Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to add my comments to the debate 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. After reading that very long title, people might be wishing to go back to the days of the Conservative government, when we had very catchy phrases for our particular pieces of legislation.
There are three components I would like to focus my comments on. One is vaping; the second is the intended plain packaging; and the third is the issue of flavours. If there is a little extra time, I might have some general comments on public health and the approach it is taking.
In May 2015, there was a unanimous report from the health committee. I was on the committee at that time. We worked hard, and we said that we needed a regulatory framework on vaping. We presented 14 recommendations to the government in May of that year, looking forward to the government's response. The report was unanimous and said that we needed a regulatory framework. As we know, there was an election a short time after that, and the government of the day did not have the opportunity to respond and move forward.
I find it interesting that this was in the mandate letter of the minister when the Liberals were first elected way back in the fall of 2015, a few short months after this unanimous report was presented with recommendations, and it has taken almost three years to get this particular piece of legislation to the stage it is at now. It speaks to how long it actually takes the government,when it sets something as a priority in the mandate letters, with a lot of the background work already done and a consensus within the House, to get what it says is a priority to the table. There are recent articles showing how ineffective the government has been in passing legislation, especially on something that has pretty solid support, such as the framework on vaping.
The government can never leave things simple, and it had to add a number of other issues to this piece of legislation, which I will talk about a little later. With regard to vaping, it is absolutely appropriate that there be some structure around it. Things like prohibiting the sale to minors, prohibiting promotion of vaping products that appeal to youth, and submitting information to Health Canada are all sensible pieces of moving this forward.
I know that some of my colleagues have mentioned this, but it is important to note. The member for Cariboo—Prince George, as many know, is in hospital right now, and all of us in the House wish him a very speedy recovery. It speaks to his dedication and passion for what goes on in Parliament that he has been watching the debate and sending messages to all of us as we are coming up for our opportunity to speak, asking whether we have seen a certain article or whether we are aware of this or that. I want to say to the member for Cariboo—Prince George that we wish him well. He should make sure he gets enough rest because he said he was going to look for a better balance.
I will bring to the attention of members the article he sent. It is very recent, from January of this year, and it is entitled “Teen baseball player’s stepmom calls for stronger vaping regulations after his death”. He was 14 years old. He was found collapsed in the bathroom with some vaping products beside him. Of course, his death cannot be directly attributed to them. The story is about his going to the hospital and how he died shortly thereafter.
However, it is enough to raise a caution. It is enough to say it was a young man who was exposed to a product, so there certainly are some things that we need to perhaps look at and watch from there, which really speaks to the fact that we might have a regulatory framework that is in place to provide some protection, but there is an actual need to continue the research.
I do not think anyone has talked to this particular issue. Right now it is a bit of a no man's land in terms of people selling products that are illegal, but here is a recent study that talks about the importance of research and knowing what is in the products that people are vaping. It links chemicals in flavoured e-cigarettes to a respiratory disease that is called popcorn lung. Right now people need to be very cautious because there are no controls in place in terms of what they are actually inhaling.
A chemical found in the vast majority of flavoured e-cigarettes tested by researchers in a new study has been linked to severe respiratory disease. The study out of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, released Tuesday, tested 51 types of flavoured e-cigarettes and refill liquids, known as e-juice.
It was actually a couple of years ago.
“ln our study we focused on flavours we feel are appealing to children and younger consumers,” the study's lead author Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science, said. “Flavours like Waikiki watermelon, alien blood, cupcake and cotton candy.”
The researchers said the flavouring chemical called diacetyl was found in more than 75% of the products tested.
This goes back to popcorn factories where people working there were getting a debilitating respiratory disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, and it is known as the popcorn lung. It is very serious and often can require a lung transplant—an irreversible lung disease.
What is concerning about that is smoking damages the lungs over a long period of time, but the effects of diacetyl and the creation of popcorn lung is much more rapid and much more concerning. It can be ingested, but when it is inhaled into the lungs, it is certainly a problem. We know it is in e-cigarettes. In the U.S. there are more than 7,000 flavours on the market, many of them containing this. Health Canada has not yet regulated e-cigarettes, so that is a word of caution for people who are using the product.
This leads me to the flavours issue. One of the things that our government committed to in the last Parliament was to ban the flavours that were appealing to youth. I know there were chocolate, strawberry, and banana flavours that were on the market and very appealing to youth.
At that time we had a pretty significant discussion and debate about menthol. There was a suggestion that we should also ban menthol, and the decision at that time was that menthol had been in cigarettes for many years; it is a product that is legal in Canada; it is a product whose risks adults who choose to smoke are aware of. They have chosen and used menthol cigarettes for years, and we thought it was unduly unfair for the government of the day to ban menthol.
I notice in this legislation that the new government has decided to go ahead with that. Perhaps members need to hear from people, especially adults, who had a lot to say about that issue, when a different decision was made in the past. I certainly agree with the issue around the strawberry, chocolate, and banana tobacco, but menthol was something we did consider.
There is not a lot of time, and the plain packaging is the final area that I want to note. We hear that it might be very helpful. We hear that it has not made a difference.
Coming from British Columbia, I did not realize how much of an issue contraband tobacco was until I came to this House and heard from my colleagues from Ontario. It was a pretty consistent conversation we had. The other thing is that, for the first time in my life, I saw these bags of contraband tobacco. Of course the Canadian government policies significantly impacted the contraband tobacco industry. There needs to be a very thoughtful conversation in committee on that particular issue.
In general, we support this going to committee. We think there are a few areas that perhaps need some additional consideration.