Madam Speaker, let me begin by extending my sincere thanks to the member for Sarnia—Lambton, our shadow minister of health, for her excellent work in this area, particularly with respect to Bill S-5, 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 S-5, 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 S-5 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 S-5 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 regular 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 S-5 in depth with the goal of protecting Canadians and Canadian youth, not protecting an industry or business that I believe should not exist anymore.