Second reading of Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other ActsPublished on 1 March 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Jane Cordy
Hon. Jane Cordy:
Honourable senators, the debate on Bill S-5 is adjourned in the name of Senator Seidman. I spoke to her earlier today to say that I would be speaking, and I ask that it remain adjourned in her name after I finish today.
Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. According to Health Canada, Bill S-5 will take measures aimed at preventing Canadians and, in particular, young Canadians from developing nicotine addiction. It will also allow adults to legally access safe vaping products using what Health Canada calls “a likely less harmful alternative to tobacco use” through establishing national regulations.
This will include taking pre-existing regulations and restrictions on tobacco products and extending them to vaping products as well. Certain flavours and ingredients appealing to youth will be prohibited. Promotion of vaping products will be brought in line with current tobacco restrictions and persons under 18 will be prohibited from purchasing vaping products.
Bill S-5 continues the efforts of the federal government to keep cigarettes and other tobacco products out of the hands of children while at the same time making these products less attractive to adults. The strategy is to reduce the visual appeal of tobacco products by implementing mandatory plain and standardized packaging of all tobacco products.
The standardized plain packaging strategy has been implemented, or is in the process of being implemented, by several nations. Canada would join Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and France, who all have some form of plain packaging legislation. Health Canada has indicated that they are looking to Australia’s model when developing their plain packaging strategy. Bill S-5 will lay the groundwork to allow Health Canada to develop and implement a made-in-Canada approach to standardized plain packaging for tobacco products.
Bill S-5 will also bring into force much-needed regulation in the growing vaping industry in Canada. Over the last several years, the vaping industry has grown considerably and the pace of growth does not appear to be slowing down. Because of parallels of the tobacco industry and the emerging vaping industry, I believe it is appropriate to regulate vaping products under the Tobacco Act. The act will be rebranded as the “Tobacco and Vaping Products Act” if Bill S-5 passes.
Honourable senators, I must admit that, like Senator Petitclerc, I knew very little about vaping or vaping products, and how they are sold and marketed, before Bill S-5 was introduced. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to vaping products, but as I continue to read and hear more about these products, I am concerned that they are too easily finding their way into the hands of young people. Unfortunately, it appears that in many cases the vaping products are being marketed directly to Canadian youth. This is similar to the practices of the tobacco industry in the past.
My understanding is that data from scientific studies of vaping and the health effects of vaping is still emerging. I believe it is important that regulations and policies be put in place in a timely manner and in a way that can be easily adapted as the science catches up to the industry. It is essential for the federal government to act now. E-cigarettes have been around since at least 2004 and their use and sale has been largely unregulated. I am pleased to see this legislation. We should be proactive when it comes to the health of Canadians.
We hear that vaping “most likely” is a less harmful alternative to smoking and may provide a method to wean off smoking altogether. As scientists and experts study the issue and as the science catches up with the industry, I am cautiously optimistic that vaping will be proven to be less harmful than smoking, but at this time, it is dangerous to assume that vaping possesses no health risk at all. Unfortunately, we also hear that the reverse could just as easily be true and that vaping could be used as a vehicle to introduce young people to smoking. When it comes to marketing these products in the future, it is essential that the claims of these products are supported by the emerging science on the health effects of consuming these products. This can only happen under a federally established regulations system.
The establishment of such a system is not just good policy for the health of Canadians; it is also beneficial for the industry as well. Guidelines will allow the vaping industry to develop responsibly and to put manufacturers and retailers on a level and fair playing field. Senator Petitclerc mentioned in her speech that some in the industry felt that there was a “Wild West” element to the industry. This could probably open the door to unscrupulous practices in the industry, which could only bring harm to the industry. If passed, Bill S-5 would establish regulations to provide for a safe and fair vaping industry. I believe Bill S-5 will set out clear guidelines and provide for a flexible regulation regime which can adapt as the science and the industry evolve.
As a lifelong non-smoker and a smoke-free advocate, I have spoken many times in this chamber against smoking, and I have been very supportive of the legislative efforts of governments to reduce smoking rates in Canada. I congratulate previous governments for their work and particularly in bringing forward legislation that discourages young people from smoking.
In 2009, I spoke in this chamber on another bill introduced by the previous government that amended the Tobacco Act. At the time, a trend in the tobacco industry was emerging to produce and market flavoured tobacco products. Little cigars, or cigarillos, and blunt wraps were being marketed with fruit flavours such as grape, cherry, peach, banana split and tropical punch. It was clear that these products were meant to appeal to young people. Bill C- 32 banned the use of flavours and additives in tobacco products, and it passed the Senate unanimously and received Royal Assent.
Honourable senators, we now have vaping products readily available in the marketplace that mirror the flavoured tobacco strategy of a few years ago. A quick Google search and you can find hundreds of flavours of vaping products. Most of the flavours are variations of fruit and candy that certainly seem designed to appeal to young people.
According to Health Canada, in 2015, studies indicate that 26 per cent of Canadian youth aged 15 to 19 reported having tried an e-cigarette. This number is up from 20 per cent in 2013. These numbers are concerning. Health Canada has made great strides over the last 30 years combating smoking rates in Canada and the smoking uptake rates of young Canadians. The new vaping industry has the potential, if unchecked, to undo this progress. As the vaping market continues to grow, the number of young people trying e-cigarettes will likely continue to grow. The potential of children turning to tobacco products after starting with vaping is a genuine concern.
The statistics are clear. Tobacco use continues to be the leading preventable cause of premature death and disease in Canada, and 37,000 Canadians die each year from tobacco use. The statistic that Senator Petitclerc used in her speech was that one Canadian dies every 14 minutes from tobacco-related causes.
It is no secret that the vast majority of habitual smokers begin when they are adolescents. Statistics show that 115,000 Canadians started smoking in 2015. As a non-smoking advocate, I feel that this number is still much too high and I applaud the government for bringing forward this piece of legislation. We must head off the unregulated manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of vaping products before it has a chance to drastically undermine decades of Health Canada’s efforts in fighting Canada’s smoking rates.
I feel it is essential to the future health of Canadians that access to these products, the marketing of these products and the manufacturing of these products is regulated. That is, I believe, important not only for Canadians but also for the industry.
Honourable senators, Bill S-5 is a significant piece of legislation. Many stakeholders, such as tobacco manufacturers, tobacco retailers, vaping manufacturers, vaping retailers, consumers, law enforcement officers, health officials, health practitioners and scientists, are going to be affected by this bill.
Currently, there is a tobacco industry lead PR campaign on radio and billboards opposing the plain packaging proposed by Health Canada. The tobacco industry is raising an alarm about the effect plain packaging will have in fuelling the counterfeit contraband tobacco industry. There have been several pieces of legislation brought in by previous Liberal and Conservative governments that I have supported in the Senate designed to curtail the contraband tobacco trade in Canada. The Australian government, which has a fairly restrictive plain packaging regime in place, has reported no significant increase in criminal activity or increase in the contraband tobacco trade directly related to the change. It is the Australian approach that the Canadian regulations would model.
Honourable senators, I look forward to hearing more about vaping and the vaping industry and how best to regulate the industry using scientific data so that access to vaping products is done in as safe a way as possible for all Canadians.