Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to address what I would argue is a very important health issue for all Canadians.
It is estimated that every 14 minutes a Canadian dies from a tobacco-related illness, which is approximately 37,000 Canadians every year. Therefore, it is no surprise that this is an issue the government wants to move forward on. That is what this legislation is all about. It is about protecting the health and well-being of Canadians.
This is not a new issue. Many of us are from a generation that can recall the problems nicotine and smoking have caused over the years. I was a health critic for a number of years in the Province of Manitoba. One of the greatest expenditures in our health care system is related to tobacco or cigarette smoking, second-hand smoke, and so forth. Literally hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year on smoking-related illnesses in our health care system. One could argue that this is part of the economic or social cost, which is that much greater.
Through time, we have seen a great deal of changes. I recall that, when I was going through school, smoking was perceived as a cool thing to be doing. It was very much encouraged. We can recall watching television programs where often the actors and actresses were smoking cigarettes. At the time, it was perceived as an okay thing to do.
As years went on, we found out that not only was it not overly cool to smoke, but the science became clear with respect to the cost of smoking, the health cost in particular. Unfortunately that science came out far too late. A high percentage of our young people and adults were already engaged in smoking at a substantial cost to society.
Fast-forward from the days I went school to the time when my daughter and son attended school. There were more educational programs in place. There were student bodies leading the educational fight to discourage individuals, particularly young people, from smoking.
Canada at one time was on the leading edge in terms of providing necessary legislation, promotional material, and education for student bodies that highlighted the negatives of tobacco. There was a push on issues such as cigarette packaging and how to ensure the proper communication was out there to say it was not healthy to smoke. The government and Canadians as a whole really started to recognize that.
When I was younger there was always smoke in the air at my house. I was breathing in secondhand smoke every day. Today, many individuals will exit their house and go outside if they smoke because they understand the value of having clean air in their homes.
Through municipal, provincial, and national governments, and so many other stakeholders, we have seen changes over time of great benefit to non-smokers and ultimately even smokers as they have become more educated. Not that long ago, people were critical of putting a tax on tobacco. They said the government was raising taxes again by increasing the tax on cigarettes. They did not realize that the cost with respect to the consequences of smoking was much more than there ever was in terms of the revenue generated from cigarettes. It is in the government's best interests to see less people engaged in smoking and that has been well established for decades.
When we look at the legislation we are debating today, much like yesterday, when there was a great deal of support on an issue that was important for Canadians, this too is a very important issue that all Canadians are concerned about. It is an issue that all parties inside the chamber are sympathetic toward, and that is the issue of addiction and the cost to society that nicotine has had over the years and continues to have today. In other words, there is so much room for improvement and I believe that all members, no matter what side of the House they sit on, recognize that we can do more. This legislation is a positive piece of legislation.
Our government is committed to working with many different stakeholders to make a difference. When we talk about stakeholders, we are talking about the different levels of government, including Canada's indigenous people, as they work alongside the national government to look for ways to improve our situation overall.
In fact, there was a national consultation done just last year in which there was a report that was provided and targets were set. We talk about wanting to see an ongoing decrease in dependency on nicotine, or in the smoking of cigarettes. I believe the target was set at a 5% reduction over the next couple of decades. I think that is an applaudable approach and I would encourage others to get engaged in terms of establishing and supporting that particular target.
As it has been pointed out, the government has a very important role. In particular, I want to highlight the provinces. I made reference to when I was the health critic at the provincial level. The provinces, in many different ways, participate at a grassroots level in terms of the regulations and the legislation that they have put in place. I will be getting into the issue of vapour shortly. Many provinces have already introduced and brought forward legislation dealing with vapour. It is important for us to recognize the need for national standards, understanding, and better promoting those standards throughout the country, and also for developing a long-term policy that will make a positive and profound difference for all Canadians.
We look at it in terms of the government supporting different initiatives and working with, for example, our first nations and Inuit communities in the development and implementation of tobacco-controlled products that are socially and culturally appropriate. This is something that the government has already done.
However, today it is all about Bill S-5, which amends the Tobacco Act to regulate vaping products as a separate class of products. As such, the Tobacco Act would be renamed the “tobacco and vaping products act” and would include provisions to protect youth from nicotine addiction and tobacco use.
The new federal regime would regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling, and promotion of vaping products. It would include provisions to restrict sales to youth and to restrict the promotion of certain enticing flavours such as candy that may be used to get more young people to engage in vaping. The inclusion of provisions to restrict sales to youth and restrict promotion of certain flavours will have a positive impact. It will also enable the government to put in place regulatory measures to reduce the health and safety risks related to vaping products by requiring, for example, child-resistant packaging to help protect children from nicotine poisoning.
The issue of cigarette packaging is once again dealt with in this legislation. We know that there are some countries that have gotten ahead of Canada in terms of taking a proactive approach to dealing with this type of packaging. One of the countries that I think we need to look to is Australia. Even though we have seen other countries' approaches, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, and France, Australia has somewhat led the way in terms of the generic packaging or standardized packaging that has been brought forward.
Within this legislation we see that we have a government that is committed to looking at the types of things Australia is doing in regard to that standardized packaging. Once again, it is ultimately meant to discourage individuals from being brought into smoking in the first place.
We know there is a high percentage of 18-year-olds and young adults who begin smoking at a much younger age and dealing with the packaging issue would assist us in preventing some young people from smoking cigarettes.
The Tobacco Act would allow for requirements to be set out in regulations in this regard. Following the passage of these legislative amendments, regulations specifying requirements such as the permitted colour, font, and even font size on tobacco packages and products, and restrictions on the use of logos, graphics, and promotional information would need to also be developed. That is a major part of Bill S-5. It would enable the government to develop the regulations, which would bring us closer to what other countries are doing. It is the will of the Minister of Health to protect the interests of young people.
As for vaping, the key message that needs to be emphasized is that while scientific knowledge is still evolving on the issue, there is much more work to be done. There will be many more reports on the subject. It is clear that vaping products may bring public health benefits, if they reduce tobacco-related death and disease by helping smokers quit or switch completely to a less harmful source of nicotine, but it may also harm young people, in particular. That concerns me greatly.
I want, as much as possible, legislation that takes a proactive approach to the health of young people, the health of all Canadians but, in particular, on this issue, the well-being of young people. I believe there is a misconception today about vaping. People think vaping is a healthy thing to do and in certain circumstances, I suspect it is healthy, but there needs to be so much more research done on this. Until we see that additional research done so that we better understand both the good and bad of vaping, if we are going to err, I would rather err on the side of caution for better health.
A concern, for example, that I have is that many young people have led the fight in discouraging youth from cigarette smoking. To what degree is there an educational component for young people today about vaping? We know nicotine is being used in vaping and there is an addictive side to that. I would argue that we do not have enough information on the number of young people who may take up vaping, as an example, which would ultimately cause them to give up vaping and smoke cigarettes instead. There is a real risk of that and I have not seen information that clearly demonstrates that is not the case. That is why it is important for us to recognize the vaping industry, which is a growing industry. It is relatively new. The last 10 to 15 years is when it became quite popular in society. Now, with the many flavours offered and the imagery projected on the issue, it is a lure for many individuals, smokers and non-smokers alike, who look at it almost as a lifestyle issue.
I am not convinced that it is positive. In fact, I have grave concerns. That is why it is good that what we are doing in the legislation is bringing vaping under the tobacco legislation. I would like hear the different perspectives on that issue from members opposite.
Vaping has grown in popularity with the introduction of e-cigarettes. It is important that we recognize that vaping is an act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol, which is often referred to as vapour. This is produced by what is most commonly known as an e-cigarette, but there are many similar types of devices used for vaping. They do not produce tobacco smoke. Rather, it is an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapour, that actually consists of fine particles, and it is those fine particles we need to be concerned about. They can contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals that have been linked to many negative health effects.
Generally speaking, when we think of vaping, it is done with a device with a mouthpiece. There is a battery component, which often causes issues we should be concerned about. There is a cartridge containing the e-liquid, or the juice, and a heating component for the device, which is powered by the battery. That is the makeup of something used for vaping.
There has been a great deal of concern, and harm has been caused. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that the chemicals in these products may be dangerous. There are many health advocates who are recommending caution and are calling for additional research on the potential risks versus benefits. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the same drug found in cigarettes.
There was an NBC report that highlighted issues related to the nicotine and the cigarette aerosol causing bodily harm. A recent study conducted by the UNC School of Medicine highlighted that particular problem. The flavouring can target the very young.
I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts and concerns.