Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


March 9, 2015

Debate on Bill 14, the Tobacco Control Amendment Act

S. Simpson: I’m pleased to get the opportunity to join the debate on Bill 14, the Tobacco Control Amendment Act, 2015. What this piece of legislation does is deal with e-cigarettes. It deals with them in two significant ways. One is that it does ban the sale to young people, which is a good thing. The second thing that it does, of course, is it regulates how and where these products can be sold and used — also a good thing.

I think it is important to note — because as one of my colleagues said, I’ve received calls or contacts in regard to this from people who were under the perception that this was a ban on e-cigarettes — it’s not a ban on e-cigarettes. What it does do is put pretty strict regulation in about how and where they can be used. It does institute a ban, certainly, in terms of how young people can access this product.

It’s an important thing to do. I think we have a lot to learn about e-cigarettes still — particularly about the liquids that are used in the vapour process. We know there are a variety of options there. I don’t think we know as much about them as we need to, moving forward.

I’m hopeful that there will be lots more research and analysis from those with expertise as to what e-cigarettes do and don’t do and if they have benefits around smoking cessation or if they, in fact, create other hazards as well. We don’t have those answers right now.

As my colleague said earlier, I think the government’s decision to invoke the precautionary principle here and put in place these regulations and these steps makes a lot of sense. It makes a lot of sense at this point in time. It particularly makes a lot of sense for young people.

It is a bit of an interesting question, though, as others have noted. I received a letter yesterday, I guess it was, from one of my constituents who had been a two-pack-a-day smoker and had smoked for many, many years. He had tried the patch, had tried the gum. None of those things worked for him, but he moved to e-cigarettes. It has been reasonably successful in keeping him from smoking tobacco.

He feels that there has been a benefit for him, a benefit that he says his physician has recognized as well. That’s important. If it works for people — and it works for some people — I think that’s a good thing. I’m pleased that the legislation does afford the opportunity to acknowledge and recognize that.

[D. Horne in the chair.]

If there’s a prescribed approach, then it makes some sense, and we can move forward on that. That’s a positive, I believe, in terms of that. At the same time, I think that the jury is very clearly still out as to whether, in fact, e-cigarettes are an effective tool in any broad way for smoking cessation.

I’m sure there is going to be a lot more work done on that over time to try to determine whether it is an effective tool or not. As we look at that, we’ll deal with that tool.

For my constituent who has this concern because, as he tells me, this has worked for him to end his use of tobacco, to move to e-cigarettes, I accept that. For him, it’s been a positive. But that’s not what we see most e-cigarettes being used for now.

What we’re seeing is this as a tool…. Far too often — you see it in the advertising for it, the marketing for it — it really is, I believe, something that’s targeted at young people, the use of e-cigarettes. It’s something that has a little bit wrapped itself in the cloak of: “We’re an alternative to tobacco.” But at the same time, it has very much been marketed to young people as something that’s cool, as a recreation, as something they can use believing that it has no harm.

We can go back to when cigarettes appeared on the marketplace, and back for many decades after that, when I know — I was a smoker decades and decades ago — there was no sense that smoking really was harmful. It was just something you did. There was no harm in it. It was something you did. We learned over time that the harm is very, very real and in some cases very fatal.

Today young people look at e-cigarettes and say: “There’s no harm in this. It’s kind of cool, and I kind of like to do it, and that’s kind of neat.” We know that that’s not good enough. We know that we need to be more careful than that.

As my colleague, the previous speaker, said, at some point we need to be prepared to intercede here, step in when it comes to young people and put in place regulations and rules that ensure that they are protected, particularly when marketing….

There are so many out there in the world who are telling them: “This is now a cool thing to do. It’s cool, and it’s safe, so why wouldn’t you do it?” We don’t know if it’s safe. I think that the minister has been correct to take this step, to put this in place and to put that particular ban in place.

At the same time, for those people who don’t want to be exposed to secondhand smoke…. There are those who’ll say: “Well, there is no secondhand smoke around e-cigarettes.” That may be true, but that doesn’t mean they want to be exposed to this process either. What this legislation does, and I think does it quite correctly, is put in place the same framework of regulation around the use of e-cigarettes as would be used around tobacco.

I think, though, it’s important here…. I’m sure this is going to occur, because I’m sure that those people who do the research and who are looking at health issues and looking at the whole array of things that we do to ourselves these days — and e-cigarettes will be on the list — will be looking quite closely at how people are affected by this product. I’m sure that there’ll be a whole lot of looking at how we’re affected by the liquids that are used in these products and how that works.

My suspicion is…. As happens often with something like this, the product arrives on the market. It becomes clear that it’s become popular, and it explodes on the market. You have a whole variety of these products out there, and I’m sure that they are of varying and different qualities and that they do different things. We may find at some point that we need to actually regulate the product as to what it is and it isn’t. That may be a piece of legislation for another day, to look at that, but I think it is something that we need to look at.

The other thing that I do want to talk a little bit about…. I think this is the piece where you see that on this side of the House there’s a lot of support for what the bill accomplishes. There’s a lot of support for the effort the minister has made, in framing this piece of legislation, to address the question of e-cigarettes.

What you’re hearing on this side, and I’m going to add my voice to it, is the call, the ask, for the minister to
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think about the broadening of this legislation to address other factors related to the use of tobacco — and particularly, but not exclusively, tobacco and young people, to address that.

In particular, we’ve talked about flavoured tobaccos. We know that the federal government introduced legislation that dealt with some flavoured tobaccos — cigarillos, primarily. That’s a good thing. But I think the point that’s been made on this side of the House, and that I will make again, is that probably the most insidious of those flavoured tobaccos is the one that has been with us for the longest. It’s menthols.

I can think back and remember when I was a kid and I smoked. Sometimes you smoked menthols, because it tasted better than tobacco did. You did that. The same way that people would tell you that that filter on your cigarette helped to make sure that you weren’t getting carcinogens, they would tell you a menthol cigarette wasn’t as bad for you as a regular cigarette — neither of which is true, of course. It is flavoured tobacco, in the same way, as we have seen.

I know that the products are wide and varied. Our spokesperson on Health brought a bunch of products into the caucus room and showed us some of these products. You would never realize what you were looking at, at the time, but it was, basically, cigarettes. They are clearly targeted at young people, and menthol is clearly targeted at young people.

When you look and see that 30 percent of high school smokers smoked menthol cigarettes, that thousands and thousands of new young smokers are introduced through menthol cigarettes, the menthol cigarettes are nothing more than another flavoured tobacco product. They are nothing more and nothing less.

We know that the federal government took some steps, but they didn’t go all the way. We know that Ontario now has taken further steps and taken action around menthol.

I think what we’re saying on this side of the House in this discussion and what we’re saying to the minister is: “You’ve taken some important steps here in Bill 14. You’ve addressed some important questions about these products, around e-cigarettes, and about how they affect our young people. But there is another compelling issue that relates to the use of tobacco and the potential harm for all British Columbians, a harm that we know is marketed to young people. That is menthol products primarily — all flavoured products, but menthol products primarily.”

I know that our spokesperson will engage this further when we get to committee stage and that there will be more discussion around this in committee stage. But what we would hope is that the minister, who I know takes this issue very seriously, will look at this question about whether that is a step that needs to be taken and addressed.

While we know there is some debate around e-cigarettes…. Are they harmful? Aren’t they harmful? Which liquids for the vaping process might be benign, and which ones might be harmful? There can be a whole debate around that, and I’m sure that debate will be ongoing. There is no debate about tobacco. There is no debate that delineates menthol tobaccos from other tobaccos. We know that this is a product, tobacco, that hurts people and harms their health and can be fatal. We all know that, and I’m sure everybody in this House would like to see that problem addressed.

I know that the minister would be prepared to be one of the strong voices in saying that this is an issue that we need to deal with both in terms of health and just in terms of…. I know the minister looks at the cost pressures on health care every day and the impacts that smoking, potentially, has on the cost pressures of health care. I’m sure he looks at that every day, too, and gets told about that time and time again by the experts in the field.

I would hope that the minister will take this debate from this side of the House in the spirit that it’s meant, which is to encourage him to look seriously at amending Bill 14 to incorporate the issue around flavoured tobaccos — particularly with a focus on menthol, because it is so much the dominant issue when it comes to flavoured tobaccos — and look at whether there are changes that could be adapted here that would allow that to be incorporated in the legislation.

If the minister did that, I think we would be looking here at groundbreaking legislation that could be looked at across the country as compelling for accomplishing the objectives that are in front of us around this Tobacco Control Amendment Act.

I do hope that we might get there. I look forward to the discussion in committee stage and getting an opportunity to engage with the minister a little bit. My colleague the spokesperson and, I’m sure, others may be interested to understand the thinking about why that piece isn’t there now and whether the minister might be open and receptive to incorporation of it into the bill before the bill is adopted in this session.

I look forward to voting for the legislation, but I would be even more enthusiastic about voting for it if it was expanded to incorporate that area. On that, I will take my place and allow my colleague to join the debate.

http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th4th/20150309pm-Hansard-v21n5.htm

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