House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tobacco.

Topics

Message From The Senate

10 a.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed certain bills, to which the concurrence of this House is desired.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew for the Minister of Finance

moved that Bill C-26, an act to amend the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Excise Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Income Tax Act in respect of tobacco, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak in the House today to present Bill C-26. In fact my heart soars with enthusiasm.

Bill C-26, the tobacco tax amendments act, 2001, implements the tax elements of the government's comprehensive new tobacco strategy which was announced on April 5 by the Ministers of Finance and Health and the Solicitor General.

The new strategy is designed to improve the health of Canadians by reducing tobacco consumption, particularly among young Canadians. Briefly, it consists of increasing spending on tobacco control programs, tobacco tax increases to discourage smoking, and a new tobacco tax structure to reduce the incentive to smuggle.

The package has received positive support from health groups, such as the Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Alberta Tobacco Reduction Alliance.

My remarks today will focus on the new tax structure and tax measures which are contained in amendments to the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Excise Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Income Tax Act. Before I discuss the individual measures in the bill, I would like to take a moment to put the legislation in perspective.

All tobacco products manufactured and sold in Canada have federal and provincial taxes and duties levied on them. Prior to 1994, tobacco products for export were sold on a tax free and duty free basis.

In the early 1990s exports of Canadian cigarettes grew substantially. There was strong evidence to suggest that most Canadian tobacco products that were illegally exported on a tax free and duty free basis to the United States were being smuggled back into the country and sold illegally without the payment of federal and provincial taxes. Two serious problems developed. Organized criminal activities were increasing and the market in Canada for fully tax paid tobacco products was being undermined by the availability of illegal lower cost products. This undermined the government's health objective of using higher prices to reduce smoking.

This is why the government implemented the national action plan to combat smuggling in 1994. That plan included increased enforcement measures, a surtax on the profits of Canadian tobacco manufacturers, a tax on certain exports of tobacco products and reduced tobacco taxes.

It has proven to be very effective in reducing the level of contraband activity and restoring the legitimate market for tobacco sales. As a result, the government has been able to increase excise taxes on tobacco products five times since 1994.

The measures in the bill before us today include a new tobacco tax structure to further reduce the incentive to smuggle tobacco products back into Canada and tobacco tax increases to advance the government's health objectives.

As hon. members know, one of the government's national health objectives is to reduce smoking. Our new tobacco strategy is specifically designed to help reach this objective, particularly reducing smoking by youth.

Allow me to quote from the Minister of Finance when the new strategy was announced. He stated:

The Government's anti-tobacco strategy will help improve the health of Canadians by discouraging smoking. By increasing taxes sharply and introducing a new tax structure for tobacco, we are taking important steps now and positioning ourselves to take further steps as need be.

Canada needs this comprehensive strategy to deal with the broad range of factors that contribute to smoking. The measures in the bill are part of that strategy.

I will now discuss these measures in detail and begin with the new tax structure.

As I mentioned, the new tobacco tax structure is designed to reduce the incentive to smuggle Canadian-produced tobacco products back into Canada from export markets, the main source of contraband in the past.

The key element of this new structure is the replacement of the current tax on exports of tobacco products, effective April 6, 2001, with a new two tiered excise tax on exports of Canadian manufactured tobacco products. Before discussing the measure further, let me provide some background.

As we know, the Canadian smuggling problem of the early 1990s was primarily caused by Canadian exports to the U.S. that were illegally re-entered into Canada. In the 1994 national action plan to combat smuggling, which I discussed earlier, the government imposed an excise tax on Canadian tobacco products. To ensure that Canadian tobacco manufacturers were not denied access to legitimate export markets, several exemptions from the export tax were allowed, including one for exports up to 3% of a manufacturer's annual production. That was reduced to 2.5% of production in April 1999.

Bill C-26 implements the budget 2000 proposal to further reduce the exemption threshold under the tax on exports of tobacco products before April 6, 2001, to 1.5% of a manufacturer's production in the previous calendar year. This 1.5% threshold represents the approximate level of exports required to meet the legitimate demand for Canadian tobacco products abroad, principally in the United States.

Under the new export tax structure, all exports of Canadian tobacco products will be taxed, thereby reducing the incentive to smuggle exported products back into Canada. This new tax will be two tiered. For exports up to the 1.5% threshold, a tax will be imposed at the rate of $10 per carton of cigarettes. To avoid double taxation when these products enter legitimate foreign markets, the tax will be refunded upon proof of payment of foreign taxes.

Imposing a refundable tax on exports of tobacco products allows for a seamless transfer of tax-paid products from Canada to other countries. This reduces the threat of these products being diverted and used for contraband, while allowing Canadian exporters to meet legitimate demand for their products abroad.

Exports over the 1.5% threshold will be subject to both the current excise duty on tobacco products and a new excise tax that together amount to $22 per carton of cigarettes. Imposing a tax at this rate will remove any incentive to illegally bring these products back into Canada. Further, there will be no rebate on this tax. This measure will reduce the potential for smuggling and help set the stage for future tobacco tax increases.

Before moving on, I should mention that discussions are ongoing between Canada and the United States to help achieve the objectives of our tobacco products not being available tax free, while avoiding double taxation of exported products and helping reduce compliance burdens for U.S. importers.

The next element of the new tax structure concerns tobacco products sold at duty free shops and as ships' stores.

As hon. members know, duty-free shops are located at border crossings and international airports across the country. These shops are authorized to sell certain goods, including tobacco products, tax-free and duty-free, to people leaving Canada.

Tobacco products supplied as ships' stores have traditionally been provided for use by crew and passengers and are sold to passengers through on board duty free shops on ships and aircraft with international destinations. Under the new structure, Canadian tobacco products delivered to duty free shops and as ships' stores both at home and abroad will now be taxed at a rate of $10 per carton of cigarettes. In addition, imported tobacco products delivered to Canadian duty free shops will also be taxed. However, this tax will be refunded on the first carton sold to an individual who is not a resident of Canada. Both measures take effect as of April 6, 2001.

Imposing a tax on tobacco products for sale in duty free shops or as ships' stores is an integral part of the government's strategy to reduce tobacco consumption. It demonstrates just how serious the government is about this issue.

Allowing Canadians who travel to continue to have access to low cost, tax free tobacco through duty free shops would be inconsistent with our strategy of raising tobacco taxes domestically to achieve the government's health objective to reduce smoking.

This measure would also reduce the risk that smugglers might seek to access Canadian tobacco products in duty free markets as other sources of untaxed, low cost tobacco products are eliminated. We want all Canadian tobacco products to be taxed, no matter where they are sold, to ensure that they are not smuggled back into Canada.

Another measure in the bill would ensure that tax is paid on tobacco products imported by returning residents. Currently Canadian residents returning to Canada after an absence of more than 48 hours may bring back one carton of cigarettes tax free and duty free as part of a traveller's allowance. Effective October 1, 2001, a new duty of $10 per carton of cigarettes would be imposed on these products when they are imported by returning residents.

To ensure that Canadian residents are not subject to double taxation upon returning to Canada with Canadian tobacco products on which tax has already been paid, neither this duty nor regular excise duties and taxes would apply to tobacco products that bear a Canadian stamp signifying that excise duties and taxes have already been paid. Non-residents would not be affected by the change to the traveller's exemption.

Tobacco tax increases are another key element of the government's strategy to reduce tobacco consumption, particularly among youth. Since the implementation of the national action plan to combat smuggling in 1994, the federal government has worked with the five provinces that implemented matching tobacco tax reductions at that time, namely Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, to assess the feasibility of regular joint increases in tobacco taxes.

As of April 6, 2001, the federal government has raised tobacco tax rates jointly with these five low tax provinces.

The combined federal-provincial tax increases are $4 per carton of cigarettes sold in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec.

Bill C-26 would implement the increases in federal excise tax rates on tobacco products. These increases would restore federal excise tax rates to a uniform level of $5.35 per carton on cigarettes for sale in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. This is equal to the federal tax rate that now applies in the provinces and territories that did not reduce taxes jointly with the federal government in 1994. After this tax increase only Ontario and Quebec would have cigarette excise tax rates below the national excise tax rate.

Taxes on fine cut tobacco and tobacco sticks would also be increased in all provinces and territories. In addition, Bill C-26 would eliminate the reduced rate of federal excise tax on fine cut tobacco for sale in Ontario.

As I indicated earlier, this is the fifth increase in tobacco taxes since 1994. In total, federal and provincial taxes on cigarettes will have increased from $7.40 to $9.80 per carton in these five provinces since 1994.

I am confident that a successful new tobacco tax structure would enable the government to hike tobacco taxes even further in the future. The bill would also increase the surtax on the profits of tobacco manufacturers to 50% from the current rate of 40% effective April 6, 2001.

To help ensure that these measures are effective, we are giving more resources to federal departments and agencies so that they could better monitor and assess the effectiveness of these measures in reducing smuggling.

These resources would be targeted specifically to the RCMP, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the Department of Justice and the Solicitor General of Canada at a cost of $15 million in the first year and $10 million each year after that.

In conclusion, all the proposals in the bill reaffirm the government's commitment to reduce tobacco consumption in Canada while maintaining vigilance in combating the level of contraband.

A new tobacco tax structure will help reduce the incentive to smuggle Canadian produced tobacco products back into Canada and the tobacco tax increases will help advance the government's health objectives.

In addition, the tax measures would increase federal revenues from tobacco products by $215 million per year. I believe that this new strategy demonstrates the depth of the government's commitment to reducing tobacco use.

We know the stakes are high in the campaign against tobacco use. Through the tax measures contained in the bill, we now have the means to conduct the campaign effectively. Tobacco taxation is about health. Health is our priority, especially protecting the health of our young people. These new measures reflect our commitment to reduce smoking.

We have an endorsement from the Canadian Cancer Society. With an endorsement like that, I believe the government is definitely on the right track toward reducing smoking by Canadians, particularly young Canadians. I encourage all members in the House to give their full support to the bill.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent to share my time with the member for Elk Island.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent for the member to share his time?

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, we support Bill C-26. It is high time it came about. However I think a little history is warranted here.

Prior to 1994 tobacco consumption in Canada was plummeting as a direct result of high taxes. We also know that the average age young people begin to smoke is between 12 and 13. High tobacco prices do discourage smoking. The price elasticity of demand says that if the price is increased the demand will decrease dramatically, which is particularly important with regard to our youth.

In 1994, in response to cigarette smuggling, particularly in eastern Ontario, the government committed what was probably the most horrendous blunder in health care policy in the history of the country. Almost nothing this government could ever have done would have committed such a number of youth to smoke and have such a devastating impact upon the health of Canadians, not only in the short term but also in the long term.

What the government did in response to smuggling was drop the taxes on tobacco significantly. What did that do? It increased the consumption among youth and adults, as well as the number of people smoking and the amount that they smoked. Why do we say that? It is because something interesting happened. Tobacco taxes were reduced in five provinces in central and eastern Canada. The west and Newfoundland kept their prices relatively the same.

We had an interesting laboratory, looking at central Canada where the price was much lower, and the west and Newfoundland where the price was much higher.

If we looked at any graph we would see that tobacco consumption and tobacco profits after 1994 went up dramatically. Almost a quarter of a million young people started to smoke. Tobacco companies were popping champagne corks in their offices.

What the government should have done in order to deal with the tobacco issue, which was a legitimate problem, was what it did prior to 1993.

In 1992 the same problem arose. At that time the government put an excise tax on tobacco. That cut the legs out from under tobacco smugglers. It eliminated the differential between Canada and the United States. Within six weeks tobacco smuggling dropped 75% without changing the price of cigarettes. After six weeks the government of the day buckled under pressure from the tobacco companies that threatened to leave, and it removed the excise tax.

If the government had the backbone, it could have cut the legs out from underneath tobacco smugglers while not compromising the health of Canadians, particularly the youth. It could have done that by keeping the taxes where they were and by adding the excise tax.

It was the excise tax that would have prevented smuggling while enabling to keep the taxes where they were. It would not have committed a quarter of a million young people to smoking, 50% of whom will die of tobacco related deaths, with 21% of them dying of some form of cancer. It is a public tragedy and a public health problem that we will see in the long term.

The government also deprived the public coffers of nearly $5 billion worth of revenue. I can imagine what we could have done with that money. We could have put it into health care, into research and into prevention.

Our party supports the bill, but we want make sure that the money coming from taxes would not be put into some big vat to be used for special projects by the government. The money could be used for prevention models. It could be used for a head start program that focuses on strengthening the parent-child bond which has proven to be of dramatic importance and very effective at improving the health care of children and their families while preventing a lot of social problems that occur later on. That is what the government could and should be doing.

The government could also put money into increasing physical activities among kids. Physical activity is at an all time low. This would have a dramatic impact on the future health of Canadians because when children become adults, if they were not active as youth, there is less of a chance they will be active as adults.

The minister responsible for sport is very interested in physical activity and is working hard with our Olympic athletes. Why does he not take the Olympic athletes to the schools as part of a speaking program to teach children the importance of physical activity? The athletes could be paid to do this and the kids would be directly impacted by Canadian heroes, which would push and encourage them to be physically active. It is a win-win situation.

I hope the minister in charge of sport would consider this proposal. It is an informal proposal but doable. The Olympic athletes would get money. They would be getting paid to do a good job and the children of our country would benefit. It would have a long term and positive impact on the health of Canadians.

It is also important to look at what we could be doing in terms of improving the health of our children, our youth, as well as adults in the country. Looking at it from an international perspective, smoking consumption is not a domestic problem but an international problem. The World Health Organization has said clearly that in many countries such as China and other nations it will be a health care disaster with millions of people dying from tobacco related diseases.

The public would be very interested to know that tobacco companies actually sponsor dances in foreign countries and give out free cigarettes to children. They give out free cigarettes to children, not because they are good corporate citizens but because they are attempting to cause children to become addicted to cigarette smoking. Some of these tobacco companies are pretending to be the paragons of virtue and good corporate citizenry while going to other countries or nations, sponsoring dances, providing free admission to children and giving them free cigarettes. That is what is happening in the world today.

I encourage the government to pursue and fast track Bill C-26, to make sure that the bill goes through, and to increase the taxes to ensure that our children do not smoke. It should make the price so high that it becomes even more difficult for youth to smoke.

Libertarians would suggest that what happens to people is their business and that they should have freedom of choice. I agree. However let us take into consideration that we are talking not about people who are 25 or 30 years of age but about children who are 12 and 13 years of age. That is when children start to smoke. That is when they start to take up the weed.

On a slightly related issue, the issue of medicinal marijuana, I applaud the government in this regard. It is high time. However the government must make sure it is well regulated and not simply a tool to legalize marijuana consumption.

What the minister can do, and I am speaking personally and not on behalf of the party, is decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana. If we decriminalize marijuana consumption there would be a penalty or fine which could be used to fund youth prevention programs. It would also save expensive court costs. It would take people out of the courts and save legal fees and court time. The courts would then have more time to go after people who commit murder, rape and other heinous crimes. If we decriminalize marijuana use, and the Canadian Police Association supports this, we would have higher penalties, lower costs and a revenue source we could funnel into prevention programs for kids.

My last pitch, once again, is for the head start program. If the government is truly interested in preventing the social problems that result from youth crime, if it wants to ensure kids are more employable and less dependent on welfare or drugs, then a head start program is the fastest, best and most effective way of doing so. We could draw from the best of head start programs around the world which focus on strengthening the parent-child bond. This should start at the prenatal stage. If fewer parents took drugs and alcohol during pregnancy we could reduce the incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome, a tremendous problem in our country. The programs would also ensure parents had the skills to be good parents.

This can be done simply, effectively and for the most part with existing resources. It can be done if the federal government calls together its provincial counterparts for a conference on the issue. The government needs a specific plan of action that can enable the program to be a reality. The cost savings would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The lives saved would be in the thousands.

We support Bill C-26 and hope it goes through quickly. We only regret that the government in 1994 dropped the taxes to begin with.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by accusing my colleagues in the House of the wrong motive in agreeing to split my time with the member who just spoke. I think they did so to avoid listening to me for 40 minutes. I could speak to the issue for at least 40 minutes and now I will be limited to 20. That is really regrettable. However I shall do as well as I can in the time allotted.

I cannot believe that as a member of the Canadian Alliance I am standing in the House of Commons this day to speak in favour of higher taxes. I cannot believe I am doing that, yet I must support the bill because of its objectives. It bothers me to speak of higher taxes because we are already taxed to death. We are taxed at every turn. We even have taxes on taxes. The government collects GST on excise and gasoline taxes. The same is true for cigarettes. There are taxes on cigarettes and then the 7% GST on top of that.

I am, however, in favour of this tax. I cannot believe it and yet I am. My apologies to friends, constituents and Canadians who expect us in the Canadian Alliance to consistently oppose higher taxes and the burden they create for our citizens and young people. However this is an issue that we are appropriately addressing. This is a health issue and our concern is to reduce smoking, especially among young people.

I do not know if my colleagues have thought about it, but what attracts young people to put a bunch of weeds wrapped in paper into their mouth, light the end of it and suck on it? It is a strange motivation and I have often wondered about it.

My colleagues will be disappointed in this, but when I remember my own youth I must confess, with humble heart and bowed head, that on an occasion or two, actually two, I succumbed to the temptation.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Shame.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

It is shameful. I am embarrassed about it.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Did the hon. member inhale?

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

I do not know if I inhaled. I do not think I did, I was coughing so hard.

I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan. When I was in grade 8 our school was closed and we were bused into the big city. One day while walking at noon I saw a pack of cigarettes on the sidewalk. I kicked it, as young lads are prone to do. I could tell by the pressure on it that it was not an empty box. I picked it up and opened it and, lo and behold, there were still some cigarettes in it. In retrospect I presume someone had decided to quit smoking and had thrown away the cigarettes. I hope that was the case.

As an aside, I read somewhere that people who decide to quit smoking and throw away an unfinished pack have much higher success rates than those who say that they will finish their current pack and then quit. I say that as an interesting psychological side trip.

I picked up the pack of cigarettes and hid to make sure no one could see me. I took one of the things, put it in my mouth and lit the end of it. It was probably the most incredible thing I had done in my life. I began hacking and coughing. It was the most undesirable thing.

As a young fellow in grade 8, about 12 or 13 years old or maybe 14, I made a decision that day before I finished the first cigarette. I decided I would not smoke. It occurred to me that smoking was stupid. Why would a guy do it if it only caused him to cough uncontrollably? Besides that, I was sure it would cost money. It may amuse young people today to know that my allowance then was 10 cents a week and I could scarcely afford it.

That was my first experience with smoking. The later one occurred when I was in university, and it was also quite incredible. I drove a truck, a big rig on the highway, for my summer job. I enjoyed that job. I loved driving and I still do. I still have my class one licence, so if I lose my job here I can go back to that if nothing else.

One of my fellow drivers challenged me. He will know who he is if he finds out I am telling the story. We had stopped at a coffee shop and he bought a cigar at the counter when we were leaving. He said that I should buy one as well and, for some stupid reason, I did.

While driving down the road I put the silly thing in my mouth and drew in the smoke. I was silly to do that. To my knowledge those are the only two occasions on which I succumbed to the temptation.

I repeat, what is it that causes young people to decide to take up smoking in view of what it does to their health?

Many years ago I heard a motivational speaker address a crowd of young people about smoking. He said one of his strongest arguments against smoking was that no one he had met who had smoked more than five years had ever suggested to him that he start. Not one person who has smoked for five years or more would recommend that someone else begin.

Now that I have said this on worldwide television, and I know millions of Canadians are listening, I imagine I will begin to get e-mails suggesting that I start and that it is wonderful. People have told me they enjoy it and that is why they do it. Okay, so be it. That is the reason they do it. However not even those people have suggested I start in order to share their joy.

Because of its addictive nature I am very much opposed to anything that would promote the taking up of this habit, especially by young people. I have been told and have read that once one begins smoking it is a lifelong habit. It is one of the most difficult addictions to break.

I used to teach mathematics. How I wish we could use audio visual aids in the House. I would love to have a prop with a piece of paper just big enough for the cameras. I could show the House an exercise I used to give my students when I taught mathematics in high school and at a technical institute.

When we did exponential functions, when I taught finance and when I taught students how to use electronic calculators or computers, I made them do a calculation. I am describing it without a visual aid, but it went something like this: 365 times 5 times (1 plus 10/100), to the power of 65 minus 20, minus 1, all divided by 10/100.

My students evaluated it to see if they were using their computers or calculators correctly. When I asked them if they knew what they had computed they said they did not. It was a random formula as far as they were concerned. I told them they had computed the following: 5 is the cost of a pack of cigarettes; 365 is the number of days in a year; the 10/100 is 10%, which is pretty high but there are times one can get it in an RRSP; the minus one is just part of the formula; divide by 10/100, again that is 10%.

They had computed the costs of smoking for their lifetime from age 20 to age 65. The formula told them how much they would have in the bank at a 10% rate of interest if they started saving at age 20 and retired at age 65. My students were amazed because the sum was $1.3 million.

I then had them do another calculation which demonstrated that such a strategy would ensure them an annual pension of $139,000 until age 95. That is a fantastic pension. It is even better than the MP pension plan.

I told my students they had learned some math but that they also had a choice to make. They could smoke and at age 65 live on whatever meagre pension the government gives them, or they could instead retire on $139,000 a year by putting that money into the bank.

Smoking is wrong in terms of both its health effects and its lack of consideration for fellow citizens.

I happen to be on the non-smoking side of the issue. There is a temptation for what I am about to say to come out wrong. I would like my friends to know that I do not dislike people who smoke but I do dislike their smoking. I would like to differentiate that. I love people but if they would not smoke it would be that much more pleasant.

Last Sunday I was out with my wife and some friends at a restaurant. We asked for the non-smoking section and it was given to us. That was nice but there were people smoking. The smoke drifted across and we could smell it. We briefly talked about it. It was too bad but we had to live with it. My advisers told me not to say in my speech that having a non-smoking section in a restaurant is like having a non-peeing section in a swimming pool. I was advised not to say it, but it is a fact.

When I went to pay the bill the guy from the smoking section was there in front of me. Did he put his cigarette out while we were paying? No. He was right there and by the time we got home our clothes reeked. I set them in another room because they stunk.

I ask members not to get this wrong. It shows a lack of respect for other people when one insists on smoking in the presence of non-smokers. Some people would say that I am moralizing and not like me for it. I apologize but there are many people who feel that way.

At the hotel where I am staying I always get a non-smoking room, but in spite of the laundry process, the smell of cigarettes on the pillow was not eradicated. I wake up the next day with a headache because of the smell.

Even around the House of Commons we may wish to consider doing something about smoking. Every member and visitor to this place has to walk through a wall of smoke at the main entrances because of all the people smoking. It is not pleasant. Could we arrange for them to have a room somewhere, maybe with fans? They should not have to go outside into the wicked Canadian winter. We should show them some respect, but let us not allow them to smoke at the main entrances to our buildings and force everyone, smokers or not, to go through that wall of smoke.

I wish to come back to the health issue. I was forced in my previous employment to share an office for a time with a smoker. One can imagine what that was like. I suggested to him, as kindly as I could, that it bothered me. This was before the days of the non-smoking environment. I suggested to him that he could go outside and smoke because it bothered me. He told me that it did not bother me. I thought to myself how arrogant he was. He arranged for our organization to buy an air purifier and he set it beside him when he smoked. I had a headache pretty well every day. It affects me adversely. There are many people who have that allergy or that medical response to second hand smoke.

I had a dream where I died and went to heaven. When they asked me why I was there I said it was because of second hand smoke in my office. I told my office partner that the next day. He laughed about it and thought it was very funny, but there is some evidence that second hand smoke is a health hazard.

I remember teaching statistics in a math course. One of the things that we did was to try to interpret statistical data. One of the examples that we used was death by heart and lung disease. It was interesting that the percentage of deaths caused by heart and lung disease at that time, a number of years back, peaked between the ages of 40 and 50 and then it dropped off. I asked my students to interpret the statistical data. They concluded, correctly, with the premise that if someone has a biological predisposition to getting lung cancer or heart disease due to smoking they would get it and die in their forties, most likely.

How can we condone smoking when it literally puts at risk thousands of people who die in their forties because of it? Obviously we need to take some action. I thought of an example. What would the Minister of Transport or the House of Commons do if there were an airplane crash today in which 100 people died and tomorrow there was another airplane crash of the same type?

I have a suspicion that on the second day all airplanes around the world would be grounded voluntarily by the airlines and by compulsion of governments. Yet every day in Canada 100 people have a premature death due to smoking and we are doing absolutely nothing about it.

Even this measure is tepid in comparison to what we should be doing. This is an issue of great proportion and we should do everything that we can to reduce smoking and to discourage young people from taking up the habit.

I remember as a student going to the museum of science in Portland, Oregon. I remember vividly seeing two lungs hooked up in parallel to the same pipes and a pump that was providing an increase and decrease in pressure. We know that it is atmospheric pressure that allows us to breathe. When we drop the diaphragm there is a space to be filled and it is the air pressure around us that pulls the air into the lungs.

What was happening was a simulation of a person breathing. They had two lungs from cadavers, actual human lungs. One was from a healthy person who died in a car accident and the other was from a person who died of emphysema or lung cancer. One was a diseased lung and the other one was a normal lung.

As the pressure went up and down the normal lung expanded and contracted to allow the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide to give a healthy life. The other lung barely moved. It was atrophied. It was all solid because of the effects of smoking. This had quite an impact on me. It happened a little less than 40 years ago and I still remember it. The impact that it had was amazing.

Should we do something about it? I absolutely and profoundly say yes. Am I in favour of tax increases? No, I am not. I am in favour of the bill only because of the impact that it could have and hopefully would have. I hope the government in increasing those taxes would also have the fortitude to enforce the rules and to make sure that we do not have an increase in the smuggling of cigarettes in addition to the supply that would keep coming in.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot may have a few minutes to begin his speech.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always sad to be cut off after a few minutes, because the case to be made on tobacco taxes and smoking in general is a very serious one. The time at our disposal here is so important that cutting my speech in two might have a negative effect on the message. Nevertheless, in the five minutes remaining to me before oral question period. I will try to introduce my message.

As hon. members are aware, Bill C-26 consists essentially in raising the taxes on tobacco as an anti-smoking measure.

Right off, I will say that my party, the Bloc Quebecois, will support the bill because we care about people's health and about the fight that has gone on for many years against what I would call a plague, a major social problem, a problem creating considerable cost for the health care sector. It is a problem that also results every year in Canada in deaths that would not occur had people not taken up this bad habit.

Some 29% of people smoke. This is fewer people than in the past but it is still too many. It is still too many because tobacco kills and before it kills it makes people sick. These people impose considerable costs on the health care system.

People get emphysema, caused primarily by smoking. Smoking is also the cause of heart disease, and in particular, myocardial infarction, of lung cancer, and of strokes, some of which are linked to smoking.

Every year, there are over 40,000 deaths related to the use of tobacco. Why are there so many deaths? Why does tobacco kill? It kills because it is a really poisonous mix of highly toxic chemicals.

As for tar, do people know that the tar found in a cigarette includes over 4,000 chemicals? Tar alone, which is but one of hundreds of components found in tobacco and a product of the combustion of tobacco, contains 4,000 toxic products.

Nicotine is the worst of the poisons found in cigarettes. Why? Because, depending on a cigarette's nicotine content, it is the nicotine that creates a dependency, an addiction similar to cocaine and even heroin addiction. Some studies even suggest that nicotine makes it just as hard to stop smoking as to stop using hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

All sorts of junk is found in cigarettes. I could talk about it at length, because I smoked for many years. I stopped eight years ago. At the time, I did not have this information. It is thanks to awareness, information and advertising campaigns on the ills of tobacco that I became aware of the makeup of this poison.

Mr. Speaker, I can see that you are getting anxious. I will resume my speech after oral question period.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member will have 35 minutes to complete his remarks after oral question period.