer operation. That day, I made a pact with myself that I would never smoke another cigarette. I never wanted to be like my father and struggle with smoking-related illness. Cancer is the disease that affects most smokers. I have not smoked a single cigarette since that day, not even when my father passed away. To honour his memory, I decided to continue to abstain from smoking.
That is my story. I am sure many Canadians have similar cancer-related stories to tell, stories involving loved ones who have suffered as a result of smoking.
Last year, I lost a second family member. On December 24, my father-in-law died of lung cancer. Once again, he was a heavy smoker, just like my father. It is sad, but at the same time, it is also ironic. Even at the very end, smokers often ask to go outside to smoke one last cigarette, even though that is what is killing them. They know this, but at the end of the road, they still ask if they can please go out for a smoke.
That is what smoking does to us. That is what nicotine does to us. Is there anything positive about it? Not really.
Some will say that smoking relaxes them and makes them feel more social, but if that crutch were not there, if it did not exist, it would likely be something else. Who knows whether it would be any better or any worse. All I know is that smoking killed my father and my father-in-law, just as it kills 125 Canadians a day. We have to remember that. We have to think about that when the time comes to make a decision on vaping.
Today, as parliamentarians, we have an opportunity to express our views on regulations for the vaping industry. The regulations set out in Bill are not about prohibiting vaping. The bill is about regulating the industry. Are we going far enough? Do we have sufficient information? That is what I would like to discuss over the next few minutes.
In light of what I just said, it is obvious that I am a staunch anti-smoking activist. I am a peaceful activist. I will not attack my friends or colleagues who smoke a cigarette or vape from time to time. On the contrary, I have nothing against them. Society gave them access to tobacco. It is the tobacco that has them hooked on smoking. It is the nicotine in the cigarettes that ensures today that my colleagues and friends who smoke cannot stop. I have nothing against smokers, but I do have a problem with all those who profit from tobacco, especially tobacco companies, as well as, I have to admit, the different levels of government that collect taxes on tobacco year after year. These taxes do help our society function, but at what cost? What is the human cost today? That is what we must ask ourselves.
That brings me to vaping. I like how the Montreal Children's Hospital at the McGill University Health Centre describes vaping. It is important that we talk about it. I have a teenager at home so I have heard about vaping, but when I talk to people around me many of them seem intrigued by these e-cigarette machines. The question on the Montreal Children's Hospital website is: “How does ‘vaping’ e-cigarettes differ from smoking traditional cigarettes?” This is how the hospital responds:
|| A: You don’t have to look very far to see that the use of e-cigarettes—a practice known as vaping—is on the rise. Many people see e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to smoking regular cigarettes. So how do the two practices differ? And how are they the same?
|| Unlike regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not have tobacco. E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that have a heating element and a cartridge that contains liquid. [By the way, that liquid leaks and is very sticky. That is my take on it as the critic]. Puffing on the device heats the liquid, which produces vapour. Compare this to regular cigarettes where puffing burns the tobacco and produces smoke—the big danger for the cigarette smoker and everyone around them—not to mention the tar and carbon monoxide that the smoker inhales.
|| The e-cigarette might seem harmless by comparison but taking a closer look at what’s in the liquid raises other concerns. Like regular cigarettes, many e-liquids contain nicotine, even though nicotine for e-cigarettes is not officially approved in Canada. The liquids often contain other ingredients too, such as propylene glycol (PG), a popular food additive. They also come in hundreds of flavours such as strawberry, root beer and chai tea, which make them very tempting to children and teenagers.
|| The production and sale of e-liquids is not yet closely monitored in Canada, which means they may not always contain the ingredients and proportions listed on the label. What’s more, the e-cigarette industry is still so young that there’s no data on the long-term effects of inhaling e-liquids.
I would like to close with another excerpt from that answer. It reads:
|| Public health officials are now speaking out about the dangers of making smoking acceptable again, a trend that could potentially roll back decades of work achieved by anti-smoking campaigns. E-cigarettes should never be viewed as a better way to start smoking. Pediatric specialists all agree that whether it’s e-cigarettes or regular cigarettes, children, teens and adults should never take up smoking under any circumstance.
I think we all agree on that.
Are e-cigarettes a solution? What role should e-cigarettes play? Studies are just beginning to cast light on this. According to the latest study, which the media have picked up, vaping increases the risk of cancer and heart disease. Preliminary findings from a laboratory study involving mice and human cells indicate that smoking e-cigarettes can increase the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. The study was conducted by researchers at the New York University School of Medicine and was published this week in the proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Here is an excerpt from the report:
|| Although e-cigarette smoke has fewer carcinogens than tobacco smoke, e-cigarette smokers might have a higher risk of developing lung and bladder cancers and heart diseases.
That is what the research shows. However, they do not say whether vaping is more or less harmful to one's health than smoking cigarettes. The study is silent on that. Are there benefits compared to tobacco? Is vaping more or less harmful? The authors of the study did not even want to comment on that. They did not feel as though they had enough information. One thing is certain; more and more people are vaping, and more and more people are using it as a crutch. We do not have enough information to clearly determine how safe vaping is.
This study has been referenced in the media quite a bit in the past week. E-cigarettes cannot be simply categorized as either beneficial or harmful, as we heard from Mr. Eaton, the dean of the University of Washington in Seattle and chair of the committee that drafted the report commissioned by the U.S. Congress in 2016. He also said that in some circumstances, such as their use by non-smoking adolescents and young adults, their adverse effects clearly warrant concern. For smokers who use e-cigarettes to quite smoking, vaping does provide a way to reduce harmful tobacco use.
Once again, there are differing opinions. In seeking the truth, I took a look at the study findings. I am not a scientist, so I just read the scientific interpretation reported in the media. I want to thank these journalists for so concisely interpreting the findings of this latest study.
The Quebec government has already dealt with this issue and passed very stringent legislation on e-cigarettes. Quebec's Tobacco Control Act already subjects electronic cigarettes and all other devices of that nature to the same regulations as tobacco products. The display and sale of e-cigarettes is limited to specialized retail outlets. To protect youth, the act bans sales by Internet, telephone, or other methods, as well as advertisements online or in store windows. Quebec has figured out how to regulate this industry in order to curb advertising aimed at youth.
The federal government must move in the same direction, but we should take our study even further so we can learn more. That is why I am very pleased about this bill going to committee. I really hope it goes to committee so that my colleague and all the members of the Standing Committee on Health get a chance to study it further. I hope the committee gets an opportunity to invite one of the authors of the last study to speak about the dangers of vaping.
I also wanted to talk about plain cigarette packaging. In France, the adoption of plain-packaging regulations had little effect on cigarettes sales. Sales declined by only 0.7%. Over the same period, however, Marlboro, the most iconic American brand sold in France, saw sales of its cigarettes grow by 3%. People were able to recognize the cigarettes and name brands anyway and chose them over the cheaper alternatives. Swapping one cigarette for another is no less harmful.
I hope the Standing Committee on Health analyzes Bill in depth with the goal of protecting Canadians and Canadian youth, not protecting an industry or business that I believe should not exist anymore.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I rise today to speak to Bill .
There is an old saying which John Wanamaker said about advertising, but it would work for politics too, that half the money we spend on politics is useless but we never know which half. Even if some of what we do in this place is fruitless, that certainly cannot be said of our efforts to combat smoking. The reduction in smoking rates in this country is a great success story. It demonstrates that well-designed legislation can improve Canadians' health. It is part of the half of what we do that really matters.
It is really worth reflecting on how far we have come. I can remember when smoking was absolutely everywhere. We have made huge strides. One in two Canadians in the 1960s was a smoker. Every second person was a smoker. Today that number is just 13%. We have made huge strides, but not all jurisdictions made similar progress. Smoking is still very prevalent in some countries in the world.
I am reminded of a story on the history of tobacco use worldwide. The author was on a train in another country when a local offered his friend a cigarette. His friend declined and the local was flabbergasted. He simply could not understand why someone would decline a cigarette. The cigarette used to have a similar cultural power in Canada. Not that long ago those ashtrays on desks in this place were in use. What started as a public sector ban eventually spread to the private sector. We no longer have to inform a server if we want the smoking or non-smoking section in a restaurant. Our country has really made progress in discouraging this deadly habit.
This brings me to the legislation we are debating today, Bill . The bill seeks to expand our country's proud legacy of curbing tobacco use. The question is, does it successfully build on that legacy? The bill addresses some of the very important issues. On my way to work in the morning I have seen fewer people smoking cigarettes than before, far less compared to 20 years ago, but I am seeing more people puffing on small metal devices. When I initially saw them, I did not know what they were. They call it vaping. It does not quite have the cool look that cigarettes supposedly used to have. It is hard to imagine Clint Eastwood projecting his rugged image in those old westerns while puffing on a tube attached to a battery pack, but that is a good thing.
We know for sure that inhaling carcinogens into our lungs is neither rugged nor cool. The Marlboro Man died a long time ago of lung cancer. Does vaping really help people quit smoking as its advocates claim? A study by Public Health England found that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco. That is a good start. It is called harm reduction. The vapour does not contain the carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds that cigarette smoke does, but it does still contain nicotine, which is, of course, what smokers are addicted to.
Studies have found that people using e-cigarettes with nicotine were more likely to stop smoking compared with those who received placebos. It is still supplying the addictive substance, but through a much less harmful delivery mechanism. It would still be best to get off nicotine altogether, but it is a powerful drug. For those who cannot, vaping seems to hold great promise as a less harmful option.
If vaping has such great potential to help smokers quit, then we need to be very careful in how we regulate it. However, before I speak further to that point, I want to make it clear that I strongly agree the vaping market needs some regulation. Nicotine is a drug subject to the Food and Drugs Act, but as it stands, no vaping product has been authorized in Canada. All nicotine-containing vaping products are being sold illegally. I assume that would come as a surprise to many people. I see vaping happening on Sparks Street. I do believe that most of those people do not know it is an illegal substance.
It is a Wild West market out there for these products, and this situation needs to be addressed. The vitally important provisions in this bill are those that ban the sale of vaping products to those under 18. The U.S. Surgeon General released a report in 2016 which found that 25% of students in grades 6 to 12 had tried e-cigarettes. In Canada, one in four youths age 15 to 19 reported having tried e-cigarettes. These products are making their way to those underage. This needs to stop.
We know that educating children about the dangers of smoking is most effective before they reach grade 6. Too often this is forgotten. We concentrate on warning them when they are teenagers, when it is often too late. With the rising popularity of vaping e-cigarettes, we need to educate children about their danger as well. Just because they have great harm reduction potential for adults who already smoke does not mean we want more people taking it up as an addictive habit. Nicotine is very addictive.
Education should go hand in hand with regulation. However, to return to my earlier point, we need to protect the health of adult Canadians without robbing them of a viable way to get off cigarettes.
While I support this legislation, I hope the committee will carefully consider certain aspects of it. For example, while some restrictions on branding and marketing are important, I am not sure that banning flavours is wise. Many adults enjoy a variety of flavours, and access to them might help encourage them to quit cigarettes. I, myself, have a jar of jujubes in my office. I am sure many of my hon. colleagues in this place have a sweet tooth. I am not sure about the logic of sweet flavours only appealing to children. Maybe there is a good case for completely banning flavours. I just think it is something the committee should consider in depth.
The other piece of this legislation that I hope will receive some careful consideration in committee is the implementation of plain packaging for cigarettes. I support measures that will reduce the smoking rate, but we do not want to see a corresponding spike in organized crime. It is important to remember that smoking is already at an all-time low in Canada. Five decades of combatting tobacco use has been successful.
We need to be careful about inadvertently supporting the contraband cigarette industry by taking drastic new measures, especially when existing measures are working. Will cigarettes with no branding at all, even on the filter, look identical to unbranded, contraband cigarettes? If that is the case, it becomes a consumer protection issue. Contraband cigarettes often have been found to contain ingredients that would not be allowed in the regulated Canadian market.
As far as I understand it, the Australian experience of plain packaging has led to unclear outcomes. They saw a decrease in smoking rates among adults, but a possible increase among those underage. Tobacco use as measured by tobacco expenditures was unaffected. A careful cost-benefit analysis needs to be conducted.
It is up to the hon. members opposite to prove that plain packaging will not aid in the sale of contraband tobacco. I should note that while I support this bill going to committee, I am surprised the government is supporting legislation to modernize smoking laws while at the same time legalizing marijuana.
It is a real mixed message to Canadians. If plain packaging is necessary to lower cigarette smoking rates, why has no similar rule been introduced for marijuana? The Liberals are rushing forward with Bill despite the objections of police forces and municipalities across the country. Like many aspects of legalization, these issues have been left unaddressed.
With that said, as it stands, I am in support of this bill going to committee. I think it has great potential to do a lot of good. The committee will need to consider some of the concerns I have raised today to make sure the bill does not result in unintended consequences. If the committee does that, I think the bill could really help foster a healthier Canada.
Madam Speaker, today we are talking about vaping. This is interesting because vaping is often associated with the bad habit of smoking. According to some available records, it took more than 50 years for people to understand that smoking is a health hazard.
That said, having worked at Health Canada from 2011 to 2013, I want to make a distinction between vaping and cigarette smoking, which is that people can vape with nicotine or with what I call placebos, which come in fruit flavours, for example.
Vaping has been recognized as a way to reduce cigarette use. In 2016, 24 studies, including three randomized clinical trials were reviewed. Two of the trials, with a total of 662 participants, showed that people using e-cigarettes with nicotine were more likely to stop smoking for at least six months, compared with those in the control group, who received a placebo without nicotine. We have to make a distinction between the two.
I fully support Bill because we need to show people that bad habits are never a good thing. People are replacing cigarette smoking with vaping because it becomes a habit. I have never smoked, thank goodness, but my mother smoked for many years and it had become a habit for her to have something in her hands, like the pencil I am holding right now. However, since my mother now has Alzheimer's she no longer remembers that she was a smoker and has stopped smoking. I think we also need to talk about that.
Most people smoke when they are stressed. There are chronic smokers and those who only smoke socially when they are having a glass of wine or a beer, but regardless, smoking is still a bad habit.
This bill seeks to prohibit vaping in public places where smoking cigarettes is already prohibited. However, I would like a distinction to be made between vaping with nicotine, which is just as harmful as smoking since it replaces cigarettes, can be habit forming, and can damage the lungs and bronchi, and vaping fruity flavours, which is not the same thing.
The bill prohibits the sale of vaping products to young people under the age of 18. If children have access to vaping, they need to be taught that vaping can be habit forming. Not every habit is bad, but smoking and vaping with nicotine can be equally harmful.
It makes me laugh when I hear my colleagues opposite asking us whether vaping can lead young people to smoke cigarettes. We do not want to create habits among young people that could lead to more harmful habits down the road. Vaping can lead young people to smoke cigarettes, just like it can lead them to smoke pot. However, the government failed to mention that.
Today we are talking about how evil cigarettes are, although people rarely talk about marijuana, although I think marijuana is worse than cigarettes, because it directly affects children's brains. That is the topic of another debate.
It must also be said that some people think that e-cigarettes are less harmful and that they reduce exposure to leaf tobacco. If the e-cigarette contains liquid nicotine, it is just as dangerous as cigarettes. It is important to make the distinction, because nicotine is the problem. Vaping is not a problem when there is no nicotine, when the liquid is nicotine free. That is altogether different.
It is important to remember that nicotine is a drug and that it is subject to the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act. Its marketing should be overseen by Health Canada based on safety, effectiveness, and quality.
I remember when the debate on vaping first began when I was working at Health Canada. At the time, it was still illegal to sell e-cigarettes in grocery stores and other stores. We wondered how these products were being sold in grocery stores, how people could just ignore it, if that was illegal and if the product was so harmful. It is unacceptable.
Now, we have a bill. I fully support this bill, but I think it needs more teeth. We need to flesh it out. If we want a good bill, we need to send it to committee so that it can be studied in depth.
I was listening to the speeches given earlier. It is true that scientists do not agree. They are all saying something different. They should work together so that we, as legislators, have a better idea of what this bill should seek to accomplish.
I will definitely be voting in favour of this bill because I think that we need to set some limits. Vaping with nicotine is what interests me the most because it is most similar to smoking. However, it is also important to remember that these products are being sold to consenting adults. It has been proven that vaping exponentially reduces the urge to smoke. I worked with a friend who smoked for 40 years. She was my assistant manager. She smoked three packs a day. That seems like a lot of cigarettes to someone like me who has never smoked. She started vaping and two months later she had quit smoking entirely, so vaping can be beneficial for some.
Now, we need to ensure that the legislation covers all aspects of vaping. In my opinion, a distinction needs to be made between vaping with liquid nicotine, which is more similar to smoking a cigarette, and vaping with flavoured liquids that do not contain any nicotine and can help people stop smoking by vaping grape-flavoured liquid or something similar. We need to be aware of that. I hope that the committee will look at that aspect. We need to consider all aspects of this bill because it is a good bill. It is a start.
It took 55 years to convince people that cigarettes were bad for their health. I hope it will not take 55 years to make them understand that vaping and marijuana are also harmful.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill , the tobacco and vaping products act.
Canada's New Democrats have long called for the measures contained in the proposed legislation and we will work positively with the government to facilitate its implementation at every stage to ensure it is passed and improved as soon as possible. The legislation will save lives.
Indeed, our party has led the fight in Parliament for strong tobacco legislation for decades. As we all know, tobacco products contain deadly carcinogens and many other harmful substances that are injurious to human health. We also know that tobacco products are highly addictive. It is really a perfect storm, a terrible substance that kills and addicts the consumer who tries it.
In the 1960s, when the federal government was still unwilling to pursue an effective control tobacco policy, more than 20 private members' bills to control tobacco packaging, labelling, and advertising were introduced by opposition members. More than half of them were introduced by NDP MP Barry Mather.
In the fall of 1986, over 30 years ago, NDP member of Parliament, Lynn McDonald, introduced a private member's bill, “The Non-smokers' Health Act”, Bill C-204, to ban tobacco advertising and smoking in workplaces under federal jurisdiction. Unlike most private members' bills that unfortunately die on the order paper, this legislation would go on to become law, albeit in a modified form in 1988.
In 2008, former New Democrat health critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis launched a successful campaign to ban flavours in tobacco products. At that time, of course, the addition of flavours to tobacco was another insidious move by tobacco companies to try to skirt effective regulation and continue to hook Canadians with their product.
The legislation before us today, Bill , was introduced in response to the 2015 report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health entitled “Vaping: Toward a Regulatory Framework for E-Cigarettes”.
In essence, the proposed act before us today aims to protect youth and Canadians from nicotine addiction and tobacco marketing, by granting regulation-making authority to the Governor in Council for the implementation of plain and standardized packaging for tobacco products and by creating a new legislative framework for regulating vaping products in our country.
Since it first took office, Canada's New Democrats have been calling on the Liberal government to expedite the implementation of plain packaging requirements for all tobacco products. Plain packaging has proved to be an effective way to reduce smoking, discourage young people from starting to smoke, and decrease second-hand exposure to tobacco smoke. Every month we delay, more Canadians, especially young Canadians, start smoking and become addicted. That will result in more Canadians dying from tobacco-related illness. Action is needed immediately for the health of all Canadians.
According to the Canadian tobacco, alcohol and drugs survey in 2015, 115,000 Canadians started smoking daily, with 82% of daily smokers starting before the age of 18. This means that of those 115,000 Canadians who start smoking pretty much every year, most of those people are under the age of 18. One-third of them will ultimately be affected negatively in a health consequence and die from that tobacco use.
The Liberal government issued mandate letters to their cabinet ministers in 2015. One of those mandates was to bring in this legislation. Here we are, almost three years later in 2018, and the legislation is still before the House and has not passed.
What did the health minister and the government do when they were given that mandate? They decided to consult. Consult about what? Did they not know that tobacco products killed? Did they not know that tobacco products were addictive? Did they not know that plain packaging worked? I will get into that in a few moments because all three of those questions need to be answered.
We knew the answers to all those questions back in 2015. Therefore, it is inexcusable the government delayed and dithered for years to bring in this legislation. We know that every day young Canadians start smoking, get addicted to cigarettes, and will ultimately die in large numbers from that.
This means that since 2015, somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 Canadians have started smoking and become addicted since the government first said it was going to act on this matter. That is not putting the health of Canadians first, and it is not giving the priority to the health of Canadians that New Democrats believe is appropriate.
As Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, said:
|| The sooner we have tobacco plain packaging, the sooner we can have the health benefits. Plain packaging will reduce the appeal of tobacco packages and brands. Right now, tobacco companies are using brand colours and logos to make cigarettes more attractive. That might include mountain scenes or feminine pastels, it might include super-slim packages targeted at women.
I think many parliamentarians in this room have been approached by members of the Canadian Cancer Society and anti-tobacco groups. They bring with them samples of the products tobacco companies are using to market, particularly to young people and especially to young women. That marketing is disgusting. They market small slim packages that are meant to look like cosmetics, slim so they fit in a young woman's small purse at night clubs. They are directly trying to addict young women in particular to tobacco products, using sophisticated marketing techniques to do that. They are marketing a carcinogen that is addictive and that kills to our young girls and women. That needs to stop.
Plain packaging for tobacco products would standardize the appearance and size of cigarette packages by requiring the removal of all brand imagery, including corporate logos and trademarks. Packages would display a standard background colour, usually a very unattractive greenish-brown, and manufacturers would be permitted to print only the brand name in a mandated size, font, and position. Other government-mandated information such as health warnings would remain in prominent fashion.
The changes would render cigarette packages almost indistinguishable from each other, which would make them less attractive to consumers, especially young people, and would make the health warnings clearer, more prominent, and more effective.
With respect to the government needing to consult, plain packaging was implemented in Australia in 2012, six years ago; in France, Hungary, and the United Kingdom in 2016; and in Norway and Ireland in 2017. Again, we have empirical evidence from around the world from jurisdictions similar to ours that plain packaging works, and the government chose to wait and delay rather than act forcefully and effectively. Plain packaging is also under formal consideration in Slovenia, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand, Singapore, Belgium, and South Africa, among other countries.
The New Democrats believe Canada should have the strictest and most rigorous plain and standardized packaging regimen in the world in order to promote public health. While this act is an excellent start, it is not perfect and requires some scrutiny to ensure it meets its full potential. For example, in its consultation document on the proposed regulations concerning plain packaging, Health Canada did not include the option of further regulating brand names beyond limiting the number of words they could contain.
I met with the former health minister of Australia, Nicola Roxon, who told me we had to close every loophole in these regulations or tobacco companies would find a way to exploit them. That even includes things like their names. If we do not put controls on their names, then we will see things like “Sexy Brand Smoking Inc.” or “Young People Beauty Cigarettes Inc.” We will see the tobacco companies use that kind of marketing to get their messages to young people. We, as parliamentarians, have to ensure that does not happen.
This is why New Democrats are calling on the government to ban all brand names and terms with positive connotations, as is the case in France and outlined in the European Commission tobacco products directive. Canada should also prohibit tobacco brand variants, as is done in Uruguay.
In the past, partial marketing bans for tobacco have had limited effectiveness. When most traditional forms of tobacco advertising were prohibited, big tobacco's marketing expenditures did not stop; they simply shifted to other channels, including packaging and the retail environment.
Plain packaging not only eliminates one of the last remaining marketing avenues available to big tobacco, it also enhances the impact of health warnings.
Health warnings are the most cost-effective, self-sustaining way of communicating with Canadians about the harms of tobacco. Effective warnings should be large, prominent, be unavoidable, use colour, and include pictures. Large pictorial warnings are the most effective way to reach children and youth and the most vulnerable members of our society with low literacy.
However, warnings are not just about scaring consumers away from a deadly product. They are also about informing Canadians and providing access to support for those who need it to overcome their nicotine addiction. In Canada, every cigarette pack includes a telephone helpline number and a website for helping Canadians stop smoking.
Dr. David Hammond, professor at the University of Waterloo School of Public Health and Health Systems, recently informed the health committee that this approach had been extensively evaluated and worked very effectively.
Moreover, despite big tobacco's efforts to mislead the public, all credible evidence shows that the removal of branding does not promote illegal or contraband sales. The only research that has found any link between contraband market increases and plain packaging comes from studies funded directly by the tobacco industry.
Specifically, this research comes from reports commissioned from KPMG that had to include a disclaimer that they were not to be used for any purpose other than what the funder decreed because the terms of reference were so narrow that they could not be used to draw any broad inferences. Indeed, KPMG took the extraordinary step of writing to the U.K. minister of health to state that the tobacco industry was misusing its work.
The argument that plain packaging increases contraband tobacco sales has been repeatedly put forward by big tobacco in court cases as well, and it has been rejected every time. In fact, five separate legal rulings have affirmed the positive impact of plain packaging.
This sort of deceptive behaviour from big tobacco is nothing new. Today's fight for plain packaging follows a long and dark history of big tobacco engaging in orchestrated campaigns to deceive the public about the harms of its extremely deadly product. Indeed, in a landmark 2015 Canadian court ruling, three of the world's biggest tobacco companies were ordered to pay $15 billion for their duplicity.
In his ruling, Quebec Superior Court Justice Brian Riordan pulled no punches, saying:
|| By choosing not to inform either the public health authorities or the public directly of what they knew, the Companies chose profits over the health of their customers. Whatever else can be said about that choice, it is clear that it represents a fault of the most egregious nature and one that must be considered in the context of punitive damages.
Despite big tobacco's attempts to obstruct the truth, we know that of the more than 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke hundreds are toxic, including hydrogen cyanide, lead, acetone, arsenic, and formaldehyde. At least 70 of these chemicals are known carcinogens. We know that every day, 100 Canadians will die of a smoking-related illness. That is one every 14 minutes. That is 37,000 Canadians who will die this year due to smoking. Of those, over 1,000 non-smokers will die of lung cancer and coronary heart disease caused by exposure to second-hand smoke.
We also know that big tobacco has no qualms with continuing to aggressively market this poison to young people in order to encourage and exploit their addiction to a product that will ultimately kill them. However, I am heartened to see that this generation of young Canadians is fighting back.
I recently had the honour of attending the Freeze the Industry luncheon on Parliament Hill. Freeze the Industry is a youth-led coalition that is dedicated to stopping big tobacco from developing and marketing products that entice young people. I was inspired to see the coalition's unwavering support for plain and standardized packaging for tobacco products in Canada.
I also must give tremendous credit to organizations that have been on the front lines of this battle with big tobacco for decades. Their tireless efforts have saved countless lives over the years. Although there are too many to name individually, I would like to specifically recognize the advocacy of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, the Canadian Lung Association, and Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac. Of course, I would be remiss not to recognize the heavy lifting that has been done for us by Australia's former health minister, the hon. Nicola Roxon, who led the global fight against big tobacco to bring in the world's first set of plain-packaging requirements. That is leadership.
I might also point out that in Australia, tobacco giant Philip Morris brought a claim against Australia under investor-state dispute settlement provisions in a Hong Kong trade deal in 2011. Thankfully, this was unsuccessful, but it is another example of the misguided inclusion of investor-state lawsuit provisions in trade agreements, which Liberals and Conservatives continue to push.
By the way, Philip Morris also failed in a bid to challenge the constitutionality of plain-packaging laws in the High Court of Australia in 2012. After a five-year legal battle, Australia's plain-packaging requirements were upheld at the World Trade Organization in 2017. Therefore, we cannot underestimate the lengths and steps that big tobacco will take in order to continue to legally market its dangerous and fatal product.
Canada's New Democrats believe that we cannot give big tobacco any room to manoeuver to continue to promote this deadly product. Canada must have the strictest and most rigorous plain and standardized packaging regime in the world, and that is what New Democrats will work towards.
The proposed legislation also deals with vaping products. The New Democrats understand that this new technology holds promise as a harm reduction tool to promote the cessation of tobacco consumption. An expert independent evidence review published by Public Health England concluded that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than smoking and have the potential to help smokers quit smoking. At the same time, the long-term health impacts of vaping are presently unclear and require further research. Thus, Canada's New Democrats believe that the goal of any regulatory framework for vaping products should be to maximize their potential benefits as a smoking cessation tool while minimizing their potential health risks and curtailing access for minors. Publicly, Health Canada has not established a harm reduction policy or articulated the goals and administrative measures that one would expect for such an approach.
At present, the vaping market in Canada is an informal grey market in which suppliers have kept a low profile and not aggressively marketed their products, which are technically illegal. There are growing fears that the passage of Bill will trigger the entry also of large tobacco companies into the licit Canadian vaping market, which is why I will now highlight some of the weaknesses of Bill regarding the advertising and promotion of vaping products and suggest some potential amendments to remedy these gaps.
First, the prohibition on promoting vaping devices containing flavours set out in column 1 of schedule 3 may be too narrow, since all flavours could be appealing to young people. The legislation should be amended to prohibit the promotion of vaping products that could potentially be appealing to young people.
Unlike the Tobacco Act, Bill contains no restrictions on permitted locations for advertising and promotion of vaping products, which means that Bill could allow advertising on television, social media, bus stops, arenas, or virtually anywhere. Therefore, the proposed legislation should establish strengthened restrictions regarding permitted locations for vaping product advertising and promotion.
While the current bill would also ban lifestyle advertising, with some exceptions, there is no provision that states that only information or brand preference advertising is allowed on vaping products. This is another area that ought to be looked at. Bill would still permit lifestyle advertising in bars and in publications sent to adults. This provision would serve no public health purpose and should be eliminated since there is no need for lifestyle advertising in relation to a harm reduction smoking cessation device.
Finally, Bill would still permit extensive incentive promotions for vaping products in places where young people do not have access. Things like contests to win beach vacations, access to invitation-only parties, and tickets to concerts and sporting events could still be allowed and they should not be in this legislation.
New Democrats will work diligently to try to make sure that the vaping provisions of this bill serve Canadian public health interests as much as possible. We will work very diligently in that regard.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address Bill this afternoon. Bill S-5 is not about the legalization of marijuana, but I am going to talk a little about that anyway. The member for , clearly holding up a lot of the government here today, will enjoy this in particular, I think.
The comparison between the way the government proceeded under Bill and what is happening with Bill is interesting and instructive. The reason I want to, later on in my speech, talk a little about the issue of marijuana legalization is that there is a bit of a gap when we hear members talk about the need to have clear information and the importance and value of plain packaging, but a member of the NDP cannot even answer my direct question about whether he supports plain packaging for marijuana. These comparisons are interesting. The push on tobacco, on the one hand, and then some of the messages with respect to marijuana, are clearly very much in tension with each other.
The other point I want to make in relation to the bill is that the government has spoken about the great work it has done, which happens from time to time in this place, but Bill originated in the Senate, so perhaps it is another opportunity to underline the fact that the Senate perhaps acts more independently than the government would actually like it to. When we have a bill coming out of the Senate that the government says reflects the work of the government, clearly it raises some questions about the actual independence level of the so-called independent senators the government is appointing.
I was going to move unanimous consent on something, but I will not anymore.
The issues that are dealt with in the bill are vaping and plain packaging for tobacco. The member for appreciates my restraint, I am sure.
The bill speaks first about having plain packaging for tobacco. Members have probably heard, from different sides of this question, about the merits of this as a strategy for reducing the amount of smoking. For example, there are some people who argue that there has been a reduction in smoking as a result of plain packaging initiatives in some countries. However, in some of those cases, we can also see a long-term trend in the reduction of smoking in those countries anyway, so it can be difficult to establish a clear cause and effect if there was a reduction in levels, but it was consistent with a general social trend of a reduction in smoking.
The same argument could potentially be made about contraband. If we see an increase in the use of contraband after plain packaging, some might ask if that is part of a trend or something new. In general, as we try to make policy and respond to evidence, we have to, as much as possible, distill what seems to be caused by a change in policy and what might be part of an overall long-term effect. These are questions that, as we support the bill through to committee, I hope to see studied in detail, because it is not enough to have a good intention, obviously. We need to be able to demonstrate the link between the intention and the impact the policy would have practically.
One of the concerns we have heard about the proposal to have plain packaging is an increase in contraband. There are already very high levels of contraband tobacco. Over 50% of cigarettes in Ontario, for example, are contraband, and there is some evidence, although I know it is disputed by others, that plain packaging increases contraband. That creates all kinds of risks in terms of people being aware of what is in them, and obviously, the impact on health associated with that, and the greater risk of cigarettes getting into the hands of minors, and so forth.
I think there is a legitimate debate about plain packaging. It is not necessarily helpful when members characterize anyone who has legitimate questions about plain packaging as being put up to it by the tobacco industry. There is a legitimate discussion there, and I hope the committee will explore this in the spirit of that legitimate discussion. I myself remain relatively agnostic on the question. I am interested to see where the discussion on plain packaging goes.
On the issue of vaping, I have heard from constituents who have attested to the benefits for them in terms of smoking cessation. They have been able to make progress in cessation, as a result of access to vaping products, that they had not previously been able to make. I appreciate that feedback from constituents. It is something that I very much take note of as I consider the legislation in front of us.
What this bill seeks to do is regulate vaping. Certainly members have recognized the benefit of vaping, of having the information out there, and of further research. In particular, this part of the bill marshals strongly in favour of sending it to committee. There are different elements of this bill, some of which are more legitimately contentious than others. This bill deals with these two very distinct issues.
I think members know that the member for was in the hospital recently. I understand that he is doing very well now and is watching these proceedings. He had asked someone to highlight a particular story he had noted about a teen baseball player whose stepmother is calling for stronger vaping regulations after his death. This was someone who fell in the context of vaping and subsequently passed away. It raises again the importance of studying the issue of vaping and the impacts, as this bill does, and of exploring opportunities around regulation.
I want to send our best wishes to the member for and also to note this article he discovered and wanted to see raised.
I will go on to the issue of marijuana, because, as is well known, the government is proceeding with its plan to legalize marijuana. Members have heard the talking points on this. I almost slipped into saying them myself. To “legalize” and closely “regulate” is what the government always says. On the other hand, if we look at the kinds of regulations it is proposing and the arguments it is making in the context of Bill , and we compare them to Bill , it becomes quite clear that it is failing on this issue of close regulation, even when it comes to its own standards. I want to talk about some of those specific issues in terms of how we compare the agenda being advanced vis-à-vis tobacco and the discussion on marijuana.
First of all, we should acknowledge that while there is a great deal of public health information about the risks associated with tobacco use and a lot of information encouraging cessation from using tobacco, there is a general lack of information and advertising on the risks associated with marijuana. It has become clear to me, in some of the conversations that have happened in this House, that while one would never hear members say that they doubt evidence about the risks associated with tobacco, and there is agreement here that the use of tobacco is not good for one's health, on the issue of marijuana, there are members who really have downplayed the risks. Of course, we have a who has himself talked about his use of marijuana when he was an elected official while at the same time he was initially voting in favour of tougher sentencing with respect to marijuana. He then obviously changed his position. Perhaps he had some reckoning with something he was doing at the same time he was an elected official. Those kinds of messages obviously put out misinformation and confusion, in the minds of people.
I see that there are health claims being made about marijuana that are not backed by science and that are very much at odds with the kinds of claims we might hear made about tobacco. A lot of people may not know that use of marijuana, especially by young people, even relatively occasional use, can be associated with higher rates of certain mental health challenges later in life. The carcinogenic effects of marijuana are, of course, well established and, generally speaking, the carcinogenic effects of smoking marijuana are stronger than the carcinogenic effects associated with smoking a cigarette. Of course, people smoke them differently—they would not necessarily smoke a pack of joints in quite the same way—but the point is that the carcinogenic effects, pound for pound, are much stronger when it comes to marijuana. These are things that members are not always taking note of in their discussion around marijuana and, again, when it comes to the misleading health clams that we see sometimes made around marijuana.
I had a particularly jarring experience of this, which was captured by TVO. The member for and I participated in a show that TVO put on—Political Blind Date, it was called—where we went to different facilities and learned about different sides of a question. We went to a facility in Toronto that has subsequently shut down, called Queens of Cannabis, where we were greeted by a so-called wellness expert who had no medical training of any sort, who was telling us about the alleged benefits of infusing one's children during pregnancy with THC. Obviously this is not something with any evidentiary basis, and yet it was the kind of health claims that were being made. We see some of these false claims being made and propagated with regard to marijuana in a way that, generally speaking, we do not see happening with respect to tobacco. There are not so-called wellness experts out there who are claiming to tell us about the benefits associated with using tobacco.
Recognizing that, the urgency of having clear, strong public health information associated with the risks of marijuana should be noted by members and should be well considered, and yet we do not have any requirements in this legislation for plain packaging on marijuana products. If members think that tobacco products should have clear warning labels, and I agree that they should, then why would the same not hold with respect to marijuana? If, as some have argued, plain packaging is beneficial for reducing the smoking of cigarettes, then why would not the same principle apply in the case of marijuana? It is strange to me and I have a hard time understanding, on the one hand, the approach to tobacco and, on the other hand, the approach to marijuana.
The government members have also talked about how, if we legalize and strictly regulate marijuana, so they say, it will be kept out of the hands of children and the profits will be kept from organized crime. I can almost give the speech from their side, I have heard the line so many times. However, when it comes to tobacco we see, as members have said today, how very often people start smoking when they are underage. It is very common that young people still access tobacco products when they are underage, and there is still a great deal of contraband tobacco that benefits organized crime. Therefore, how do we square the claims that the government is making with respect to marijuana with the information that the government members are talking about? For instance, I think it was the member for who talked specifically about the age at which people often start smoking tobacco. If nothing else, the government should be considering promoting a reduction culture around marijuana as it legalizes it, but it is not even doing that, at least not in the same way that it is trying to do so with respect to tobacco.
The situation with contraband tobacco makes a point that was lost in the debate around marijuana, which is that just because a product is legal does not mean organized crime cannot be involved in that industry and benefit from it.
In reality, organized crime does not just sell illegal products. It can use illegal methods to sell legal products. Organized crime can benefit from exploiting instances of regulation or taxation, which provide it with an opportunity to operate outside of the legal sphere even while selling a product that is legal. In the case of tobacco, it is regulation and it is taxation.
I think all members are supportive of the idea of having taxes on tobacco, but when those taxes are in place, a reality is that they create an opportunity that might not otherwise exist for organized crime to be involved in that industry. That is simple, basic economics.
When it comes to marijuana and the federal government and other levels of government talk about taxation, regulation, and age restrictions, all of these dynamics will ensure that organized crime is still involved. It is a reality that organized crime is not being shut out of the picture. Those risks will continue to be in place for young people to access it.
If we look at the history of organized crime, frankly, this is true. Organized crime has benefited in certain instances when products are illegal, but it has certainly not ceased to operate when said products are legalized. Organized crime made a lot of money during alcohol prohibition, but it certainly did not go away or cease to make a lot of money after alcohol prohibition ended.
The other issue that we need to note is flavour. The last government addressed the issue of flavoured tobacco products, but the present government is open to moving forward in the future on edibles and on questions around flavouring in marijuana. There is not the same approach, with respect to the risks of flavouring and the impact associated with it when it comes to marijuana, as the approach when it comes to tobacco, and that is quite interesting.
The particular issue, as well, with marijuana is that it is just much easier to grow than tobacco, from what I have been told. The Liberal government would allow home grow. People are not growing four tobacco plants in their home regularly. Am I right?
The risk with the marijuana discussion, again, is that an environment has been created in the bill where we are going to have flavoured products, where we do not have clear health information, and where we do not have those same warning labels. As a result of allowing home grow, we will have the continuance of an illegal market, the continuance of a situation where it will be relatively easy for young people to access marijuana.
I want to make this point as well. The government has argued with respect to its marijuana legislation that the current approach is not working. If we define success as the complete elimination of marijuana use, then we could say that the current approach has not achieved complete cessation. However, nothing is going to achieve complete cessation. We have not achieved it on smoking and we have not achieved it on very hard drugs either.
Over the last 10 years we have seen a substantial reduction in marijuana use, and the numbers bear that out. I presented them in questions and comments in discussion with the . If the goal was to reduce use and therefore reduce the risk, then the approach that was being taken to marijuana was not perfect—there were certainly opportunities to improve; our party favours the ticketing option—but it is quite clear that success was being achieved in terms of reduction.
To summarize, we are supportive of sending the bill to committee, of further studying the issues around plain packaging as well as vaping. I encourage stakeholders as well as my constituents to keep us informed about their perspective and proposals they have for potentially improving the bill.
It is important to highlight how the government's approach to marijuana legalization is very much exposed by this bill, and how the lack of proper safeguards and procedures in Bill is evident in comparison to Bill .
Mr. Speaker, I would describe the thesis of my speech as helpful suggestions for committee stage. On the surface, there are quite a few positive things in this piece of legislation, and something I think all of us in the House can agree on is that it is a positive thing to reduce tobacco product usage. I am sure some lobbyists listening to this might not agree, but I think that is something we probably all agree on here. The question then is how we do that. Would the legislative framework we are looking to introduce drive to that end goal? Would it make Canada healthier? What are some of the opportunity costs? What are the costs associated with implementing this legislation? How do we make sure that at committee stage some of these issues are addressed?
For anyone watching, this bill was introduced in the other place and has gone through the reading stages there. It is . It was introduced in the other place on November 22, 2016. The bill proposes amendments that would implement a legislative framework under the Tobacco Act for vaping products. To clarify, a vaping product is defined in subclause 3(3) of this bill as:
||(a) a device that produces emissions in the form of an aerosol and is intended to be brought to the mouth for inhalation of the aerosol;
||(b) a device that is designated to be a vaping product by the regulations;
||(c) a part that may be used with those devices; and
||(d) a substance or mixture of substances, whether or not it contains nicotine, that is intended for use with those devices to produce emissions.
|| It does not include devices and substances or mixtures of substances that are excluded by the regulations, tobacco products or their accessories.
This has come up in debate already. As I understand it, and I would be happy to hear some clarification, this bill does not actually cover something that we would refer to as heat-not-burn cigarettes. When I studied this legislation, I will be honest that I had no clue about the differences between these products, but they are different and are being marketed separately now. It feels like one of those whack-a-mole situations where we have introduced this legislation to put regulations on vaping products, but we are now lagging behind on this other form of tobacco.
Since I have spent some time defining what the bill covers, my understanding is that the bill does not include heat-not-burn cigarettes. An article in The Globe and Mail in August 2017, stated:
|| One of the world's largest tobacco companies is rolling out a smokeless cigarette in Canada that it contends is less harmful than conventional combustible products, but some critics call the device merely a ploy to maintain – or even increase – market share in the face of dwindling smoking rates.
|| Philip Morris International has developed a heat-not-burn product called IQOS, or I-Quit-Ordinary-Smoking,—
They have tried to brand it as a smoking cessation product:
||—that the tobacco giant says retains a high level of nicotine while reducing carcinogenic components found in the smoke of regular cigarettes.
As I understand it, this product heats the tobacco stick or cigarette up to a point where the substance can be inhaled, but is not actually combusting the product. Therefore, by the definition of the producer, not as many carcinogenic products are being inhaled. Under the theme of helpful suggestions for committee, my understanding is that the proposed regulations in the current bill do not cover this product, but we probably need some regulatory congruency just so there is some certainty both in the marketplace and for consumers and the health care system on what the government's intent is with this other product.
As far as I can tell, this product is being quasi-marketed as a smoking cessation product, but there has not been a lot of arm's-length research to show that it actually does that. The research that I have read on vaping products, which are also marketed as smoking cessation products, is that they actually prolong the period to cessation because people maintain their addiction to the nicotine.
As this bill heads to committee, I think that those particular claims and whether they are adequately addressed within this regulatory framework are important to address. If we do not have the quantitative data to look at that, then it is incumbent upon the government to initiate some studies to that effect. I did find as a legislator there was a bit of a gap in information on those claims. Certainly, the producers of these products have done research. As a legislator, I would like to see some arm's-length research done prior to making any sort of conclusions on that particular issue.
To continue on with the debate around the IQOS product, or this slightly less smoky cigarette, I want to read one of the complaints about it because I do not think the has commented on this yet. It states:
|| David Hammond, an expert in tobacco policy at the University of Waterloo, said PMI and other tobacco companies have been making claims about minimizing health risks for decades, going back to the 1950s when filtered cigarettes were introduced.
||“If they think combustible cigarettes are killing people and they would rather not sell them, then I would ask them why they continue to sell them?” he said.
|| Still, Hammond agreed that any nicotine product that doesn't involve smoke inhalation “is almost certainly going to be less harmful than regular smoked cigarettes. That includes e-cigarettes and it probably includes these products.”
I am reading that statement into the record because of the number of times “probably” and “maybe” are used. I think there are a lot of claims that are being inserted into the rationale for proceeding with this regulation. However, we just do not have a lot of quantitative data on it. Again, I am not trying to use that as a knock on the bill itself, but more that this is something which as parliamentarians we should be trying to get more information on at committee.
My colleague from , who is a fantastic colleague, brought an article to my attention that talked about the context as to why this legislation is important. An article was released a couple of days ago about a situation that occurred in Delta, British Columbia. A baseball player died under some circumstances and his mother has been calling for stronger vaping regulations after his death. This is the Kyle Losse case. His stepmother Niki Losse took Kyle to the hospital and then he passed away. She found an e-vape product where he had collapsed. A subsequent blood test determined that Kyle had nicotine in his system, and she believes there was some sort of an associated risk here.
The Kyle Losse case underscores the fact that there has not been a lot of research on the health effects of vaping tobacco. There are a lot of claims out there. While it might be true that the health impact of vaping products may be less harmful than traditional tobacco products, we do not understand what unique health challenges they may present.
As this legislation progresses, it is important for the government to look at a research framework around this issue, so that as we review the efficacy of this framework, assuming that it goes into force, we can measure those outcomes against quantifiable research. I must emphasize the point that when I was preparing for this bill, there was no consistent body of research that one could point to from credible, peer-reviewed sources that really hit a lot of these claims home. That is something we should look at.
A lot has been made about the plain packaging. I would like to take some time to talk about that as well and make a similar point.
The parliamentary secretary, in his introductory speech on this bill, talked about how Canada was lagging behind. In the past we had always been a world leader in legislation that aimed to reduce tobacco usage. He said that Canada had ceded the mantle of world leader in tobacco control to other countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom, that they had been quicker to adapt tobacco control efforts to address the always changing stories tobacco companies used to recruit new smokers, and that it was the government's intention to once again make Canada a world leader in tobacco control. The he went on to talk about the plain packaging component.
Australia has put in place plain packaging. On the surface, this is probably worth exploring, but there are associated consequences with it that we do not have a lot of research on, including the potential correlation between the introduction of plain packaging and an increase in contraband tobacco, as has been discussed at length in the House.
As always, when we as legislators use data from other jurisdictions, I sometimes feel we do ourselves a disservice, and I will get to that in a minute because there is not a lot of quantifiable data on that link one way or the other from other jurisdictions. Canada is in a fundamentally different context than a country like France. We are more geographically diverse, we have different problems with contraband, and we also have a higher rate of contraband being a problem.
At committee stage, it is worth it to perhaps bring in more experts who could speak to the problem of contraband and how the legislation with plain packaging could impact that and then amend the regulatory framework in such a way that perhaps the component could be addressed.
When I read the debate, one of my NDP colleagues asked the parliamentary secretary about this issue and the response was that the Liberals had a strategy to deal with it, which is administered by the RCMP and other agencies. I think that strategy actually turns out in March of this year. I have a concern that if this legislation comes into force and we have not adequately thought about the specific measures we need to implement within combatting a contraband framework unique to Canada, while layering on the additional pressure that the plain packaging regulations in this might have, we will do Canadians a disserve.
To emphasize the point of how much contraband is an issue in Canada, an article was posted by CBC in November 2017, which says “Contraband tobacco 'out of control' in Ontario, convenience store lobby says”. It says:
|| More cigarettes smoked in Ontario this year are contraband than in the last four years, a study released Wednesday by a group of convenience store owners in the province suggests. The study found especially large percentages of contraband cigarettes in northern Ontario. In the cities near Hamilton, the largest increase by far was in Brantford, where contraband cigarettes accounted for half of the cigarettes smoked, up from 36 per cent last year. In Hamilton, 31 per cent of cigarettes smoked were contraband, up from 25 per cent a year earlier. Across southwestern Ontario, contraband cigarettes rose to 33.9 per cent from 26 per cent in 2016 — the highest proportional increase in the four regions of the province studied.
|| The Ontario Convenience Store Association commissions the study every year, where researchers sweep a sample of about 100 butts from high-traffic locations like schools, hospitals, malls and casino in 23 cities. Then the group analyses whether the cigarette was contraband or was legally sold.
|| The group's president...told CBC News he acknowledges the survey isn't scientific, but said it does get at the trend without relying on consumers, stores or distributors to be honest about whether their smokes are legal.
The reason I wanted to put that on the record is that there is another theme there. He acknowledges that the study is not scientific. We hear on the news that there is an increase in contraband, but we do not really understand how widespread the problem is. This is one sample in one region of the country. It is important to note that Canada has regional differences in tobacco usage. Without having that framework, how can we possibly look at strategies to prevent the distribution of contraband products?
Again, this is a helpful suggestion as the bill goes to committee. It is incumbent upon the government to look at, as the framework for combatting contraband is potentially renewed or whatnot in March, the research on how much contraband is a problem should come to bear.
Perhaps the government could partner on with companies that are doing behavioural research on tobacco consumption using artificial intelligence technology. A lot of new companies are working in this space. Perhaps we could start looking at a better model on how we monitor this.
We love to regulate in this place. It is kind of our first reaction to any sort of policy problem. However, my concern with the implementation of the proposed legislation is that without the associated metrics or a system to measure the efficacy of the legislation, we really cannot tell our constituents whether what we have put in place here is working.
In looking at the proposed legislation, the government has not put a lot of information out to parliamentarians about the cost of implementing the framework. I do not even understand how the government would implement this framework. Therefore, I would like to see my colleagues who will study the bill at the health committee really question departmental officials about how they plan to implement it, over what time period, and what metrics the government will be using. What are the end goals? Is the government stating that the legislation will see x percentage of reduction of tobacco usage over a period of time? If so, how will the government measure that and what sort of quantitative analysis will it put in place to do that?
Again, my review of this shows that there is not a lot of framework out there or research being done on this. My concern, and I am showing my Conservative colours on this, is that we should not be moving directly to regulation without having that framework in place. We should be able to communicate to our constituents, when we put in place regulation, how much it will cost to implement and how we will measure it against stated end goals, which is kind of lacking in the bill.
On the surface, I do not oppose plain packaging. If the data is there to show that it reduces tobacco usage, then it we should probably explore this. However, my question is where is that data right now. The closest thing I could find in another jurisdiction was in France where it has had plain packaging regulations. Official data published on January 29 by the French agency shows that plain packaging has not had an impact on smoking rates. Indeed, according to l'Observatoire français des drogues et des toxicomanies, in the course of 2017, sales of cigarettes remained stable with a slight decrease of a 0.7% in volume after a 1.3% increase in sales during the first half of the year. This study was conducted between August 4, 2017 to January 29, 2018, so this is fresh data.
This failure was acknowledged by the French health minister, Agnès Buzyn, who stated, “We know that plain packaging does not lead smokers to stop smoking.” She concluded that “unfortunately in 2016, the official sales of cigarettes have increased in France. Plain packaging did not contribute to the decrease of official tobacco sales.”
The French study is worth examining at the committee stage. Also, when we do that, we should look at the regional context. What sort of factors does France have that might be different from Canada with respect to tobacco usage and contraband increases?
Whenever we seek to put regulations in place, we should be able to clearly define what we hope to see as the measurable policy outcome, which I am not sure has been stated here; how much it is going to cost; and then how we would measure success.
We need more robust research, and I would like to see the government put that in place prior to implementation of this framework.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to the bill. Before I get started, I want inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Today, I would like to talk about the bill from three perspectives. I want to talk about the present rate of smoking, whether plain packaging will work, and the relationship between tobacco use and marijuana use.
I am going to start with the present rate. I have some good news. Smoking has been on a downward trend for about 50 years. That is the case. Over the last 10 years, we have seen the usage rate drop about 10%. I expect we will continue to see this as smoking becomes less and less culturally acceptable.
Why are we discussing this here? One of the reasons I got into politics is that I often think the government takes on things that it has no business taking on. This is another area where we have to look at whether the government even has a responsibility to worry about whether Canadians are smoking.
In Canada, we have public health care. It is not necessarily administered by the federal government, but a big part of our budget does end up getting transferred to the provinces. I know in my own province, 50% of Alberta's spending is spent on health care. Therefore, because of all the money we collectively spend on health care, we then collectively get to infringe upon the freedoms of others and say, “No, sorry, you cannot do that.”
Fortunately, we do not throw people in jail for smoking, but we do exert a lot of social pressure and some legal pressure to ensure that people are not smoking. In my own life, I do find that smoking is a filthy habit. I have several people close to me who smoke. I give it no credence whatsoever. I have no problem publicly shaming them for smoking, and even people I do not know very well. I must say it is part of Canadian culture. If somebody is overweight, people definitely do not say anything about it. However, if somebody smokes, it seems to be fair game to tell them that it is a filthy habit that they should give up. That is entirely the case.
That social pressure, that legal pressure, and the fact that we have public health care, all three of these things seem to be working to reduce the rate of smoking in this country.
As I said earlier, in the 1960s, and I was not around in the 1960s but I have read a few things and my notes tell me, about 50% of Canadians smoked. Today, I am told it is about 13% of Canadians who smoke. I would say that whatever we are doing seems to be working.
Then we come to the plain packaging that is being introduced by the current bill. Will plain packaging work? If we listen to the NDP members, they say it will definitely work. What does working look like? What will success look like? If we are seeing a downward trend in the percentage of the population that is smoking, then after we introduce plain packaging we would expect to see a significant, sudden decrease. We would expect to see this trend line going in one direction, and then with the introduction of plain packaging we would expect to see a blip, hopefully in the downward trend. That has yet to be seen, and I do not think that we are going to see that.
The other thing about plain packaging that I would like to point out is that from the examples of the plain packaging that I have seen, I am pretty sure that I could make a plain package on my home printer. That is going to be a gift to the contraband community. In the province that I come from, the province of Alberta, contraband is not as big of a deal because there is not a lot of tobacco being grown in Alberta. The contraband tobacco that does come to Alberta comes from far away.
The contraband that I have heard of in Alberta is typically packaged in the plain packaging. It is typically in a package that has no identifying marks on it whatsoever. Unlike in other jurisdictions where contraband is often seen in a plastic bag, in Alberta it seems to come in plain packaging. Therefore, plain packaging will be a gift in that now if we see someone with plain packaging we know immediately it is contraband, whereas if everybody has plain packaging we will not know what is contraband.
This overlaps with the marijuana debate that we are having here, and I am not sure who I got this from but someone sent this to my office and put “Tobacco” and “Marijuana” on either side of it. What is interesting is that the person points out that the plain packaging or even the shape and size of tobacco, the appearance of cigarettes, these kinds of things, are all highly regulated by the government, yet when it comes to marijuana there does not seem to be any interest in regulating what, how, or why this product is going to be consumed. Granted, I know that marijuana is consumed in more ways than just smoking, but it is interesting that in this Parliament we are debating the legalization of marijuana and putting in higher restrictions on cigarettes.
One of the other interesting things, as we are debating this and the government seems to be supportive of this particular bill, is that the government is bringing in plain packaging for cigarettes yet does not have any kind of advertising or packaging rules around marijuana. This particular picture shows me some of the examples of the marijuana packaging, which looks like candy packaging, and then it shows a picture of cigarettes. I do not know if it is the same in every province. In Alberta, flavoured tobacco is illegal, but I know that the tobacco packages are the most disgusting things one has ever seen, and 75% of the package is covered with a health warning label. The example here is a picture of someone's mouth with their teeth rotting away. I think that would be more effective than plain packaging. Then there is an example of the marijuana packaging, which has no health warnings on it and does not seem to have any indication that this might be affecting people's health.
Interestingly, marijuana may have even more detrimental effects to one's health than tobacco. Tobacco affects one's physical health. Marijuana may also affect one's mental health. However, the government has been silent on the warnings that are going to be on the packaging. It says that there will be some level of branding allowed.
We have seen that members of the Trailer Park Boys and the Tragically Hip have all signed on as ambassadors for marijuana branding, but the Marlboro Man has long been outlawed in this country. It is interesting, for the sake of consistency, that we would be working on that.
Another so-called sin tax area that we deal with is alcohol. Again, there are fairly strict guidelines as to the advertising of it, yet there does not seem to be anything when it comes to marijuana. Therefore, it seems that we are very much moving quickly in one direction with one particular item and totally in another direction with another item. This strikes me as odd, particularly given that I like to think that the free market has a lot of benefits. The free market gives us everything that we need. I would say that we need to allow the free market to flourish, but I again go back to the fact that we have public health care in this country so we have the right to impose upon each other these health restrictions.
I look forward to seeing what happens to the bill at committee. I understand my party will be supporting it being sent to committee. I certainly hope that the folks on that committee take into consideration the present rate and the declining rate, that they look at the effects that plain packaging will have on the contraband world, and that they will consider the current government's direction with its marijuana legislation and in some way try to keep it consistent with other products in this country.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to add my comments to the debate on Bill , an act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. After reading that very long title, people might be wishing to go back to the days of the Conservative government, when we had very catchy phrases for our particular pieces of legislation.
There are three components I would like to focus my comments on. One is vaping; the second is the intended plain packaging; and the third is the issue of flavours. If there is a little extra time, I might have some general comments on public health and the approach it is taking.
In May 2015, there was a unanimous report from the health committee. I was on the committee at that time. We worked hard, and we said that we needed a regulatory framework on vaping. We presented 14 recommendations to the government in May of that year, looking forward to the government's response. The report was unanimous and said that we needed a regulatory framework. As we know, there was an election a short time after that, and the government of the day did not have the opportunity to respond and move forward.
I find it interesting that this was in the mandate letter of the minister when the Liberals were first elected way back in the fall of 2015, a few short months after this unanimous report was presented with recommendations, and it has taken almost three years to get this particular piece of legislation to the stage it is at now. It speaks to how long it actually takes the government,when it sets something as a priority in the mandate letters, with a lot of the background work already done and a consensus within the House, to get what it says is a priority to the table. There are recent articles showing how ineffective the government has been in passing legislation, especially on something that has pretty solid support, such as the framework on vaping.
The government can never leave things simple, and it had to add a number of other issues to this piece of legislation, which I will talk about a little later. With regard to vaping, it is absolutely appropriate that there be some structure around it. Things like prohibiting the sale to minors, prohibiting promotion of vaping products that appeal to youth, and submitting information to Health Canada are all sensible pieces of moving this forward.
I know that some of my colleagues have mentioned this, but it is important to note. The member for , as many know, is in hospital right now, and all of us in the House wish him a very speedy recovery. It speaks to his dedication and passion for what goes on in Parliament that he has been watching the debate and sending messages to all of us as we are coming up for our opportunity to speak, asking whether we have seen a certain article or whether we are aware of this or that. I want to say to the member for Cariboo—Prince George that we wish him well. He should make sure he gets enough rest because he said he was going to look for a better balance.
I will bring to the attention of members the article he sent. It is very recent, from January of this year, and it is entitled “Teen baseball player’s stepmom calls for stronger vaping regulations after his death”. He was 14 years old. He was found collapsed in the bathroom with some vaping products beside him. Of course, his death cannot be directly attributed to them. The story is about his going to the hospital and how he died shortly thereafter.
However, it is enough to raise a caution. It is enough to say it was a young man who was exposed to a product, so there certainly are some things that we need to perhaps look at and watch from there, which really speaks to the fact that we might have a regulatory framework that is in place to provide some protection, but there is an actual need to continue the research.
I do not think anyone has talked to this particular issue. Right now it is a bit of a no man's land in terms of people selling products that are illegal, but here is a recent study that talks about the importance of research and knowing what is in the products that people are vaping. It links chemicals in flavoured e-cigarettes to a respiratory disease that is called popcorn lung. Right now people need to be very cautious because there are no controls in place in terms of what they are actually inhaling.
|| A chemical found in the vast majority of flavoured e-cigarettes tested by researchers in a new study has been linked to severe respiratory disease. The study out of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, released Tuesday, tested 51 types of flavoured e-cigarettes and refill liquids, known as e-juice.
It was actually a couple of years ago.
“ln our study we focused on flavours we feel are appealing to children and younger consumers,” the study's lead author Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science, said. “Flavours like Waikiki watermelon, alien blood, cupcake and cotton candy.”
The researchers said the flavouring chemical called diacetyl was found in more than 75% of the products tested.
This goes back to popcorn factories where people working there were getting a debilitating respiratory disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, and it is known as the popcorn lung. It is very serious and often can require a lung transplant—an irreversible lung disease.
What is concerning about that is smoking damages the lungs over a long period of time, but the effects of diacetyl and the creation of popcorn lung is much more rapid and much more concerning. It can be ingested, but when it is inhaled into the lungs, it is certainly a problem. We know it is in e-cigarettes. In the U.S. there are more than 7,000 flavours on the market, many of them containing this. Health Canada has not yet regulated e-cigarettes, so that is a word of caution for people who are using the product.
This leads me to the flavours issue. One of the things that our government committed to in the last Parliament was to ban the flavours that were appealing to youth. I know there were chocolate, strawberry, and banana flavours that were on the market and very appealing to youth.
At that time we had a pretty significant discussion and debate about menthol. There was a suggestion that we should also ban menthol, and the decision at that time was that menthol had been in cigarettes for many years; it is a product that is legal in Canada; it is a product whose risks adults who choose to smoke are aware of. They have chosen and used menthol cigarettes for years, and we thought it was unduly unfair for the government of the day to ban menthol.
I notice in this legislation that the new government has decided to go ahead with that. Perhaps members need to hear from people, especially adults, who had a lot to say about that issue, when a different decision was made in the past. I certainly agree with the issue around the strawberry, chocolate, and banana tobacco, but menthol was something we did consider.
There is not a lot of time, and the plain packaging is the final area that I want to note. We hear that it might be very helpful. We hear that it has not made a difference.
Coming from British Columbia, I did not realize how much of an issue contraband tobacco was until I came to this House and heard from my colleagues from Ontario. It was a pretty consistent conversation we had. The other thing is that, for the first time in my life, I saw these bags of contraband tobacco. Of course the Canadian government policies significantly impacted the contraband tobacco industry. There needs to be a very thoughtful conversation in committee on that particular issue.
In general, we support this going to committee. We think there are a few areas that perhaps need some additional consideration.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I am speaking in support of Bill to amend the Tobacco Act to include and regulate vaping products and strengthen our hand in the fight against tobacco use.
As my colleagues mentioned earlier, the NDP has worked and collaborated with different governments in the past 30 years to promote and implement the principles underlying this bill. In 2009, the NDP introduced a bill restricting the labelling, packaging and sale of flavoured tobacco, prompting the Conservative government to legislate on the issue.
We have no choice: every year, 37,000 Canadians die from a tobacco-related disease. Tobacco use is the number one avoidable cause of disease and premature death in Canada. Think about it: every 14 minutes, someone dies from using tobacco.
The big tobacco companies want to maintain their profits despite the fact that products containing nicotine are responsible for the current situation. They lied for decades, trying to mask the harmful effects of smoking on public health. That is why it is clear that we must adopt strict and extremely explicit rules and that we must apply them to tobacco and vaping products as soon as possible.
A particular concern of mine as a former teacher is the question of plain packaging and these products’ appeal to young people. Unfortunately, too many young Canadians smoke. Approximately 17.17% of Canadians age 12 or over smoke every day. On average, smokers smoke their first cigarette at around age 13. The tobacco companies are always seeking new ways of attracting young people and promoting customer loyalty. Because we know that nicotine is addictive and that a third of all smokers die from tobacco-related diseases, we must take the matter seriously and pass legislation as soon as possible to prevent other young people from starting smoking and becoming addicted to tobacco products.
We also know that the tobacco companies can be extremely imaginative when it comes to designing packaging and developing techniques to make their cigarettes appealing. For example, they use pastel colours to attract women, one of their target markets. They also associate words like “sexy”, “beauty”, “fun”, and other terms related to the high life in bars with cigarettes. This gives tobacco products a falsely positive image.
If these health issues are not enough, the economic aspect might be of interest to my colleagues. The three largest tobacco companies in Canada made $25 billion in profit in 2015. Meanwhile, the direct and indirect health costs associated with tobacco use are approximately $4 billion per year in Quebec alone. We could repair hundreds of schools and thousands of potholes if we did not have to pay companies to make money from an addiction they themselves cause. These figures and many more can be found on the De Facto website.
Plain packaging helps make cigarette packages less appealing, particularly to adolescents and young adults. This was tested in Australia. The findings were clear: there was a significant decrease of several percentage points in the rate of tobacco use. In New South Wales, the most populous state in Australia, tobacco use among young people plummeted from 23.5% to 6.7%. In Toronto, former Australian minister Nicola Roxon explained to the press how effective the plain packaging law was in reducing smoking in Australia. Since the initiative was implemented in 2012, the number of smokers has dropped by 100,000. Proportionally speaking, we could see 190,000, that is, almost 200,000, fewer smokers in Canada. It is unbelievable. When we speak of tobacco-related diseases and deaths, we are talking about human lives that can be saved by implementing measures like these.
The tobacco industry knew that it would lose profits. For example, Philip Morris Asia sued the Australian government based on clauses in an investment treaty between Hong Kong and Australia. In its press release, the company explained that plain packaging was damaging to its intellectual property and used other spurious arguments to oppose the law. It tried to circumvent the law and manipulate the public, as it had done with nicotine. Finally, its arguments were totally rejected by the highest Australian court of law, and, apparently, the company has been making smaller profits in Australia since then. That is not entirely surprising.
This anecdote reminds us how important it is to bring in plain packaging as soon as possible, and also to be cautious when signing free trade agreements, so that companies like Philip Morris Asia cannot try to undermine our legislative arsenal protecting the health of Quebeckers and Canadians.
The second point in the bill is the regulation of vaping products, the so-called e-cigarettes. The NDP knows that this new technology is a promising harm-reduction tool to help people quit smoking. However, we do not have clear information about the long-term effects of vaping, and we need some in-depth research. We hope that this information will come over time, as the Standing Committee on Health studies this bill.
However, the benefits of this product are still debatable, since little is known about some of the products. Vaping products may contain nicotine, which is still a public health hazard. The department prohibits their importation and has seized a number of products at the border, which shows why we need to do more to limit access to products containing nicotine.
Some methods used to sell e-cigarettes, such as adding flavours, are the same as those used to sell tobacco. Banning some ingredients used to make these products taste better was a good first step, but this bill unfortunately does not prohibit all tobacco flavours, such as menthol. We must limit added flavours as much as possible to ensure that vaping products truly help lower the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Another positive element in the bill is the restriction on the promotion of these products and on the addition of certain ingredients that could be perceived as healthier. Children and youth need to be protected from harmful advertising campaigns. As long as the long-term effects of vaping remain unknown, they cannot be declared safe. We need to apply the precautionary principle, restrict access to this product, and not allow companies to slip in additives, such as vitamins, in an attempt to make the product seem healthy when it is not.
Any regulatory framework for e-cigarettes must seek to maximize the potential benefits of these products as a means of reducing the harmful effects of smoking, while limiting their potential health risks and restricting access for youth.
Today is January 30, 2018. The Liberals need to speed up the passage of this bill. In 2015, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health released a report entitled “Vaping: Toward a Regulatory Framework for E-Cigarettes”. The Committee had held eight meetings and heard from 33 witnesses. The report contained 14 recommendations, including a recommendation that the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework that would set maximum levels of nicotine, among other things.
Thanks to this report, we already had all the information we needed to implement this bill. However, the Liberals waited more than two years to present us with a bill, and they tabled it in the Senate instead of the House of Commons. I will say it again: passing this bill could save lives. I hope we will be able to pass it quickly and improve it along the way.