Bill S-5: Plain packaging for tobacco and vaping regulations
Bill S-5 creates a new federal regime to regulate vaping products and delivers on a government commitment to implement plain packaging for tobacco products.
Every year, 45,000 Canadians die from smoking-related diseases – and the harms of tobacco use leave a profound impact on many more. The government crafted Bill S-5 with two main goals: to create a new federal regime to regulate vaping products and to deliver on a commitment to implement plain packaging for tobacco products. The vaping regulations aim to strike a balance between restricting the use of vaping products among youth while also ensuring they are available to adults as a likely less harmful alternative to smoking. The legislation also limits the appeal of tobacco products by requiring plain packages. Plain packaging rules have been adopted, with variation, in Australia, France, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The Senate’s Role
The government bill originated in the Senate in November 2016, with Senator Chantal Petitclerc as its sponsor. During study at the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, the legislation was strengthened to advance the health and wellbeing of Canadians. One amendment, proposed by Senator Tony Dean, further prohibits the use of menthol and cloves as flavours in tobacco. “These flavours can make it easier for young people to experiment and become addicted to tobacco products,” he said. Another change, proposed by Senator Judith Seidman, requires the Minister of Health to review the legislation within three years and table a report on the review in both Houses of Parliament. Some technical amendments were also proposed by Senator Petitclerc. The bill was sent to the House of Commons for review.
The House of Commons built on study in the Senate to make more improvements to the bill. In addition to some technical amendments, such as aligning different statutes, the House of Commons made changes to the legislation in response to newly emerging scientific evidence on advertising and susceptibility. Promotional restrictions on vaping products were strengthened to protect youth and non-smokers from exposure to vaping lifestyle advertising. Sen. Petitclerc endorsed the House amendments when the bill returned to the Senate. “Every time someone dies from smoking, an entire family lives through a tragedy that could have been avoided. With this bill, we are trying to save lives, and every life counts. That’s why we need to support people who are trying to quit smoking and do everything we can to make sure that no one ever starts. I believe that Bill S-5, as amended by the other place, brings us closer to our objective,” she said. The Senate concurred with the House.