House of Commons Hansard #287 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was smoking.

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The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

There being no amendment motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

(Motion agreed to)

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Mrs. NDP Carol Hughes

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

April 27th, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise today in support of Bill S-5, an act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Over many months, this legislation has been reviewed, amended, and enhanced. Canadians have weighed in on the proposed approach. Our stakeholders have shared their feedback, and both the Senate and the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health have conducted detailed reviews.

Today, I am pleased to rise in the House to share the results of all of that excellent work.

I will begin my remarks by reminding the House of why this important legislation is necessary. Next, I will describe how Bill S-5 has been strengthened to better protect youth, particularly since its review by the Standing Committee on Health. Finally, I will talk about what comes next.

Let us begin with why we need the legislation.

Canada has made outstanding progress over the past 30 years in reducing smoking rates. Our success speaks to the effectiveness of a strong regulatory approach. Nevertheless, tobacco-related illness continues to kill 45,000 Canadians every year. That is one person every 12 minutes. These statistics are alarming and unacceptable. That is why our government is working to reduce tobacco use in Canada, from 15% in 2015 to less than 5% by 2035.

As we work toward this goal, we need to recognize that tobacco use in Canada is changing. The tobacco market today is very different from what it was 30 years ago. Vaping products have changed the landscape and are becoming increasingly popular. From a public health perspective, this poses both challenges and opportunities.

Bill S-5 strikes the right balance between protecting Canadians and recognizing the potential benefits of vaping as an alternative to smoking. It also addresses an important need, by establishing a new legislative framework for the regulation of vaping products.

The bill is a key element of the government's new vision for addressing tobacco use, which includes taking action to ban menthol in tobacco products, implementing plain and standardized packaging requirements for tobacco products, and modernizing Canada's approach to driving down tobacco use.

Budget 2018 has made additional investments of $80.5 million to support this strategy. Between these new funds and our existing efforts, the Government of Canada plans to invest close to $300 million over the next five years with the goal of helping Canadians who have an addiction to tobacco, and protecting the health of young people and non-smokers.

We know that money alone is not the answer. We need to ensure that our approach is based on evidence. We need to listen to the experts and learn from what they tell us. That is why, since its introduction, Bill S-5 has been studied so extensively.

From the public consultation process to strong committee review, our government has heard from a wide range of stakeholders on the bill. This includes public health experts, industry representatives, consumer advocates, and academics, and their valuable feedback has informed the amendments to BillS-5.

In particular, I would like to express my very sincere thanks to the Standing Committee on Health and all of its members for its careful review of the bill. Most notably, the committee made amendments to prohibit lifestyle advertising for vaping products. This means that all lifestyle advertising, anything that associates a product with a way of life that includes glamour, recreation, and excitement will be prohibited. This will better protect our youth and non-tobacco users from being enticed into using vaping products, which could lead to the use of tobacco products and to the renormalization of smoking behaviours.

In addition, the bill was amended to provide regulatory authority to require information, such as health warnings, to be displayed on individual tobacco products, including on individual cigarettes. This amendment will align the approach for vaping and tobacco products. It may also be used to improve consumer awareness of the health hazards and health effects associated with the use of these products.

Protecting youth has been a key concern to stakeholders throughout the consultation process. It was a guiding principle as we drafted the legislation. In particular, many stakeholders have told us they worry about how vaping products could affect young people, and we share their concern.

Experts agree that vaping is harmful but less harmful than smoking. Although I have heard from Canadians who tell us that vaping has helped them quit smoking, their role in smoking cessation has yet to be substantiated. Thus we must be cautious. We must ensure that the availability and prevalence of vaping products do not lead young people and non-smokers to start smoking and to develop nicotine addictions.

That is why, upon royal assent, Bill S-5 will make vaping products legally available only to Canadians over the age of 18. This includes prohibiting vending machine sales and putting measures in place that require retailers to ensure that products purchased online are delivered only to adults.

The bill also includes measures that will ensure vaping products are not glamourized to appeal to young people through slick marketing promotion efforts. For example, there has been a great deal of discussion about how certain flavours could potentially make vaping products more appealing to young people.

We recognize that some of those smokers prefer flavoured vaping products, but we must also acknowledge that these flavours can draw youth to vaping, something we wish to avoid. For this reason, Bill S-5 would restrict the marketing and promotion of vaping product flavours that could appeal to youth, such as candy.

We have already taken significant action on this front by expanding the ban on menthol to cover 95% of all tobacco products. Bill S-5 would take further action by banning the use of menthol and clove in all tobacco products. These measures would help protect Canadians, particularly Canadian youth, from serious long-term health effects of nicotine and tobacco use.

Bill S-5 would also advance our goal of implementing plain and standardized packaging for tobacco products. Thanks to increasingly restrictive measures put in place by governments in Canada, the tobacco industry has few options left to advertise and promote its products to recruit new users. Packaging is one of the last remaining channels for the promotion of tobacco products to youth. That is why this is being addressed.

Research has shown that promotion through tobacco packages and products is particularly effective with adolescents and young adults. Colourful packaging that includes logos, textures, and brand images can have an enormous influence on young people at a time in their lives when they are establishing brand loyalty and smoking behaviour. Research has also shown that plain and standardized packaging reduces the appeal of tobacco products, particularly among youth.

This is why countries all around the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, and more than 20 others, are either considering or have introduced requirements for plain and standardized packaging for tobacco products. I think we can all agree that tobacco companies should not be able to use packaging to make a harmful product appealing. Bill S-5 would put that principle into action.

As I have outlined today, the bill has been studied extensively. It has been shaped by expert opinion and reviewed by all our colleagues, both in the House and in the other place. As a result, Bill S-5 is before us today as well-researched and balanced legislation, and is part of a comprehensive new vision for addressing tobacco use.

Bill S-5 would meet the needs of a wide range of Canadians by addressing today's tobacco market. It would protect young Canadians from the risks of tobacco, while at the same time allowing adults to legally access vaping products as a less harmful alternative to smoking. It would also support our government's efforts to implement plain and standardized packaging of tobacco products.

If passed, Bill S-5 will position us to protect our youth, reduce tobacco use, and ultimately save lives. With Bill S-5 in place, Canada can once again be a world leader in tobacco control and preserve the health of Canadians for many years to come.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, I was one of the members on the Standing Committee on Health who worked on this legislation. It is important that we all bring our ideas on how to improve a bill. However, we did bring forward quite a number of amendments and not a single one of them was accepted by the government.

Could the member comment on why that happened?

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, once again, my sincere gratitude to the member opposite for her very significant contributions to the work of the health committee. We very much value the contributions of all members of committee.

Quite a number of amendments were proposed, were discussed and debated upon, and voted on within that committee. We are convinced that the excellent work of the committee has informed a significant enhancement of the bill, and we express our gratitude for that. However, we also respect the role of the committee in determining which amendments it would bring forward and to make recommendations to the government. We respect that process.

Once again, I thank the member for all of her hard work.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, I hear a lot from my constituents about electronic cigarettes and vaping. Some people want to promote it as a safer way for people who need to get their nicotine and as a safer way to keep kids from cigarettes, but I also hear totally the opposite. There seems to be information on both sides, very conflicting information, as to whether they are safer or whether they draw kids in or keep them away from cigarettes.

Would the government commit to funding independent research on those effects so we can have credible answers to those very important questions?

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a concern we have heard from health professionals and academics. The need for ongoing research and the lack of research on the effects of some of these products was a matter robustly discussed by the committee as well. The government has made a commitment to ongoing research, and we believe that we are in an excellent position to adapt and react to that research as we gain more information about the potential harm from these new, emerging products.

I also want to assure the member that our government is taking a precautionary approach. Until the evidence supports their having healthful benefits, we are being very careful and cautious in placing appropriate restrictions on these products so as not to allow them to promote tobacco renormalization, particularly among our youth.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Madam Speaker, with the lack of clarity in the bill, I have a question. I am trying to understand the meaning of this bill. With plain packaging of cigarettes, what will happen to the contraband industry? What will happen to the future of cigarette sales in general where we still have to deal with the problem of contraband cigarettes?

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, the issue of contraband cigarettes is a significant concern for this government, because it is the way many young people are accessing tobacco products. We rely, again, on the evidence and experience of other jurisdictions in this regard. There is very strong evidence from Australia, in particular, that indicates that plain packaging has no deleterious effects on the increased use of contraband products. They also faced challenges there.

Our government remains committed to working with law enforcement authorities and others to reduce the incidence of contraband tobacco within our society. However, based on the evidence available to us, we do not believe that the introduction of plain packaging will have a negative effect on those efforts.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, there has long been a concern about flavoured tobacco drawing in youth who begin smoking it at an early age, and then we have other Canadians addicted. I am wondering if the member supports adding menthol and cloves as prohibited additives in all tobacco products so as to discourage young people from being drawn toward tobacco products because they find them appealing.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, in my remarks I said that we have already eliminated 95% of use. These regulations in Bill S-5 will enable us to prohibit the use of all tobacco products flavoured with menthol and cloves to address the concern she raises.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, my question focuses on youth and nicotine addiction. I have experienced, through my career working with youth, that they are often driven to nicotine addiction as a result of stress in school and in their lives, for example. I know that Bill S-5 addresses youth in particular with respect to the development of nicotine addiction. I am wondering if the member could expand on some of the things in this bill that would directly address nicotine addiction among youth.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, I share the member's concern about the effects of tobacco use on the long-term health of our kids. That is why this bill is a very strong step forward. It would enable us to restrict access to it by young people. As I mentioned in my earlier remarks, the government is also making significant investments in research and treatment to ensure that we achieve this not only through regulation but through significant investments in those kids and their health.

We also recognize that there are many social determinants of tobacco use in our society, and we see those social determinants not only through Bill S-5 but through the entire government agenda. We are attempting to address social conditions such as unemployment, poverty, and lack of access to adequate services, which have in many communities resulted in increased tobacco use. Through regulation, we are ensuring that tobacco products are not appealing to young people, but at the same time, we are making other significant investments to change the circumstances in which the choice to use tobacco products is made by our kids.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the vaping industry has grown quite significantly over the last number of years. When we have an industry such as that growing, the national government and other stakeholders, and I am thinking in particular of the provinces, need to look at how that industry is developing, especially when it comes to young people and others. I wonder if my friend and colleague could provide his thoughts on why it is so important that the government monitor industries such as that in the hope that we continue to go in the right direction.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, one of the things the government recognized, based on the evidence we heard in our consultations and from the witnesses who came before committee, was that there was some potential in alternatives to smoking, such as vaping, to be less harmful. However, we also heard that there was not yet a great deal of evidence as to what the actual health effects might be of vaping. That is one reason we have taken a cautious approach by putting what we believe are appropriate restrictions on the marketing of vaping products to make sure that Canadian consumers have health information and that young people, in particular, are not introduced to or having access to these products or having them marketed to them. It is to protect them from making that choice.

We heard a real concern that vaping could renormalize tobacco. We have made incredible strides in Canadian society in de-normalizing the use of tobacco. I think our kids recognize, in increasing numbers, the health risks tobacco usage represents to them. We do not want to change that path. In effect, we want to build upon it and continue to move forward. Therefore, we will continue to be very cautious with the use of alternative methods of ingestion that may not yet have the proven health benefits that are often promoted by the manufacturers.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on Bill S-5 regarding plain packaging and vaping.

Canada has come a long way in terms of smoking cessation. Over the last number of years, half a century or so, the smoking rate has been reduced from about 50% to 13%, and the Conservative Party has been a great part of that. During the time we were in government, we definitely promoted many plans and programs that promoted the cessation of smoking. In fact, at one point, we focused specifically on youth, because there was a concern that youth smoking rates were rising again. We were able to reduce those rates from 33% to less than 20%. I think we need to continue to march along and figure out how to reduce smoking among young people and, of course, all Canadians.

One of the things I find a little hypocritical about the government is that in the budget, the Liberals introduced $80 million to stop people from smoking but $800 million to get them to start smoking marijuana. I think that is a total misalignment, in terms of health outcomes, that we would want to look at.

In terms of studying the bill, it was actually quite an education for me. We got to see all kinds of little products. There is a lot of new technology that has been developed. I did not bring any of it today, of course, because we do not allow props, but to let members know, there is a myriad of new technologies coming forward.

There is something called the HeatSticks, which are little tobacco sticks that are not combusted. The sticks are put in a device that heats them so that there are fewer harmful products. It is for harm reduction, in terms of health.

We learned about vaping and vaping devices. There are many different kinds of devices. Some have evolved over time. There was a concern at one point about batteries exploding in certain devices.

We need to make sure that something is done with the vaping industry, because today the vaping industry is totally unregulated. In fact, it is illegal. We have a lot of stores that have sprung up all over the place, but there is no governance or oversight to prevent them from selling these devices to young people or from selling marijuana at the same time. Definitely we need to see this industry regulated, so I am happy to see that regulations would be brought in with Bill S-5.

Quite a number of studies were presented to us by the Canadian Cancer Society. It is one of many health organizations that support this proposed legislation. I believe that 362 health organizations have come forward in support of this proposed legislation.

Of the 150 studies that have been done, there are eight countries that have been looking to implement plain packaging, and they have seen a reduction in the number of people smoking.

In terms of trying to make the bill better, we brought a whole bunch of amendments, but not a single one was accepted by the government. Therefore, I will spend a little time telling members about the amendments we tried to bring so they understand why I am disappointed that they were not received well.

First, if we look to Europe and the U.K., there is an additive called diacetyl, which is used for flavour. It gives a buttery flavour. It was found in the popcorn industry to cause something they dubbed “popcorn lung”. It is a very serious respiratory issue. This additive has been banned. It is prohibited in both the U.K. and Europe, and we felt that we should learn from their experience. They have been looking into the vaping side of things for 10 years now. We brought an amendment to prohibit that additive here, which, of course, was rejected. I cannot imagine for what reason.

Another issue we brought forward was something we heard from those in the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry is obviously going to eventually go out of business as people stop smoking, and there will be some job losses. However, more importantly, the plain packaging that was recommended as the solution is the old sleeve packaging we used to have. Those machines that manufactured that old packaging were all sold, in some cases to the people who are providing the contraband today. In terms of ordering new equipment, that equipment is obsolete.

There is not a good enough timeline in the proposed legislation, which calls for it to go into effect right away. There is not enough time for these people to purchase new equipment and get it established to comply with the proposed regulations.

For that reason, we brought an amendment that would extend the time of implementation by 12 months in order to allow time for businesses to come onside and comply with the legislation. That, of course, was also not accepted.

We also were interested in making sure that people know about the harm reduction information that is available. There have been studies within the tobacco industry on the new technologies that the industry is bringing forward. In the U.K. there was a study on vaping that showed there was a 95% reduction in harm. It is important for people who are smokers to be able to get hold of the information that there is less harm in some of these products and that they can be an avenue for them to stop smoking, but the bill would not allow anybody except Health Canada or the Minister of Health to provide harm reduction information. We thought that doctors and folks involved in smoking cessation clinics should be able to pass on this information, so we brought amendments on that as well, which were, of course, rejected.

Another thing we wanted to address was the issue of contraband. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health indicated that it was not a problem in Australia, but we should point out that Australia does not grow tobacco. It has to import all of it. In Canada, we grow tobacco in quite a number of places, and the contraband problem that we have currently is quite severe. Thirty or forty per cent is the estimate across the country, and in some places like Ontario, 60% of the cigarettes are contraband. Contraband brings along with it organized crime and activities that we do not want. We are worried that implementing plain packaging would make it easier for people to produce contraband cigarettes, so we were looking at ways and technologies that could be used to mark the cigarettes or mark the cases to make sure that people are not able to counterfeit them.

Counterfeiters are very good at what they do, and we always have to keep ahead of the technology. We heard witnesses tell us that producers of contraband are even able to get hold of the CRA stamps that are put on government packages, or to copy them in some way. That was another amendment that we would have liked to see to make sure that those contraband protection technologies were implemented, but of course that was also not accepted.

In looking at all the different technologies, we wanted to make sure that the bill covered everything. Marijuana and marijuana-consuming devices were not really covered in the marijuana legislation, and in this legislation we did not cover marijuana at all, so there is a gap there. We should have made it much clearer as to whether we want people to vape marijuana. To my mind, that is still an outstanding question.

Overall, the bill itself had a lot to it. Many people came before us. The convenience store owners were really concerned. Today they do not participate in the vaping industry and they want a chance to participate, but they feel they may not be able to do that because of the way they are regulated. They have a good record in terms of making sure that young people are not buying cigarettes, so they already have a good protocol in place for doing that, whereas the existing vaping stores do not have that. We certainly want to make sure that the convenience store owners have the opportunity to participate and take advantage of all of this.

Some of the most interesting testimony that we heard was about how people are using vaping products. I mentioned that people are using them to get off smoking, but some other interesting ideas were also brought forward. I heard people talk about how those who are morbidly obese or diabetic and have cravings for sugar are actually licking cherry-flavoured or pie-flavoured vaping products to control their cravings for sugar and lose weight. That was fairly interesting as well.

When I look into the bill and the amendments that we brought, I feel that overall this bill would result in reduced smoking rates in Canada. I think it would do that. Over a 10-year period, Australia saw a 3% reduction in the smoking rate. It is not a huge thing and probably not the only thing, but it is important.

One of the things that concerns me about with vaping was testimony that 30% of young people have tried vaping, and of the 30% who tried vaping, 50% are likely to start smoking. That is why it is so critical in this legislation to make sure that we are not advertising vaping to children under 18 and that we have good controls in place to make sure that children under 18 are not getting hold of vaping devices, because if they do, they are likely to start smoking, and then we are back to the problem that the Conservative government previously addressed in terms of reducing smoking by young people.

Although I am very disappointed that the excellent recommendations brought forward in amendments from the Conservative Party were not accepted, I feel that the bill overall will reduce harm to Canadians, and the vaping industry will be regulated. Therefore, we will be supporting this legislation.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her remarks and for the excellent work that she always brings to the health committee. I understand when amendments are brought forward that there is always a bit of disappointment and frustration if one's amendment is not agreed to. However, I would commend the work in totality of the health committee and all of the evidence that they heard.

The question that I would ask the member is this. Given the nature of her remarks, I am in complete agreement with her that we need to take every measure possible to reduce the availability of contraband tobacco. It is one of the reasons I am a little perplexed by her strong advocacy for maintaining contraband cannabis. Perhaps she could explain why she differentiates between the two.

Tobacco and Vaping Products ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, we did not spend a lot of time talking about contraband marijuana during the Bill S-5 discussion. We talked mainly about the huge problem that we have today with contraband cigarettes.

It is no secret that many of the contraband cigarettes are produced at reserves across the country. It is an enforcement issue, because the reserves have the right to produce cigarettes; the problem is that other people are coming to the reserve and purchasing them. From an enforcement point of view, one has to either arrest everyone as they come out of the smoke shop or not do anything. If there has not been a successful solution on contraband cigarettes, then I doubt that we are going to see any successful solution elsewhere.

Contraband marijuana will be a significant problem. When we were doing the cannabis legislation, indigenous people testified that they will want the right to produce and distribute marijuana, so we may run into the same situation there. If there are no good solutions and none are found on smoking, then I do not think we are going to be successful in the marijuana area either.