Canada's Original Think Tank

Message from Commons on Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Message from Commons on Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Message from Commons on Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Hon. Jane Cordy: 

I was going to adjourn the debate, but, instead, I’ll read through the papers on my desk and make some comments. Honourable senators, I used to be a teacher. I usually like to have a speech in front of me. So, if it’s a bit disjointed, I apologize beforehand.

In this bill, things changed considerably. I was the critic for the independent Liberal side. Things changed quickly with this bill between second reading and third reading, and I found the tone and the content of the senators who spoke on it changed even within that period of time.

In the almost a year since this bill came to the Senate and went to the House of Commons, it has changed again considerably. It’s unusual, too, that we have a government bill that starts in the Senate.

It’s the reverse. The House of Commons is usually getting our amendments. In this case, we got the amendments from the House of Commons. I was really pleased to see that the House of Commons committee looked at this and came forward with some changes to the legislation.

I’ll give you just a sense of some of the changes that were made, some of the amendments that were made in the House of Commons.

Give power to the Governor-in-Council to allow, in the future, vaping substances that are available by prescription to be exempt from the youth access restrictions. This simply means that if a young person has a prescription that can be taken through vaping, then they will be exempt from the youth access restrictions, which is a positive thing.

We know that the new tobacco heating devices have appeared on the market since the introduction of Bill S-5. These amendments restrict the promotion and design of these new devices. When I had representatives from the government in my office, they were showing me that, in fact, some of the new heating devices could be in different shapes that would be attractive to young people. We know the whole purpose behind the vaping legislation was no flavours, no ads that make vaping attractive to young people. In fact, one of the advantages, we think, of vaping — and this is all pretty new — is that it will stop people from smoking. We don’t want people to become interested in smoking through the vaping process.

One of the really good amendments, I thought, was lifestyle advertising. The bill said lifestyle advertising was to be allowed in targeted mailing and to be allowed in places that adults would frequent. That would be bars, for example. The House of Commons decided that they wanted all lifestyle advertising prohibited, and Senator Seidman referred to this earlier. I happen to think that’s a very good amendment. Again, we go back to how things have changed just in one year in terms of vaping, which is relatively new.

We know that an amendment was made to allow the export of the product with additives that are not allowed in the Canadian market. The amendment allowed that if foreign markets want that, then the industry would be able to export it to use to send it to other markets outside of Canada.

We know also that one of the amendments they brought forward was that vaping devices that are currently in the market don’t meet the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations. That simply means the tiny little containers on the vaping devices will, according to regulations, eventually have to have childproof tops on them. Again, because it’s relatively new, they are saying that they will allow this for a reasonable period of time, and then producers will all have to meet regulations. They are only given a temporary exemption.

So, honourable senators, I actually congratulate the House of Commons for the job they did on this bill.

I appreciate the comments that were made by Senator Patterson. It was interesting, this morning, in Energy. You said the same thing. The devil indeed is in the detail in terms of regulation, but, if it were to go back to the committee, you would only be dealing with the message, just the message, not the regulations, not what should be in the regulations, simply the message that came from the House of Commons.

Honourable senators, I have gotten phone calls in my office from the Canadian Cancer Society. I have also gotten a letter from the Canadian Cancer Society. I’ll read part of it into the record: It said:

On behalf of the Canadian Cancer Society, I’m writing to express our support for the amendments to Bill S-5 adopted by the House of Commons. We would urge you to concur with these amendments.

In fact, one of the phone calls that I got yesterday said, “We know that you spoke on second reading and third reading on this bill; if you’re going to speak, Senator Cordy, would you please do it today? We don’t want this bill delayed any longer.” So the letter is very similar. It goes on to say:

While many of the amendments are technical in nature, perhaps I could highlight two amendments that were approved by the Standing Committee on Health, with all party support and with support from health organizations. The first of these is an amendment to ensure that all lifestyle advertising for vaping products is banned. The bill had banned most lifestyle advertising from vaping products associating with fashionability, status, masculinity, femininity, et cetera, but there were a few exceptions. The amendment removes the exceptions that had allowed lifestyle advertising in some places, such as bars and publications.

The second of these is an amendment to establish regulatory authority that could require health warnings be placed directly on cigarettes and other tobacco products themselves, consistent with international guidelines. The bill already contains such regulatory authority for vaping products, and the amendment would ensure that there is parallel authority for tobacco products as well. This amendment would also help deal with contraband, as required markings would identify products intended for legitimate sale in Canada, thereby further assisting enforcement authorities.

Because of that, I will be voting against the amendment made by Senator Seidman, in light of what I have read about the bill, in light of what I read about the amendments, in light of briefings that I received and, most importantly, in light of the phone calls and the written letter that I have received from the Canadian Cancer Society. So I will be voting against this amendment made by Senator Seidman, and I will be voting in favour of the motion by Senator Harder that we deal with this bill today.

The Hon. the Speaker: Do you have a question Senator Seidman?

Senator Seidman: Will you take a question, senator?

Senator Cordy: Yes, I will.

Senator Seidman: I appreciate all of the points that you made, and I will say that the points that I spoke to are all issues that are addressed by this message, all of them. They are addressed to the amendments that were made by the House of Commons.

Now, I will ask you a question because I do believe and agree with you that the advertising component is critical, especially advertising around our kids. Health Canada’s own briefing note, from 2016, says that a number of studies now link e-cigarette ad exposure with a significantly greater likelihood of e-cigarette use among youth. So, indeed, there has been a better restriction on lifestyle advertising to youth.

However, the regulations are not yet written, and they have left the doors open, as things exist, to advertising for preference of brand and information advertising.

So my question about the change in the amendment that was made by the house is this: Instead of leaving the door open, without the regulations being written, why not restrict all advertising to kids — not just lifestyle advertising but all advertising — until the regulations are written?

Senator Cordy: I agree with the Canadian Cancer Society. I would like the bill dealt with now.

I’ve been in this chamber for 17 years. I’ve not ever had a bill with the regulations before me. It would be great to have all the regulations in front of us, but we do have to allow some flexibility in framework legislation.

Regarding lifestyle advertising, I think the amendment that they made on the other side to ban it completely was a very positive step. If we had wanted all advertising banned completely, then maybe we should have thought about doing that on the Senate side when it was over here. I think the lifestyle ban, a complete prohibition, is a step in the right direction.

We do have the Scrutiny of Regulations Committee, and I know that Senator Patterson said they’re far behind. Perhaps those who are members of the Scrutiny of Regulations Committee are going to have to sit more often, as many other committees in this chamber are doing in times like this. But we do have a process in place. We do have a Senate committee in place to look at regulations that are being brought forward.

Senator Seidman: Question, Senator Cordy: Are you aware that Scrutiny of Regulations only looks at regulations after they’re published and written? They don’t look at regulations before they’re written.

Senator Cordy: That’s a good point. I think it’s really important that those of us who have spoken to the department officials and those of us who have great concerns about this keep a close eye on it, monitor it and make sure the regulations that are coming forward are consistent with what we believe.