Madam Speaker, I am always very happy to stand in the House to represent the people of my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook. I describe the riding as a half-circle around the two big cities of Halifax and Dartmouth.
The riding has a very large population of veterans and military members. I am extremely proud to represent those individuals. Those veterans and military members make up 23% of the population, which is the highest in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia has the highest number of veterans and military members per capita in the country. Members can well understand why I am very proud to represent those individuals.
There is also a very large number of seniors in the riding. When I visit the various seniors groups, the work they do is quite impressive. Not only do they do all kinds of great things when it comes to volunteering, but they also have all kinds of events and activities taking place daily in their communities to support seniors. That is important.
There are fishing communities, like Eastern Passage. There are urban and rural communities. There is a good mix in my riding. I always want to underline those key issues and concerns.
I am pleased to speak to Bill S-5, a very important bill that came through the Senate. The bill would amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
It is important to note that we have done some really good work on prevention when it comes to tobacco. In the last number of years, we have seen a decrease in the numbers of smokers in Canada, from 22% to 13%. That is because of the various strategies we have used, including the markings and packaging, which I will talk about as well. However, we need to go further.
When we start to talk about vaping products, I have to be honest I do not have a lot of experience in this area. I have asked myself questions on many occasions, when driving or walking down the street and I see people using these vaping products. I have asked myself if these products include nicotine or tobacco. Sometimes I smell an odour like when someone is smoking a pipe. This allowed me to a little research to learn more about this product.
This bill focuses on two major areas. The first is a new framework for unregulated products. As I have said, the product is out there, but there are no regulation on it. We need to put some regulations on that.
The other aspect of the bill that I want to speak to is the plain packaging, because that is crucial. I believe we are heading in the right direction. When I hear “plain packaging”, I think about branding. So many things in the country and in the world if branded and marketed the right way will influence people to purchase it or try it.
Branding is so important. I think about James Curleigh who spoke last week about Levi's and the main strategies used to brand a product and make people want to purchase and use that product. That is why plain packaging is crucial. We have to take away the influence branding has. That is extremely important.
I believe we are the 10th country looking at changing branding and moving to plain packaging.
When we say “plain packaging”, the colour is gone, which is good. It is not as attractive. Perhaps the shape has changed and that may stop people from purchasing and using the product. It is not as flashy, but we can still put the necessary warnings on the packaging to show the other products it may contain.
The consultation that took place on the bill allowed 58,000 Canadians to speak about packaging, how they felt about plain packaging, and if they believed this was what we should be doing. A large majority of people supported it. I am extremely happy about that. I just shared with the members what branding and marketing could do. Therefore, if we take that away, we reverse the table on it, and we then head in the right direction. However, the consultation was crucial.
The next step is to put a committee together to work on setting the rules and regulations. Once that is set, then we will go back out and consult again. It is important to ensure we are in partnership as we move forward on this important bill.
I will now touch on vaping products. Again, my experience is limited in this area, but vaping has been going on for eight or nine years. As members know, once a new product comes online and the industry gets involved, it will continue to find ways to make the product more attractive, different, and we will see all kinds of versions out there.
This is where we need to ensure we are regulating, and there are two areas we will look at to to this. The product could fall under the Food and Drugs Act, which would mean for therapeutic use only. If it does not meet the therapeutic criteria, it would automatically fall under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. Therefore, we have two areas where it could be regulated.
The objective here is to ensure that young people do not have access to this product. We will set the limit at 18 years. The other reason we want to act on this vaping product is that adults already use e-cigarettes. I agree that information is still unclear and we do not have all the scientific evidence, but some facts clearly show that this product is much less harmful than cigarettes themselves. As a result, this strategy to establish regulations may allow people who smoke to use this product, and then to eliminate this type of product entirely. This is another strategy.
The other thing we need to really look at is the whole issue of public health. We know how much money we spend on health. Provincial governments and the federal government spend a lot of money on health. There are waiting lists for our hospitals. This is very important. If this can help reduce the pressure on our public health system, we should consider it as another success.
Let us look at some of the key provisions in the bill. The first, as I mentioned, is the age limit of 18 years or older, which is an important factor.
The second one is what we call machine dispensers. We have come a long way with machine dispensers. I do not remember, but some people who are older than I am have told me that they existed for beer at one time, way back when. We could get beer the same way we get pop. That was available. Then we had them for cigarettes, of course, but we will make sure that they are not permitted for vaping products as well. We are starting in a much further area or space than we did with other products that were also very damaging.
Other provisions have to do with mailing and delivery if people order online. We know that ordering online is a big thing now. I know my kids order a lot of things online. It has become another method for people to purchase products without having to wander around in malls and spend their day in different shops.
That is one way of purchasing a product, but when products are sent and delivered, it will be crucial to ensure that the person who is receiving the product at the delivery point is older than 18 years. Therefore, when people are purchasing, they may have to have a Visa in their name. I do not have all of the specifics, but when it is being delivered to the homes of people, we must make sure that the person who is receiving the product is over 18 years old. That is crucial.
Another restriction is with respect to promotion. When it is being promoted, companies would be able to use some promotion strategies because the risk is less. However, there are some limitations in that area as well that are crucial.
Another area that is also important is prohibiting flavours that are attractive to kids, such as candy flavours, and I would like to share something that speaks to that. While we do not propose to limit the flavouring ingredients that may be added, we do not want to see those flavours identified or promoted as things that are appealing to kids. It will not be permissible to offer e-juice, cotton candy, popcorn, candy cane, or other flavours that appeal to kids.
As we can see, those are some of the strategies that the industry could come forward with that could cause great problems.
With respect to the second category and the Consumer Product Safety Act, of course vaping products that do not have therapeutic claims would fall under this category and all of the regulations that come with it for tobacco, etc. It will also require the industry, if there are any malfunctions, fires, or explosions associated with the product itself, to report them to Health Canada so that Health Canada can also recall the product.
As members can see, we are definitely heading in the right direction. This is much better than what was out there, because there were no controls. These regulations will help us.
In conclusion, together these measures will help protect the health and safety of all Canadians, including the people who choose to use vaping products.
Bill S-5 is a critical piece of our government's tobacco control agenda and will help address one of the most challenging and enduring public health problems. Bill S-5 strikes a balance between the harms of vapour products that may entice youth and others to develop a narcotic addiction and the potential public health benefits that could arise from reducing tobacco-related deaths and diseases.
I urge all colleagues in this House to support the bill at second reading and to move it quickly to committee.