Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here today to speak about Bill S-5, an act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
For nearly 55 years, the Canadian government has taken a position on cigarette smoking and protecting the health of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. When mounting scientific evidence clearly and conclusively demonstrated that cigarette smoking was a contributing cause of lung cancer and coronary heart disease, so began a half century of addressing the public health problems of tobacco use here in Canada.
At that time, about half of Canadians smoked. Currently, there are two federal acts that address tobacco products and their use at the federal level: the Tobacco Act, administered by Health Canada since 1997, and the Non-smokers' Health Act, administered by Employment and Social Development Canada. More recently, in 2001, the federal tobacco control strategy was introduced in Canada. It focused on smoking prevention for children and youth, smoking cessation, and second-hand smoke prevention. In 2005, Canada became party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
I am very proud of the Conservative Party's record on reducing tobacco smoking. When the Conservative government implemented measures in this area, the number of young people in Canada smoking tobacco was cut in half. Today, through the concerted efforts of government, public health agencies, national and local advocacy groups, and schools, the number of Canadians who smoke has been reduced to just 13%.
Bill S-5 aims to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers' Health Act by adding and regulating vaping products as a separate class. The bill goes a fair distance in addressing some very important public health questions, but there are some instances where I feel it does not go far enough. This is why I hope it gets closer examination at committee.
I think everyone here agrees that smoking is harmful. We want to reduce the number of people smoking and the harmful effects associated with it. We need to make sure these products are safe for Canadians. We also need to make sure we combat the crime involved in all of the things the bill addresses. We need to be concerned as well about the many economic impacts we might see as the bill is implemented. The vaping industry today is fully unregulated, and that is a problem if we are concerned about vaping products getting into the hands of children, and rightly so. I would like the industry to regulate it and I support this part of the bill. The recommendation to only make vaping products available to those over 18 is a very good idea.
With this legislation, we are faced with a question of how to regulate a new product on the market, the e-cigarette. In fact, there are conflicting opinions in Canada about what to do at this particular juncture: regulate, wait for more evidence, or ban the e-cigarette.
Since 2015, the U.S. Surgeon General has issued recommendations to legislate standards for the manufacturing, distribution, marketing, and sales of e-cigarettes. The U.S. Surgeon General concluded that e-cigarettes are a rapidly emerging and diversified market class to deliver nicotine and flavourings, and presently surpass conventional cigarette use among youth. Bill S-5 would ensure that all restrictions of access and sale of tobacco cigarettes to those under 18 years of age would also apply to vaping products. These include the ban and sale of all vaping products to youth under the age of 18 years, no vending machine sales, and age verification with postal delivery for online purchases.
In addition, flavour ingredients that appeal to youth are prohibited, such as dessert, cannabis, and soft drinks. Also, the manufacture, promotion, and sale of vaping products with ingredients that give the impression they have positive health effects are prohibited, such as probiotics, caffeine, and vitamins. However, as of yet, no standards for maximum levels of nicotine contained in the vaping liquid have been established. I would encourage the committee to explore this through witness testimony, and here is why.
The Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey of 2014-15 found that 65% of students thought there was a “great risk” of harm from smoking traditional, combustible cigarettes on a regular basis. The survey found that only 12% thought there was “great risk” of harm from smoking e-cigarettes. Almost one in four students thought there was “no risk” of harm from using them once in a while and, sadly, one in six students had no idea whatsoever. Clearly we have our work cut out for us in educating young Canadians, which is why we cannot ignore standards for nicotine use in e-cigarettes.
There are four questions to be considered when examining the scientific evidence on vaping and e-cigarette health and safety: as I have already mentioned, as a gateway for youth to tobacco use; as an aid in smoking cessation; the toxicity of the emissions in the inhaled vapour; and potential risks from second-hand smoke exposure.
One concern is that the e-cigarette will actually serve as a gateway to tobacco addiction for young Canadians. A recent review by the University of Victoria suggests that tobacco use in the U.S., Canada, and other countries is declining significantly among 12- to 19-year-olds as vapour device use is increasing, unfortunately.
While three small studies have been done on the use of e-cigarettes as an aid in getting smoking down to the levels where it reaches almost zero, strong evidence is now lacking on whether or not there are serious adverse effects associated with e-cigarette use in the short term. The long-term safety of these devices remains largely unknown. There are also serious concerns about the health effects associated with vapour device emissions. I am positive vapour devices do not deliver tar, and their emissions do not contain 61 out of the 79 cigarette toxins; however, a recent 2016 study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology identified more than 31 compounds generated with vaporizers, and stated many more have yet to be identified. Second-hand exposure to vapour from e-cigarettes has been tested to some extent and is found to be less toxic than cigarette smoke as it does not contain carbon monoxide or volatile organic compounds. However, the vapour does produce a measurable absorption of nicotine in bystanders, and how to measure that risk is not yet clear. All reviews of second-hand exposure have called for more testing to clarify the conflicting findings on the emissions of particulate matter, metals, and other substances.
As we all know, the government is intending to legalize marijuana in about 150 days. I find it interesting that as we are trying to modernize regulations about smoking, the government, even though it wants to reduce smoking, has added marijuana smoking to its must-do checklist. The Canadian Medical Association has come out with studies that show the harm to young people, as their brains are still developing. They see a 30% increase in schizophrenia, psychotic disorders, depression, anxiety, and addiction in young people who consume marijuana once a week. Both vaping marijuana and smoking marijuana are harmful. If we are talking about reducing overall harm, particularly to our young children, we need to make sure we do not incentivize young Canadians to use vaping products with marijuana. I urge the committee to examine this important matter and to bring amendments to this bill that would include marijuana.
Bill S-5 is a complex piece of legislation that also implements plain packaging for tobacco products. There are some inconsistences here that I believe need to be addressed at committee. There is inconsistency in the approach of packaging marijuana versus tobacco, for one. There are also concerns about quality control and how we would make sure to protect consumers from contraband versus the well-regulated and quality-controlled production of cigarettes.
In 2012, Australia was the first country to legislate plain packaging for cigarettes. The outcomes there were twofold. On the one hand, the number of Australians smoking slightly decreased; on the other, incidents of contraband cigarettes increased from 10% to 26%. In my home province of Ontario, it is estimated that 40% to 60% of cigarettes sold are contraband. It can also be bought all over the province. There are important consumer health considerations within the contraband cigarette market. There have been numerous complaints about the content of some of the contraband tobacco. We have heard stories about dirt, bugs, and animal manure being mixed in. From a quality control point of view, if a cigarette has absolutely no markings on it, we have no idea where the product came from. More than one in three cigarettes purchased in 2014 was an unregulated contraband product. If the aim of Bill S-5 is harm reduction and one instrument is plain packaging, I really think the committee needs to weigh plain packaging versus the health and safety risks of organized crime and tobacco cigarettes.
While no one would argue against the need to modernize these acts, we must form a view that weighs all intended and unintended consequences of Bill S-5.
I know that my time is up and I look forward to questions from my colleagues.