House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-260, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act (fire-safe cigarettes), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough East, ON

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave now?

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough East, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to add a few words of wisdom to this bill.

There are a number of substances in our society which increase hazards significantly to people.

We know of the hazards of alcohol. The number of people who die or are killed in car accidents because of alcohol every year is astounding. As a matter of fact, it is probably a low estimate to say that 100 people a day die because of alcohol usage. If we had 100 people a day dying in an aircraft, we would soon ground the aircraft.

We have probably another 100 people a day who die from smoking, that is directly. They contract diseases that are related to smoking, such as heart and lung disease, and they die from it, again at the rate of about 100 per day.

Bill C-260 addresses yet another hazard that arises from the use of tobacco, and that is the fire hazard. It is a known fact that many house fires and other accidents in vehicles are caused by a smouldering cigarette.

Although I do not know the exact number, I have an estimate from several years ago. It indicates that about 100 deaths per year are the result of fires which are caused by careless smoking, as it is called. Careless smoking simply means people either go to sleep or they do not pay attention to where they have put their smouldering cigarette. The cigarette lights the chesterfield on fire. The chesterfield lights the house on fire, and lo and behold people are injured or killed.

Bill C-260, proposed by the member for Scarborough East, states that there should be standards on the flammability of cigarettes. If a cigarette is left unattended, instead of smouldering away, it goes out. In other words, a person has to keep sucking on the thing to keep the fire going. If a person fails to do that, then the fire goes out.

That is a very marginal step. It is an important issue. Surely this would result in fewer fires. I do not think it would eliminate them all, but it would reduce the number of fires from unattended cigarettes and thereby hopefully reduce property damage and reduce loss of life and injury to people.

The correct thing for members of the House to do would be to support the bill. I will be voting in favour of it, even though, as I say, it is a very timid step in reducing the damage done by this one harmful substance, which we use in great quantities in Canada.

It is also good to notice that a lot of people now are quitting smoking. I want to commend one of my constituency assistants, Jason, and he will be pleased to hear me say this, who has quit smoking. I say, “good on you, Jason. I hope you keep it up”. He is much richer now that he does not have to spend that money.

Many people are quitting. As a federal government, instead of just reducing the fire hazard from cigarettes, it ought to do more and more to reduce the usage of cigarettes in total.

I would like to say that I am very pleased that in our present society it has now become politically unacceptable or politically incorrect to smoke in meetings. I am an older guy, and for many years I went through the early youth of my career before all the anti-smoking stuff was in vogue. For many years I shared an office with a smoker. I was in many meetings with smokers. I had a lot of headaches because of that. I was adversely affected by the smoke.

Now we have whole buildings that are smoke free. I really appreciate it, especially because there is some conjecture that my present lung ailment, from which I am suffering, could be a result of that second hand smoke which I was forced to inhale for all those years.

In conclusion, I recommend to all my colleagues in the House that the bill is worthy of support, and I certainly will be doing that.

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great joy that I rise to speak today on Bill C-260 introduced by my Liberal colleague from Scarborough East.

I will be relatively brief this afternoon, because my Bloc colleague has, as you know, already expressed his views on this private members bill, which we support.

This bill to amend the Hazardous Products Act is on its third trip through the House. On October 8, 2003, the Standing Committee on Health reported on this bill, with proposed amendments.

The text amends the Hazardous Products Act by adding to the list of prohibited products cigarettes that do not meet the flammability standard to be set out in the regulations.

The purpose of this bill is to force the tobacco companies to manufacture fire-safe cigarettes. These cigarettes are subjected to flammability testing. If they fall onto a piece of furniture, they are less likely to start a fire.

Here are some important facts. First, according to Denis Choinière, director of the Tobacco Control Program run by Health Canada's Office of Prevention, Cessation and Education, approximately 3,000 fires are caused each year by cigarettes, resulting in 70 deaths and 300 injuries.

Furthermore, the State of New York recently adopted similar legislation, making it impossible to manufacture, sell or distribute cigarettes within its jurisdiction that do not meet not basic fire safety standards.

Furthermore, the tobacco companies have long known how to make fire-safe cigarettes, by using less porous paper and less dense tobacco.

Since then, only one brand of cigarettes out of 62 tested has passed. It was an American cigarette sold in Canada. Therefore, tobacco companies know how to meet the standard to reduce the potential fire hazard posed by cigarettes.

Once again, I want to reiterate our support for Bill C-260, since my colleague from the Bloc took part in this debate on November 25, 2002. He said:

Marketing fire-safe cigarettes, which could protect the lives of the citizens we represent, the people of Quebec, should have happened years ago. But once again, this bill has not been passed.

This bill should have received majority support, if not unanimous support, in the House of Commons long ago. Firefighters and non-governmental organizations agreed with my hon. colleague, a few months ago, as we can see from the speaking notes of Denis Choinière, the Director of the Office of Regulations and Compliance.

He said that, while firefighters and non-governmental organizations support the proposal, the main complaint is that the government did not act earlier.

I strongly believe that, among firefighters or NGOs, the vast majority want this kind of measure to be adopted by Parliament because it has already been agreed that the standard in question can be applied by companies and manufacturers.

So, in closing, to the extent that this standard can be applied, my hope is that this bill will receive the support of as many elected representatives in this House as possible. I therefore urge all members in this House to vote for Bill C-260.

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Hillsborough, PE

Madam Speaker, I am addressing the House today to reaffirm Health Canada's position concerning Bill C-260 as well as to provide the House with a status update concerning the development of regulations to mandate certain reduced ignition propensity cigarettes. I would also like to provide the House with a summary of the supporting activities presently being conducted by Health Canada.

First, I want to thank and congratulate the hon. member for Scarborough East for bringing this issue forward. He has certainly put a lot of time and energy into raising the whole issue of fires caused by unattended cigarettes. For this effort, we certainly thank him.

Let me begin by saying that one of Health Canada's mandates has always been to reduce health hazards where tobacco products are concerned. Over 14,000 fires were started by unattended cigarettes between 1995 and 1999. The death toll for these fires was over 350. Another 1,600 people were injured. These numbers account for the majority of deaths and injuries caused by household fires. The resulting damage to property is estimated at over $200 million.

Some of the measures Health Canada has taken include a prevention by public education strategy. The department has also prompted the regulation of ignition sources, such as lighters and matches, and has restricted or banned flammable consumer products. These include materials used in mattresses, bedding and textiles. The department has also worked closely with the Canadian Council of Furniture Manufacturers to reduce flammability of upholstered furniture.

The final step is to mandate regulations that would force manufacturers to produce cigarettes that are less likely to cause fires. This kind of product is known as reduced ignition propensity cigarettes.

Over the course of the last year and further to recent consultations with other interested parties, Health Canada has made significant progress toward implementing ignition propensity regulations. It has found that there are some concerns which merit further attention. However, none of these are enough to preclude the development of regulations. It is expected that regulations will be proposed in the very near future.

The first formal step taken in the regulatory process was in December of last year. Health Canada released a public consultation paper seeking input on the issue of reduced fire risks from cigarettes. This document gave all interested parties an opportunity to express their concerns and also their priorities.

The feedback Health Canada received was mixed. Firefighters and non-governmental organizations were very supportive of the proposal. Although its main complaint was that government was initially too slow to take action, the comments the department received from the tobacco industry also indicated support for the proposals and the objectives.

However, the industry in this public consultation process raised concerns over issues ranging from methodology for testing to unsafe behavioural tendencies in which consumers might engage.

I would like to take a moment to address some of these concerns and offer some insight into the steps and activities that Health Canada has undertaken to address some of these issues.

The current test method has been put into question. After an extensive dialogue with experts, Health Canada maintains that the method being used by the American Society for the Testing of Materials is based on very sound scientific theory and is the best method for measuring the ignition propensity of cigarettes.

Also concerns over toxicity levels have been raised. Upon further investigation, Health Canada has concluded that the available eligible data indicates that there is no significant variation in the toxicity of reduced ignition propensity cigarettes. Due to the importance of this issue, Health Canada is considering mandatory toxicological testing throughout the implementation of the regulations to have access to sound data.

Some concern has also been expressed regarding consumer behaviour. The apprehension which was raised is that reduced ignition propensity cigarettes could mislead the consumer into believing that cigarettes no longer pose a fire hazard, leading, of course, to consumer carelessness. To date no scientific data has been provided to support this claim, and based on what I think of the assertion it would be highly unlikely that there would be any kind of empirical evidence to support this assertion.

Health Canada plans to deal with the issue by establishing fire safety and behavioural baselines. The references are twofold. The department is developing a questionnaire to measure the current behaviour of smokers and is also at the same time using data from the Ontario fire marshal's office to establish conclusive statistics regarding the nature of cigarette fires in Ontario. This will give Health Canada a basis of comparison once regulations have been implemented and will ultimately indicate possible behavioural changes in smokers.

Over the course of the last year, as has already been mentioned here this afternoon, ignition propensity testing has been performed on 62 brands of cigarettes sold in the Canadian marketplace. Only one brand has shown a significant reduction in ignition propensity.

A cost benefit assessment is also well underway. The department recently sent a questionnaire to affected stakeholders to ask for their input into cost assessment. This assessment is expected to be completed in about three or four weeks.

Let us now turn to Bill C-260. The intention of Bill C-260 is also to prevent the loss of life due to fires caused by smoking. The debate surrounding the bill has been a little enigmatic, in that we all agree something must be done, but the question we are faced with is how it should be done. That is the issue.

The position of Health Canada from the very beginning has been that the regulation of reduced ignition propensity cigarettes should fall under the Tobacco Act. There are many reasons for this line of thinking.

Among them is the fact that Health Canada has developed and implemented the federal tobacco control strategy. That would be the very best way to deal with this issue: to get people to substantially reduce smoking or to stop all together. This strategy allows Canadians to deal with tobacco-related issues by adopting a comprehensive, integrated and sustained approach. This way, the regulation of cigarettes falls under one single piece of legislation. There are several advantages to this.

Among these advantages is that of a comprehensive regulatory framework. In short, the legislative apparatus to achieve effective tobacco control strategies is, as everyone in the House is aware, already in place. This makes acting expediently considerably easier.

There is one final point I would like to make. The Hazardous Products Act sets out to deal with harmful products in two very specific ways: by regulating these products to make them safe or by simply banning them from the market all together.

One can begin to see the difficulty in incorporating cigarettes into this legislation. Regulating cigarettes to make them safe is neither feasible nor possible and makes very little common sense. Cigarettes by their very nature are a dangerous product, whether that danger is from inhaling the smoke they produce or from sustaining injuries in the fires they start. Altering them for ignition propensity is one thing. However, altering them to render the smoke safe is entirely another goal, a goal no one would know how to achieve. We may be setting a precedent that would allow other products that do not fit the model to be included in this act.

Likewise, at this point in time in the evolution of society, banning cigarettes would be difficult. It would be like banning paint additives or banning glue. Tobacco is an addictive substance. By banning it, we would be instantly turning 20% of our population into criminals.

Health Canada has demonstrated that the process to regulate ignition propensity is well underway and the mechanisms to achieve this are already in place. Cigarettes are a unique product with their own unique act. It is clear that cigarettes do not fit into the model that the Hazardous Products Act outlines. Health Canada will continue to work on measures dealing with ignition propensity that fall under the Tobacco Act.

On a global scale, Health Canada is a world leader in tobacco control. It has demonstrated this through its continued efforts and through a strong commitment to improve the well-being of Canadian citizens.

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

October 31st, 2003 / 1:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-260, the private member's bill to amend the Hazardous Products Act. I thank the member for Scarborough East for bringing such an important matter before the House of Commons in the form of this bill.

Let me state at the outset that this bill deals with property damage caused by careless smoking, but most importantly, it deals with saving lives. In 1992, careless smoking in Canada accounted for 68 fatalities, 385 injuries, $37 million in damages and 3,199 fires. On average Canadians consume approximately 56 billion cigarettes annually and the damage caused by them is substantial.

The solution to this may be found in what are known as flammability standards. When I read over this piece of legislation, the first thought that came to mind was that the bill is not trying to get Canadians to stop smoking, because smoking is an addiction that requires help. Rather, what this bill is saying and what it is trying to do is make it safer for people to smoke and safer for the people around them.

Essentially what this bill would do is compel the Minister of Health to report to Parliament and explain why the Hazardous Products Act should or should not be amended to include cigarettes under the category of flammability standards. Clearly this is an issue that affects all of us in the entire country, regardless of age or region. Further, members would no doubt agree that saving lives of smokers and non-smokers alike is of significant public interest to all of us here in the chamber.

One lit cigarette left unattended can have dire consequences and devastating impacts. Dangerous smoking may seem to be a non-issue; however, it is a very important one, which Canadians from coast to coast must be encouraged to take seriously. Over the years, cigarette fires have caused a large number of fatalities. The terrible tragedy is that most of these deaths could have been prevented if smokers had just taken a few simple precautions.

One thing that Canadians must be aware of is that it can happen to anyone, young or old, and at any time. If one is smoking late at night or after a drink, it is only natural that one's reactions tend to be slower. As such, this is a time when extra care must be taken while smoking.

A smouldering cigarette is the biggest cause of fatal fires, causing one-third of all deaths from fires in the home. These fires are more likely to start during the night. Some of the most common places for them to start are sofas, beds and carpets. A cigarette burns at up to 780 degrees centigrade, so I would remind all Canadians to ensure that when they put out their cigarettes they really are out.

There is good news in all of this, because cigarette-related fires can be prevented by taking a few simple precautions. Some of these include: avoid smoking in bed; avoid leaving lit cigarettes unattended; always use a proper ashtray and make sure it cannot be knocked over; take special care when one is tired or drinking; keep matches and lighters away from children; and fit and maintain a proper smoke alarm.

Although these personal safety precautions can be taken, more can and must be done. It is for this reason that I applaud my colleague for bringing forward this private member's bill. Cigarettes should be included in the Hazardous Products Act and flammability standards should be applied to them.

It is worth noting that currently in the United States the Massachusetts legislature has before it a unique opportunity to move Massachusetts out front in its efforts to save lives, lives lost to cigarettes.

Smoking materials are the leading cause of fatal fires in the United States. Recent statistics from the National Fire Protection Association show that there were 900 fire-related deaths, 2,500 injuries, and $410 million in property damage caused by smoking materials in one year in the United States.

In Massachusetts in 1990, there were 178 deaths, 763 injuries related to burns and $75 million in property damage caused by such fires. During the same period, these fires caused 677 firefighter injuries in Massachusetts.

The legislature has before it the Moakley bill, a state version of the federal legislation first introduced in Congress by Joe Moakley in 1979 which would require that all cigarettes sold in Massachusetts have strict fire safety standards. When left burning unattended they would extinguish themselves or burn at temperatures that would not ignite furniture or mattresses, thereby lessening the chance of fires.

This is a very good idea and a very worthwhile piece of legislation. Lessons can be learned from the Massachusetts approach. Also, New York State has recently passed a similar bill while unanimously stating that all cigarettes sold in the state had to meet flammability standards by July 2003.

It remains my solemn opinion that this is certainly the right thing to do.

We learn from statistics in Great Britain that smoking can be more dangerous than we think. Every three days someone dies because of a cigarette fire. The highest injury rate in smoking material fires is among young people between the ages of 25 to 34. Men are more likely to be killed or injured in cigarette fires. Six out of ten of those killed are men and over half of those injured are men. Six out of ten smokers say cigarettes are one of the top causes of house fires, but every year fewer people are taking steps to prevent these fires.

Only four out of ten smokers say they check their ashtrays before going to bed each night. Nearly half of all households have a smoker living in them. These households are nearly one and one-half times more likely to have a fire than non-smoking households.

Despite the dangers of falling asleep and setting bedding on fire, 70% of smokers confess to lighting up in bed. People 18 to 34 years old are even more likely to smoke in bed.

I think that my remarks today reflect the importance of implementing cigarette safety standards in Canada. The choices are simple: life or death.

We have a golden opportunity to support this private member's bill in the hope that the Minister of Health and the entire government will take notice of the widespread support for the bill and as a result will work hard toward implementing appropriate standards for cigarettes in the country.

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their generous support of the bill. They supported it through first reading and second reading, at the committee stage and were very helpful in getting it out of the committee unanimously. Their remarks today were quite generous and I appreciate each and every one of them.

I also want to thank the minister who has been very supportive in the process. I hope that at the end of the day between her and her department we will have leading edge regulations.

If I may make a comment, New York State is the only state in the United States that has ignition standards, and I am not even sure that they are proclaimed at this point. This would put Canada at the leading edge of fire safe cigarettes and setting standards for cigarettes.

We had quite a number of people who were very supportive of this. The Canada Safety Council immediately jumped on it and said it was an initiative that we should take. Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada were also very supportive at the outset.

There are a great number of people to thank but I want to pay tribute to the Ragoonanans in Brampton who tragically lost two members of their family when their townhouse burned to the ground. That is what precipitated the bill in 1999. Believe it or not, it has been four years to get to this stage where the bill is at third reading in the House of Commons. Their lawyer, Doug Lennox, came to me and described the situation where he was trying to start a class action on so-called careless smoking.

Like a lot of other Canadians, I thought that careless smoking was just that, careless smoking. In fact there have been patented technologies available to cigarette companies for years that could have addressed the rash of fires.

Mr. Lennox described the situation and asked if there was anything that I could do. Frankly, my reaction was that I did not think there was anything that could be done, but upon subsequent research and discussions with the folks at the Library of Parliament and elsewhere, we felt that this was the way to go, compelling the minister to proclaim draft regulations under the Hazardous Products Act.

Whether the regulations are proclaimed under the Hazardous Products Act or are proclaimed under the Tobacco Act is no never mind. One way or another Canada will end up with leading edge regulations with respect to fire safe cigarettes. That is the goal of the bill.

I thank all of my colleagues for their support and ask that they continue to support it through a vote.

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Hazardous Products Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?