• April 18, 2024

Tobacco proposal like the curate’s egg

boiled egg photo
Photo by MacBeales

The packaging and product standardization aspects of the Canadian federal government’s proposal to amend certain acts include unlawful and flawed positions, and will be counterproductive in achieving its objectives, Imperial Tobacco Canada said in its submission to the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.

Bill S-5, which would amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-Smokers’ Health Act and would make consequential amendments to other acts, was introduced in the Senate in November. It combines two public policy initiatives in one piece of legislation: the legislative framework for vaping products, and the further regulation of tobacco products through provisions enabling the introduction of packaging and cigarette standardization.

“While we support the government’s public health objectives related to reducing the harm of cigarette consumption, we believe measures such as packaging and product standardization are counterproductive to the government’s stated objectives,” said Eric Gagnon, head of corporate and external affairs. “These measures represent an unprecedented assault on commercial expression and wholesale expropriation of an industry’s brands and trademarks that cannot be justified.”

In a press note, Imperial said there was no reliable evidence that standardized packaging would work and that such measures had failed to deliver any of the anticipated benefits in Australia, the only country that had fully implemented standardized packaging for any substantial length of time.

‘Instead the policy has led to unintended consequences that are adversely impacting the public, businesses and government,’ the note said.

‘There is no reason to believe that the result would be any different in Canada, especially given the nature and magnitude of its existing illicit tobacco product problems.

‘Through the standardization measures, Health Canada will provide a template for organized crime to flood the Canadian market with counterfeit products – and consumers, retailers and law enforcement will have no ability to distinguish legal from illegal products.’

But Imperial said that with respect to vaping products, it supported the framework introduced by the government in Bill S-5, with some notable exceptions related to discouraging their promotion through reference to harm reduction.

It urged prompt enactment of appropriate regulations governing the manufacture of these products.

“Contrary to packaging and product standardization, there is a wealth of evidence suggesting that using e-cigarettes as an alternative to conventional cigarettes can have an impact on public health,” said Gagnon. “The proposed legislation must allow manufacturers and retailers the ability to communicate to consumers reliable substantiated evidence about those new products and their reduced risk and harm reduction potential.”

Imperial said that if the focus was truly on public health, then the government should make the vaping products’ provisions of Bill S-5 the priority. “If the government is committed to improving public health, it would acknowledge the harm reduction potential of vaping products as an alternative to conventional cigarettes, and prioritize the introduction of clear regulations around these products,” said Gagnon.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Vaping Association (CVA) has come out in support of Bill S-5. Representatives of the CVA were said to have underscored the importance of including electronic-cigarette-specific amendments to the bill during a presentation before the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.

The CVA quoted Senator Chantal Petitclerc, the sponsor of the bill, as saying that it “strikes a balance between the harms from vaping products if they entice youth to develop a nicotine addiction and the public health benefit if they contribute to reducing tobacco-related death and disease”.

“This is why the government is proposing a flexible regime, one that can be adjusted as the science on vaping products develops,” he said.

The CVA said that it endorsed the government’s science-based approach.

CVA’s sister organization, the Electronic Cigarette Trade Association of Canada, also made a presentation to the Senate committee.