Once again, I'd like to thank the committee members for inviting me here this evening. I'm very pleased that you are studying this piece of legislation, as it's extremely important. Thank you so much for your hard work.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be here this evening to speak about Bill S-5. I want to begin by thanking the committee members for the work they have done to help shape this bill.
Your report entitled “Vaping: Towards a Regulatory Framework for E-cigarettes” highlights the necessity to protect young people from the dangers of nicotine addiction while giving adults smokers access to vaping products as a less harmful nicotine source. Bill S-5 responds to this report’s recommendations; your efforts served to clarify important provisions of the legislation.
Colleagues, the necessity to update existing tobacco legislation is quite obvious. As you know, smoking remains a very concerning public heath issue in Canada. Despite decades of progress, tobacco-related diseases kill 45 000 Canadians each year, or one person every 12 minutes. These statistics are very sobering and, as Minister of Health, I find them unacceptable. As such, our government is trying to reduce smoking rates in Canada from 25% in 2015 to less than 5 % by 2035.
As we work towards this goal, we need to recognize that tobacco use in Canada is changing. Vaping products such as e-cigarettes are becoming more popular. From a public health perspective, we believe this poses both challenges and opportunities.
Bill S-5 strikes the right balance between protecting Canadians and leveraging the potential benefits of vaping products. It also addresses an important need by establishing a new legislative framework for the regulation of these products. This bill is a key element of the government's broader tobacco control agenda, which includes taking further action to ban menthol in tobacco products, implementing plain packaging requirements for tobacco products, and, finally, modernizing Canada's approach to tobacco control.
Since it was introduced, Bill S-5 has been thoroughly examined and amended. Last spring, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology embarked on a rigorous scrutiny of that legislation. It heard evidence from 22 witnesses representing 15 organizations, including consumer advocates, tobacco and vaping industry representatives, public health experts, academics, and government officials. Their invaluable comments clarified many recent amendments to the Bill under consideration today.
Many experts feel that vaping is a less harmful alternative to smoking. I have heard from Canadians who believe that vaping helped them quit smoking. Nevertheless, we must be cautious. There are risks to consider. Stakeholders have told us that they worry about how vaping products could affect young people. I want you to know that we share their concerns. We must ensure that the availability and prevalence of vaping products does not induce young people and non-smokers to develop nicotine addictions, which could lead them to start smoking.
That is why Bill S-5 would prohibit the sale of vaping products to youth under the age of 18, in line with the current minimum age of tobacco sales. Protecting youth from the dangers of nicotine addiction is a top priority of mine. I share some of the concerns expressed by the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control and others, especially regarding lifestyle promotion.
We do not allow lifestyle promotion of tobacco products, and we do not intend to allow it for cannabis products. To protect youth and non-smoking Canadians, I intend to support an amendment that would prohibit all lifestyle promotion of vaping products.
That said, I understand the potential of vaping products as a harm reduction tool. Marketing based solely on factual information will be allowed, with restrictions. For example, there are concerns that certain flavours could potentially make vaping products more appealing to young people. We recognize that some adults prefer flavoured vaping products, but we also know that certain flavours could attract youth to vaping, something that we absolutely want to avoid.
For this reason, Bill S-5 restricts the marketing and promotion of flavours such as candy, which would be appealing to youth. We have already taken significant action when it comes to flavoured tobacco by expanding the ban on menthol to cover 95% of all tobacco products. Bill S-5 was amended to go even further, to ban the use of menthol and clove in all tobacco products. We believe these measures will help protect Canadian youth from the serious, long-term health effects of nicotine addiction and tobacco use.
As I mentioned earlier, Bill S-5 has also advanced our objective of imposing plain and standardized packaging for tobacco products. Thanks to increasingly binding federal directives, the tobacco industry's capacity to attract new smokers, especially among young people, by promoting and advertising tobacco products has greatly decreased. In fact, packaging is one of the last restricted channels in which to do such advertising.
Research shows that promotion through packaging and product design is particularly effective with teenagers and young adults. Coloured packaging that includes logos, textures, and brand names can have a huge impact on young people at a stage of their life when they develop brand loyalty and adopt a smoker’s behaviour.
Conversely, plain packaging was shown to reduce access to tobacco products, especially by young people. Ninety percent of daily adult smokers over the age of 25 smoked their first cigarette before the age of 18. That is why tobacco-control leaders around the world focus on the plain and standardized packaging of tobacco products.
I think that we can all agree that tobacco companies should not be allowed to use packaging to make a harmful product more attractive. It is still important to adopt Bill S-5 in order for Canada to also implement those important and effective tobacco control measures.
In conclusion, Bill S-5 is a well-researched and balanced piece of legislation. It aims to protect young Canadians from developing nicotine addiction and from using tobacco. At the same time, it would allow adults to legally access vaping products as a less harmful alternative to tobacco. In addition, this legislation supports our government's efforts to implement plain and standardized packaging of tobacco products.
Bill S-5 reflects the considered opinions of many stakeholders, including public health experts, industry representatives, consumer advocates, and academics. The results of this strong piece of legislation will allow us to regulate the growing market for vaping products and advance the tobacco control agenda.
Thank you so much for your attention here this evening. I'd be absolutely pleased to take your questions.