The government introduced a ten-point plan to address the issue of youth vaping, including Bill 45, which increases the tax rates on vaping products. I commend the NDP government and the BC Liberals in their support of this bill. I am glad that we’re approaching this in solidarity as legislators.
However, as I said in my speech, it’s not enough to champion children’s health on single issues like vaping. If we want to take the health of children seriously, the greatest challenge in front of us is to act on climate change.
S. Furstenau: I’m happy to rise today to speak to the Taxation Statutes Amendment Act and to follow on the comments of the member for Kamloops–South Thompson, who has very passionately advocated for action on this file on vaping for a long time. He has been an effective voice and an effective advocate, and I appreciate the work he’s done.
I want to start with some of the things that were brought up by that member — in particular, education, as such an important part of the solution to vaping and the rates of vaping that we’re seeing, particularly amongst youth in B.C. and across the country. I think that it’s almost like a perfect storm or a perfect vacuum happened.
Our generation grew up as cigarettes became increasingly stigmatized and increasingly recognized for their dangerous health impacts. We were the generation that was fully educated about the problem and the dangers of cigarette smoking, and we recognized that we didn’t want to be smokers when we grew up. The education aspect of that was very effective.
Then I think to the film that came out, I think, in the 1990s. It was The Insider, and it was a film about the tobacco industry and the way in which they’ve operated and the description that they had for cigarettes, which was that a cigarette was a nicotine delivery system.
We now have a new nicotine delivery system on our hands. What we don’t have is any kind of preparation going into this quite sudden arrival of this new nicotine delivery system, which came packaged in neon and pink and purple and came in flavours like bubblegum and candyfloss, as was indicated.
I, as a teacher, only became aware of this new nicotine delivery system in 2012, when suddenly there was a puff of smoke in my classroom. I turned away, and I turned back, and I had no idea what this smoke could have come from or where it could have come from or where the smell came from. That was the first indication of what was to come as a tsunami, I would say, between 2012 and now.
The figure just indicated by the member for Kamloops–South Thompson — a 74 percent increase in one year in vaping use among youth — is a shocking figure. My children are also…. One is going into high school next year; one is in high school now. It is a significant problem in all of the schools that young people have access to this nicotine delivery system without the understanding or education of the impacts of nicotine, the high addictiveness of nicotine.
I remember, again, learning, when I was a teenager and talking with my friends about this…. We were shocked to know that nicotine was as addictive as heroin. Of course, in our minds, conflating nicotine and heroin meant that you didn’t want to touch either one of those things. I think that we now have a generation of children and youth that have grown up without access to that kind of regular education that we had the benefit of. We’re very much seeing the result of that now, and I commend the government, the ministers, for putting together this action plan.
I agree with the member for Kamloops–South Thompson that education really has to be the central piece of this, because education is how we change behaviours. It’s how we get outcomes that we want to see. It’s how cigarette smoking rates decreased to the rate that they had, as a result of that long-standing education that had existed.
Also, I think that when we are talking about this…. I appreciate the comments about the health of our youth and the health of our children. I spoke about this a little bit yesterday when I was speaking to Bill 38, the Climate Change Accountability Amendment Act.
I do want to bring up another significant health issue that we have facing our children today. There was a report that has just come out in the last few days from The Lancet, a highly regarded medical journal. That report stated that children born today will face a lifetime of climate change–related health problems. These health problems include low birth weight, neonatal death, lung problems, asthma, insect-borne diseases and vulnerability from extreme heat, as a starting point.
The member for Kamloops–South Thompson was saying that the health of children and youth is a non-partisan issue. I couldn’t agree more. We’ve seen the first vaping-related illness in B.C. confirmed four or five weeks ago. Within four weeks, the government comes up with a ten-point action plan. We are instituting new taxation. We are bringing in education. We are taking this very seriously.
Yet, the greatest threat to our children’s health is climate change, by a wide margin. On that, both of the other parties agreed in the spring to a significant amount of subsidy to the LNG industry in this province, which is a contributor to climate change. I think we need to wrestle with that. I’m asking every member in this House to wrestle with that.
I so applaud the passion of the member for Kamloops–South Thompson for his capacity to speak to this from his personal experience, from what he’s heard from parents and educators, and from what he sees, the risks. I think we all need to feel that same level of passion about the very serious risk that climate change poses to our children, to unborn children and to future generations of children. I want us to take that as seriously and as passionately as we are taking this issue, which deserves the action.
But I want us to wrestle. I want us to wrestle with where we’re at. I want us to recognize that, yeah, educators and parents and physicians are calling on us to make these changes to ensure that youth are protected from vaping products and understand the risks that those pose.
Children and youth are gathering in the thousands and tens of thousands and, around the world, in the millions, asking us, as decision-makers, to take seriously the risk that climate change poses to them, their lives, their health and their well-being in this biosphere that we depend on for all of us to survive.
What I hope we can see is that we recognize the importance of action to protect the health of youth and children on this issue. We have to very seriously ask ourselves: are we doing enough? Are we moving in the right direction on the greatest health issue in our existence as a species, and can we put the same urgency and the same non-partisan agreement on that issue as we are putting into this issue?
I just wanted to, once again, bring these together. I do commend the government. I commend the opposition. I am glad that we’re approaching this in solidarity as legislators. I’m glad that we are doing this work. I look forward to seeing the results, but I hope that we can recognize that if we want to take the health of children seriously, the greatest challenge in front of us is to act on climate change.