On Monday, April 20th at 5:15 pm the CEO of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association spoke to the Standing Committee on General Government regarding Bill 45.
Bill 45 has three components:
Ban on Menthol Tobacco
Vapour and E-Cigarette
Below is is a copy of the presentation that Mr. Bryans delivered to the Standing Committee:
I would like to thank members of the Committee for taking time to hear from the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, which represents over 7,000 small business owners and operators in Ontario. I am joined today by one of these small business retailers, Robert Di Pasquale, who operates Downsview Market in Toronto.
We appreciate the opportunity to provide the convenience store industry’s perspective on Bill 45, particularly regarding the banning of menthol tobacco – a product that has been sold to adults for over 60 years in Ontario, and impacts about 80,000 current menthol tobacco users.
As Committee members are likely aware, convenience stores are the largest retail provider of legal tobacco products in the province. Our retailers take this responsibility seriously, complying with all Health Canada and Smoke Free Ontario regulations pertaining to display bans, age testing, and more. We are the gatekeepers that prevent tobacco products from winding up in the hands of minors. If a retailer disobeys the law, they are immediately fined, and could havetheir store closed if they do not properly check for age. This is something our Association has always supported, and will continue to support.
It is because of this commitment to preventing youth smoking that I feel our Association must address some of the statistics that have come about through the Propel Study and others, relating to flavoured tobacco in Canada – and specifically with respect to menthol tobacco. Thus far, the OCSA has refrained from weighing in on the Propel study, which has been used by various groups and government officials as the rationale behind a menthol tobacco ban in Ontario. I want to clarify some of the statements and myths around this study, as well as present some data of our own.
Tobacco use by young people in Canada is at a historic low of 7% according to Health Canada. We can all agree that any percentage of youth tobacco consumption is too high. Until this number is at zero, there will always be work to be done to educate and change the next generation’s behaviours on smoking. However, 7% overall youth tobacco consumption is a very different number than what is cited in the Propel Study, which suggests it is double this amount. The important note here is that the Propel Study only measures tobacco use in a 30 day period – not prolonged use – however these statistics are driving policy decisions under the premise that it is the ongoing norm in the province.
With this in mind, the Propel Study data actually reveals that, of the 14% of Canadian youth who had tried a tobacco product in a 30 day period, 32% of that 14% tried a menthol product. That means that just under 4% of all youth in Canada had tried a menthol product in a month’s time. While it isn’t zero, 4% is far cry from the 30% number being cited by some groups.
Again, our position is clear that no young people should have any tobacco in their possession, but we feel a flavour ban is a band-aid solution to this problem. Instead, we propose that the Ontario government introduce a possession, consumption and purchasing ban on tobacco by anyone under the age of 19. This has been introduced in other jurisdictions both in Canada and the United States, and with proper enforcement, we feel this will over time change behaviour and attitudes towards smoking.
Should the Committee and government wish to proceed with a ban on flavoured tobacco products and menthol products, it is critically important that retailers are provided with a fair adjustment period to ensure that they can transition these products out of their stores. Removing these items immediately will result in a knee-jerk reaction from consumers to run to the black market, and we as an Association must be able to adequately educate retailers about this change so that they are compliant. As such, we propose a two-year transition period from the time legislation achieves royal assent for retailers to remove these products from their shelves. This is not an ideal outcome for our small businesses, but time to implement a change is only fair for our retailers.
I would like to close my remarks by briefly touching on the topic of electronic cigarettes. We agree with the government that convenience stores should be trusted to sell and handle these products, and that they should not be sold to minors. It is important that we maintain control of this emerging product category, and that they are only available for sale in licensed establishments which are inspected by local public health units. Opening up the sale of these products beyond our stores does not guarantee that age checks, display bans and other measures will be enforced. As this does represent a unique opportunity for our stores, we suggest that the Committee consider approving the sale of e-cigarettes containing nicotine until Health Canada have provided their official ruling on this matter.
Once again I would like to thank you for hearing from our Association today on this matter. Robert and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.