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.