An Act to amend the Tobacco Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Sponsor

Leona Aglukkaq  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Tobacco Act to provide additional protection for youth from tobacco marketing. It repeals the exception that permits tobacco advertising in publications with an adult readership of not less than 85%. It prohibits the packaging, importation for sale, distribution and sale of little cigars and blunt wraps unless they are in a package that contains at least 20 little cigars or blunt wraps. It also prohibits the manufacture and sale of cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps that contain the additives set out in a new schedule to that Act, as well as the packaging of those products in a manner that suggests that they contain a prohibited additive. It also prohibits the manufacture and sale of tobacco products unless all of the required information about their composition is submitted to the Minister.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2009 / 5:05 p.m.
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Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak once again in support of Bill C-32, an act that would bring important changes to our tobacco legislation.

By now members of the House should be aware of the urgent need to update the laws governing the marketing of tobacco products. The changes in Bill C-32, appropriately titled “cracking down on tobacco marketing aimed at youth act”, are needed in order to protect our children and youth from the dangers of tobacco use.

The reason is simple. A vast majority of adult smokers became addicted when they were in their teens. We know that if someone has not started smoking by the age of 19, it is unlikely that individual will ever become a lifelong smoker.

The current legislation allows tobacco advertising in publications that can spill over to youth. The proposed amendments in Bill C-32 will put an end to this practice.

We know that overwhelmingly the publications that carry tobacco ads are free publications. Many of these are found at bus stops, on street corners and malls. This makes them easily available to teens and children. We also know there was a 400% increase in the number of ads that appeared in the beginning of 2009 when compared to the same period of 2008.

We all want to protect our young people from advertising that might entice them to try smoking and potentially become addicted to a product that has many serious consequences for their health.

Following the last amendments to the Tobacco Act over a decade ago, there was a lull in advertising by the tobacco industry, but that has changed over the last two years. We have seen a new wave of advertising and this practice must end now.

The proposed amendments in Bill C-32 will eliminate potential spillover from tobacco advertising to children and youth, but Bill C-32 does not stop there. It will also make tobacco products less appealing to young people and less affordable too.

In 2007 more than 400 million little cigars, also known as cigarillos, were sold in Canada. Many of those were flavoured to taste like tropical punch, chocolate cherries and a host of other flavours that would appeal to a young person. I have a young family, and my son is 15 years old. These products look like markers, they look like toys, they look like anything but a tobacco product.

Flavoured sheets or tubes made from tobacco known as blunt wraps are also flavoured and marketed to young people and sold individually for as little as $1 or in low price kiddie packs. Tobacco is not candy and there is no good reason to make it taste like something other than what it is. Our proposed legislation will make it illegal to add flavours to cigarillos, cigarettes and tobacco wrappers known as blunts.

Another factor that encourages young people to try smoking is the price of the products. If a tobacco product is inexpensive, more young people are likely to try it. For that reason, the proposed legislation will require that cigarillos and blunts be sold in packages containing a minimum of 20 units. This will increase the cost of these tobacco products and make them less accessible for our young people. We eliminated the sale of individual cigarettes or cigarettes in kiddie packs a long time ago. It is time that the same rules apply to cigarillos and blunts.

All of these changes would help protect our children from marketing practices designed to entice them into smoking. By amending the Tobacco Act, we can help prevent more young people from experimenting with an addictive substance. We can protect them from laying the foundation for a possible lifelong addiction, with potentially serious health consequences.

Through this proposed legislation, we are taking a tougher stand against tobacco products that are packaged, priced and flavoured to appeal directly to young people.

Tobacco is a killer. Some 37,000 Canadians die every year from illnesses related to tobacco. It is linked to lung cancer, emphysema and cardiovascular disease, to name but three. The negative effect of the health of those people has been an affect on all health care. Smoking costs the health care system over $4 billion every year.

Sales of little cigars nearly quadrupled between 2001 and 2007, making them the fastest growing tobacco product on the market. Who is buying them? Health Canada's Canadian tobacco use monitoring survey gives us this insight.

In 2007, 25% of youth aged 15 to 17 reported having tried smoking a little cigar at some point in their lives and over 8% said they had smoked one some time in the 30 days before the survey. These results confirm that there is reason for concern and we need to take action. I would like to remind the House that the proposed legislation does not seek to get rid of little cigars altogether, but we do want to put a stop to the marketing of them to youth, whether that is through price, flavouring or advertising.

In closing, I would like to thank members of the Standing Committee on Health for their thoughtful and timely consideration of this very important legislation. I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the hon. member for Winnipeg North and all the important work she has done to raise awareness of the dangers that candy-flavoured tobacco products pose to our country's young people.

All of my colleagues on the health committee have done a wonderful job with this legislation. I thank the stakeholders, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health for their support. I found this a great experience and an example of working co-operatively, not in a partisan way, especially on an issue that is very important to all of us here as parents, which is the health of our children. It is an example of how committees should work.

I hope the bill gets a very speedy passage through the Senate.

Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my hon. colleague in speaking to Bill C-32, as I believe it is vitally important to curb tobacco use among children.

Most smokers begin smoking in childhood or early adolescence. Ninety per cent smoke before the age of 18. Early starters are more likely to become addicted daily smokers. Partly because the tobacco industry targets adolescence, 82,000 to 99,000 young people start smoking every day.

Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, 60 of them known or suspected carcinogens, such as arsenic, DDT and methanol. Cigarette smoke is directly linked to an increased risk of many diseases, including cancer, heart disease and even sexual impotence. In fact, 30% of all cancer deaths can be attributed to smoking. Cancers other than lung cancer that are limited to smoking include bladder, cervical, kidney, liver, pancreatic and stomach cancer.

Even light smokers risk their health. For example, a 2005 British Medical Journal study showed that smoking only one to four cigarettes per day was associated with a significantly higher risk of dying from heart disease. According to the World Health Organization, smoking accounts for one in ten deaths worldwide. As a result, Gro Harlem Brundtland, former director general of the organization, repeatedly and angrily spoke out against the tobacco epidemic, “Civilized nations protect their people under 18—they do not let them play around with a product which statistically kills one out of two of its permanent users”.

The Standing Committee on Health did work collegially and heard testimony from anti-smoking groups to small business owners to the tobacco industry. Much of the questioning focused on contraband tobacco, smokeless products and menthol flavouring and whether more work needed to be done in these areas.

We have a crisis in Canada, namely contraband tobacco, which lacks government control, inspection, taxation, is cheap and is easily bought by youth. Research tells us that the price of cigarettes is an important factor in determining whether young people begin to smoke, whether current smokers continue and how much they smoke. We know low cost contraband cigarettes are particularly attractive to vulnerable populations such as young people. Lab analysis of contraband shows that dead flies, insect eggs, mould and even human feces have appeared in contraband cigarettes.

Our children are smoking contraband cigarettes in disturbing numbers, 25% of youth in Ontario and 32% of youth in Quebec. Dave Bryans, president of the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco, reports:

We've got the wild west of illegal tobacco manufacturing and distribution right under our noses and most Canadians don't know it's happening.

The reality is that trade in cigarettes undermines prevention and smoking cessation strategies.

In a 2009 example from Hamilton, Hamilton's public health department and the Canadian Cancer Society blame the jump on easy access to contraband and tax-free cigarettes that sell for a fraction of the regular price. Smoking increased by a third in one year. Public Health estimates that contraband cigarettes cost $8 to $15 compared with the usual $55 to $80.

A last point regarding contraband tobacco is that while it may rob government of enormous tax revenue, at least $1.6 billion each year, it is statistically likely to kill one in two of the youth it sucks in.

While contraband is growing in popularity among youth, so too is smokeless tobacco, better known as chew, snuff or spit tobacco. Spitless tobacco is a cleaner, friendlier version of chewing tobacco, developed in an effort to convince more smokers to consider using smokeless products in places where smoking is prohibited.

Regardless of the name or form, smokeless tobacco causes serious health problems. Chewing tobacco hooks users on nicotine, similar to the way cigarettes do, and makes it difficult to stop using chewing tobacco. Over time, users develop a tolerance for nicotine and need more tobacco to feel the desired effects of the drug. Some switch to brands with higher nicotine content or use tobacco more frequently and longer.

Severely addicted users may leave the chew in their mouths overnight and swallow the tobacco juices. Smokeless tobacco causes gum disease to tooth decay because it contains high amounts of sugar as well as coarse particles that can scratch away tooth enamel, making teeth more vulnerable to cavities.

More seriously, smokeless tobacco increases blood pressure and heart rate, and may increase the risk of heart attack. Smokeless products also increase the risk of developing small white precancerous patches inside the mouth where the chew is most often placed or worse, oral cancer, including those of the cheek, gums, lip, mouth, throat and tongue. Surgery to remove cancer from any of these areas can leave the chin, face, jaw or neck disfigured.

Smokeless is not harmless. Joe Garagiola, a former spit tobacco user, played major league baseball and later worked in broadcasting. He reported:

I chewed tobacco because it seemed to be the thing to do if you were playing baseball. Everybody chewed when I was playing, and nobody knew the dangers of it.

He has since become a crusader against smokeless products because he lost three close friends to oral cancer. He said:

You won't die of gum disease or yellow teeth, but develop oral cancer and it's a terrible way to go. Here you are with oral cancer from using spit tobacco, your jaw has been removed and you have to eat through a tube. You die one piece at a time. Spit tobacco is a horrible, horrible thing. I just wish I could get this message across to everyone.

Today, more than 600 additives including caramel, cocoa, coffee extract, vanilla and menthol can legally be added to tobacco products.

Many appear to be present simply to add flavour, but some may have more sinister effects. For example, cocoa when burned in a cigarette produces bromine gas that dilates the airways of the lung and increases the body's ability to absorb nicotine.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health explored tobacco industry manipulation of menthol levels in specific brands and found a deliberate strategy to recruit and addict young smokers by adjusting menthol to create a milder experience for the first time user. Menthol masks the harshness and irritation of cigarettes allowing delivery of an effective dose of nicotine. These milder products were then marketed to the youngest potential consumers.

Howard Koh, professor and associate dean for public health practice said, “For decades, the tobacco industry has carefully manipulated menthol content not only to lure youth but also to lock in lifelong adult customers”.

We know that younger smokers use menthol at higher levels. About 44% of current smokers, age 12 to 17, have tried menthol. That compares to 31% with older smokers.

To be fair, a spokesperson for Philip Morris said:

We disagree with the author's conclusion that menthol levels in our products were manipulated to gain market share among adolescents...The company's various brands, including our menthol brands, are designed to meet the diverse taste preferences of adults who smoke. We believe kids should not use tobacco and our marketing methods are designed to minimise reach to unintended audiences--

Regardless, there are significant knowledge gaps regarding menthol: the role of menthol in tobacco reinforcement and addiction; the relationship between menthol cigarettes and cancer of various sites; the effect of menthol cigarettes on cardiovascular disease; and the association between use of menthol and illicit drugs.

Importantly, this year there will be a second scientific conference on menthol cigarettes.

In closing, Bill CC-32 is important and necessary. I am encouraged that it is receiving strong support from anti-smoking and health groups. Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said, “We're hopeful that MPs will adopt this bill quickly. It's a very important gain for us”.

Going forward, however, we have to close the loop on contraband tobacco. This may mean looking at the Criminal Code as 49% of cigarettes smoked in Canada are contraband. We also need to look at smokeless tobacco and menthol cigarettes.

Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2009 / 5:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is clear at this point that the result of the vote on Bill C-32 is no longer a secret to anyone, because, as hon. members will have noticed during routine proceedings today, a motion was unanimously adopted in this House to pass Bill C-32 unanimously at the end of this debate, which my NDP colleague will close.

I imagine that the reason is quite simple: all the parliamentarians in this House—on the advice of the Standing Committee on Health, on which I sit with my colleague from Repentigny—decided that all the measures in Bill C-32 were in keeping with the objective of the bill, which is to place greater limitations on young people's access to cigarettes and tobacco products.

This objective is very much in line with the purpose of the Tobacco Act that was enacted in 1997 and that stipulates in paragraph 4(c) that the purpose of the act is to protect the health of young persons by restricting access to tobacco products.

We know that Bill C-32 aims essentially to eliminate any attractive packaging that resembles candy and contains a single little cigar or just a few units. In fact, the weight limit is 1.4 grams. Removing these flavoured products from circulation broadens the scope of the act to include blunt wraps.

It is important to try as much as possible to remove from circulation and make inaccessible to our young people tobacco products that could introduce them much more easily and quickly to tobacco use, which we all know is harmful to health and leads to addiction.

Of course, in a few moments, when this debate concludes, we are going to make our decision, which, as I said earlier, is a unanimous vote in favour of this bill. It will be sent to the Senate to be studied there.

It is clear, however, that our actions as parliamentarians must not stop with this bill. As we know, manufacturers have a great deal of imagination and could try to find other ways to make tobacco more appealing and more accessible to young people. We must always remain vigilant. We mentioned this and talked about it during our examination at the Standing Committee on Health. We said that the government and this Parliament must remain truly open to adding any other products that might appear or are already on the market, and for which we do not have any evidence on how appealing they are to young people.

The ISQ revealed that more than one-third of secondary students had smoked a cigarillo in the month before the survey. I think that number speaks for itself and illustrates the importance of taking action.

I was also pleased to hear my colleague from Etobicoke North describe cigarette smuggling as a scourge and say that it encourages our young people to use tobacco products.

Indeed, according to the statistics I found by doing a little research, 200 illegal cigarettes can be purchased for about $6. What young person today does not have $6 in his or her pockets? And 200 cigarettes translates into a lot of heavy smoking.

It is therefore important that we make a greater, more concerted effort to put an end to cigarette smuggling. I am pleased to have my Liberal colleague's support on this, because our work as parliamentarians should focus on finding a solution to smuggling as quickly as possible. The problem is already well entrenched and critical.

The government also loses out because of smuggling. According to the most recent figures I could find, federal and provincial governments lose $1.6 billion in tax revenues every year because of cigarette smuggling.

I would like to talk about another matter for future consideration by all my colleagues. We heard in committee from cigarillo manufacturers that stopping the production and sale of cigarillos will lead to a substantial reduction of their revenue, not that generated by sales to young people but revenue from sales to adult clients who currently smoke these products. Lost revenue translates into future job losses. Out of concern for these workers, it is our duty as parliamentarians to reflect on the impact of this legislation on those workers in the industry who may lose their jobs and consider possible assistance for them. The government should also think about this when implementing the bill.

In closing, I would like to acknowledge all witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Health during the course of this study. When we have to study a bill it is important to hear from experts and also from those people who make the fight against smoking a priority every day.

It is also important, as we deal with this matter, to congratulate and acknowledge all those who have quit smoking, something I wish to highlight. By quitting they have decided to do something positive for their health and we should give them credit for that.

I would also like to thank all stakeholders, including groups of young people who, every day, try to get the message out to our youth about the harmful effects of smoking and urge them to not start down the road to this addiction. As years go by, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop smoking. I am not speaking from experience because I have never smoked a cigarette or any other tobacco product. However, I have met many people and, in my previous speech in this House, I gave the example of Louis Lemieux.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are resuming debate on Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act. It is important to point out the alternative title. The bill contains the following note: “This Act may be cited as the Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act.”

I wanted to point that out because it is clear that, in the mind of the legislator, this bill definitely fits in with the objectives set out in the Tobacco Act of 1997. In section 4(c), it states that the purpose of the act is to protect the health of young persons by restricting access to tobacco products.

Clearly, generally speaking, tobacco is very harmful to human health, as we know. It is clear that, as a society, we want the best for our young people and our children. We want to ensure that whatever they consume things is in no way harmful to their health, their development or their growth.

Clearly, and again generally speaking, no one wants to see someone who is still growing consume products that are harmful to health. It is only natural that a society like ours creates legislation to try to ensure only the best for our young people. That is why it is important to limit the use of tobacco products by our young people.

That is precisely what we are doing by prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors. That is the message we are sending to all our citizens, not only to the young people themselves, of course, but also to their parents and their peers. As we know, at a certain age, young people often use tobacco products to imitate others. We see people smoking and might then be inclined to smoke as well, since one of the rituals of some groups.

However, as I was saying, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that our young people do not consume tobacco products. That is what the law tells us, by prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors.

Furthermore, according to a 2007 Health Canada survey, close to 85% of merchants abide by this law. Of course, we would prefer that all merchants abided by the law. That would reinforce the message we want to get across to young people, their parents and their friends of legal age, which is to discourage them from using these products.

However, it is rather clear that merchants are generally aware of their roles as responsible citizens in promoting healthy lifestyles among our young people.

An important part of Bill C-32 is to restrict the use of little cigars, or cigarillos. It is true that young people who smoke them from time to time, may not be happy to learn that flavoured cigarillos will no longer be found on the shelves. However, it is clear that in this case, we are making this change to the Tobacco Act for their own good.

It is important to note that in 2000, Health Canada determined that cigarillos contain between 67% and 200% more tar than standard cigarettes, and that unfiltered cigarillos contain twice as much nicotine. We know that these harmful substances are addictive, and it is important to restrict the use of the products by young people as much as possible. It makes me smile to think of an interview I heard at the end of last week. Louis Lemieux, a morning host on the RDI news network was having a rather candid interview with Sylvie Fréchette, spokesperson for No Tobacco Day. He spoke about his own desire to quit smoking. He was even wearing a patch during the show. During the interview, Mr. Lemieux admitted that he did not think many people enjoyed smoking, but that it was difficult for them to quit because they were addicted.

We do not want our young people to develop an addiction to tobacco products during their development in adolescence. So it is important, in accordance with paragraph 4(c) of the 1997 Tobacco Act, to try to restrict access to tobacco products for young people as much as possible.

We have some interesting statistics from the Institut de la statistique du Québec. Our young people, both boys and girls, begin smoking cigars between secondary 2 and 3, that is, grades eight and nine. About 21% to 22% smoke cigars. We tend to believe that things are the same as in an earlier time and that only boys smoke; however, girls smoke now as well and that is not what we want for them.

Exactly what is Bill C-32 trying to do? It introduces three things.

It prohibits certain types of flavouring agents used in little cigars or cigarillos. Surely everyone has seen them. The little cigars now come in cute packaging resembling a package of candy or treats in all kinds of flavours that are unusual, interesting and colourful. This bill will eliminate these flavoured tobacco products from our stores.

It also prohibits the sale of single products. Young people do not necessarily have a lot of money. They often manage on odd jobs or perhaps gifts or allowances from their parents or grandparents. They do not necessarily have the money to buy a package of 20 or 25 cigars or cigarettes. At present, these flavoured little cigars are sold individually or in packages of three, five or eight. Subclause 10(1) of the bill reads as follows:

No person shall import for sale in Canada, package, distribute or sell cigarettes, little cigars or blunt wraps except in a package that contains at least 20 cigarettes, little cigars or blunt wraps or, if a higher number is prescribed, at least the prescribed number.

From now on, it will be much harder for minors to purchase these products because the larger packages will be more expensive.

With respect to advertising, current legislation allows tobacco product manufacturers and distributors to advertise in publications that have an adult readership of 85%. It is also interesting to note that there will be some advertising restrictions because we noticed that some of these publications were being distributed free of charge and were available to everyone, including minors. These publications may have been community, culturally or socially oriented, and their content may have been of interest to young people.

It is interesting to note that, to prevent these ads from reaching minors, legislators decided to take that option away from advertisers who wanted to put tobacco advertising in such publications.

I also want to point out that the Government of Quebec did not wait. I always like to remind people that the Government of Quebec and Quebeckers generally do the responsible thing when they realize that it is in the collective best interest and in young people's best interest.

The Government of Quebec has already implemented a number of rules to limit minors' access to tobacco products. According to Quebec law, a package had to include at least 10 units of a tobacco product and had to be priced above $5. As of June 1, that went up to $10. In Quebec, tobacco products are now out of sight of consumers, so when minors go into convenience stores, they will not see tobacco products that they might be tempted to buy.

However, I want to emphasize that, if we want to win the war on tobacco use among young people, we have to be much more open in our interpretation and enforcement of the measures we want to implement. If the per-unit cost is a factor for young people, then which currently available products will they buy? They will buy contraband cigarettes.

Everyone knows these cigarettes are easy to get and inexpensive. They are not, however, monitored in any way as far as ingredients or contents are concerned. What is more, they are not monitored for their ignition potential, either. If there is no clear, effective, vigilant and concerted attack on contraband tobacco, thanks to Bill C-32, young people will no longer be able to get cigarillos or flavoured tobacco products but they will be able nonetheless to turn to other products, such as contraband cigarettes.

Any one of us can look around near a high school to look at the ground where the kids hang out and find a number of butts. We will of course find some cigarillo butts, but we will also find a lot of butts from contraband cigarettes. If the legislator's clearly stated desire is to restrict the marketing of tobacco products to young people, and their access to those products, it is vital to attack contraband tobacco products in a vigorous and clear manner.

To date we have had no clear sense that the government is firmly committed to attacking this problem. I am certain that all the stakeholders will very definitely be in favour of much stronger and more effective measures against contraband. The survival of many businesses depends on it, of course, but it is also important to remember that all governments are increasingly concerned about tax leakage due to contraband. In addition, as I said earlier, it is impossible to analyze the content of the contraband products in circulation.

Another slight contradiction in the bill concerns the flavours covered by the bill. Why are menthol products still allowed? The bill puts them in a separate category, and manufacturers will still be able to make and sell menthol products, even though products flavoured with raspberry, vanilla, cherry, wild blueberry, peach, strawberry, cinnamon, honey, black cherry and rum are prohibited. Menthol is being kept because it is apparently not a flavour young people appreciate. But how do we know which of the flavours I listed young people like better than others? In my opinion, menthol should not be excluded.

Moreover, many new products will come on the market, and the government does not even make provision for them in the current version of the bill.

This is a flaw I noticed. It will be important to know why. When cigarillos came on the market, they were not very popular at all, just like other new products, but look how popular they are now.

In conclusion, I call on my colleagues to refer this bill to committee.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2009 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-32, which is a very important piece of legislation, particularly as it affects public health.

What is Bill C-32? This enactment amends the Tobacco Act to provide additional protection for youth from tobacco marketing. It repeals the exemption that permits tobacco advertising in publications with an adult readership of not less than 85%. It prohibits the packaging, importation for sale, distribution and sale of little cigars and blunt wraps unless they are in a package that contains at least 20. It also prohibits the manufacture and sale of cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps that contain the additives set out in a new schedule to that act as well as the packaging of those products in a manner that suggests they contain a prohibited additive.

This is a really important piece of legislation, and I have a particular bias on this.

When we look at legislation affecting tobacco, the first thing we have to accept is that tobacco has no redeeming qualities. One could argue that for people who smoke the taste is a redeeming quality, but there are no redeeming qualities. It is dangerous, it is addictive and it shortens life.

Tobacco abuse is sometimes compared to alcohol abuse, but there are some significant differences. One difference is that alcohol can be used responsibly in moderation. Some research even indicates that there are health benefits to certain types of alcohol. We often hear about red wine. Even the beer distributors have evidence indicating that beer used in moderation can be helpful. It has not helped me very much, but I accept the argument. Whether one believes it or not, it can be argued that alcohol does not automatically shorten life. Of course the abuse of alcohol can have dramatic impacts: early death, drinking under the influence, et cetera. But we have laws that pertain in those circumstances.

Tobacco has no health benefits. It is very important that we ensure young Canadians do not fall into this trap and become addicted to tobacco. The bill is important for that reason, and for me it has a historical importance as well. From 1991 to 2004, I was very involved as a volunteer with the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Nova Scotia and in Canada. I was the president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Nova Scotia for three or four years, and I served on the national board for a number of years.

I had the opportunity to work with some great health advocates who worked very hard in the anti-tobacco strategies. Joan Fraser was a mentor to me in Nova Scotia, and Jane Farquharson was a pioneer in healthy living. Mary Elizabeth Harriman, who works with the Heart and Stroke Foundation nationally, and is now the executive vice-president, was involved in health promotion when I worked with her on a number of these issues. Sally Brown is now the executive director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and she has been for a number of years. People in Nova Scotia, like Tanya Willis, Rollie Jameson, Grant Morash, George Buckell, are business leaders who became presidents of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and advocated for many issues, including but not specifically restricted to the battle against tobacco.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation has done a great deal of work on the anti-tobacco strategy. The key was when the organizations with a common interest in promoting healthy living, particularly as it pertained to tobacco but also on other things like obesity and other issues, started working together. The health charities round table in Canada had great success. They have done a lot of great work. We know the work that the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Lung Association, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, the CMA and other organizations do. Those organizations have been active on this for a long time.

We have come a long way in the battle against tobacco, but it was not always easy. I can recall 30 years ago that my now mother-in-law told people that if they were going to smoke in her house they should leave. That was radical in those days. People thought she was crazy. They thought she was hypersensitive to tobacco smoke to actually ask someone to leave her house to smoke. That was only three decades ago. They thought it was just an inconvenience. They did not understand the health detriment of second-hand smoke. That is not that many years ago.

We have come a long way, but it has not always been easy. At times success came incrementally, in small steps, and the tobacco advocates, who were well financed and well resourced, fought back every step of the way. But success has come to some degree. It has not come all the way, but it has come, and we have reduced the incidence of smoking. It has taken a lot of hard work.

I can recall a time, probably about 10 years or so ago, when the Liberal government of the day was cracking down on tobacco companies being able to sponsor events. The tobacco companies, to their credit, were very involved in things like the artistic community.

I remember arriving at my office one day and receiving calls from two organizations with which I was involved. One was from the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia asking if I would write a letter encouraging the government, in the piece of legislation that it was pursuing, so that tobacco companies could not sponsor events and take advantage of that sponsorship to leverage people to become addicted to smoking. That was fine.

I was also on the board of Neptune Theatre, probably the finest theatre company in Canada, with the possible exception of Eastern Front Theatre in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and perhaps the St. Peters Playhouse. The one in Charlottetown is not half bad, I must say, thanks to Anne of Green Gables and a number of other fine productions.

When I was on the board of Neptune Theatre I was asked to write a letter opposing the legislation because Neptune Theatre was the beneficiary, largely of du Maurier but other companies that provided sponsorship. It was a difficult position. Tobacco companies knew that governments had been reducing their role in the artistic and cultural communities and that they had an opportunity. To their credit, they stepped in.

I wrote the letter for the Heart & Stroke Foundation, which was the right thing to do. The Heart & Stroke Foundation has been a great advocate on a number of things.

We have had discussions in the House on things like trans fats. The Heart & Stroke Foundation has led on Health Check, where it identifies products that are healthy for people and puts a check mark on them so that when people go to grocery stores they will know what is healthy and what is not because consumers still have an awful lot of trouble identifying what is actually good for them and do not understand all the ramifications and differences in products, such as polyunsaturates, trans fats and everything else.

My bias on this bill is the work that I did with the Heart & Stroke Foundation and the people I met, including the many people who had become addicted to tobacco. Quite honestly, in my parents' generation it was a pretty easy thing to do. It seemed everybody smoked and, before they knew it, they were hooked on tobacco. Thank heaven, today my own children face probably more pressure if they do smoke than if they do not, although there are some areas where that is not always the case.

We have had great champions in Nova Scotia. I recall Ron Stewart, who was the minister of health in Nova Scotia in my father's government in the 1990s. He postulated at one point in time that we should not have things like the candy licorice pipes. I am sure members have had those before and probably in recent years. I have been known to enjoy them myself. However, the idea was that maybe we should not have them because it makes it easy for kids to become accustomed to pretending that they smoke and eventually they do. He was pilloried. People thought he was crazy. I think he was ahead of his time, as Ron Stewart always is.

Dave MacLean is with Heart Health Nova Scotia. I am very proud of the fact that in Nova Scotia, when I was involved in the Heart & Stroke Foundation, we had an organization that pulled together a number of advocates in public health, largely on smoking, headed by Dr. Dave MacLean, who was a champion on this issue. He is now at Simon Fraser University. Both he and his wife have teaching positions there. He was a pioneer.

Anne Cogdon in the city of Dartmouth was very involved in the healthy communities project.

Those are people who understand that people should not smoke. There was a day when people said that we were taking away their freedom. It was like seat belts and a number of other things but there is a role for the state in ensuring we provide opportunities, and not dangerous ones, for all citizens, but particularly for children.

I was always proud of the fact that Nova Scotia, under the Progressive Conservative government of Dr. John Hamm, back maybe five, six or seven years ago, was the first province in Canada to have a health promotion department. I give Dr. Hamm and people like Scott Logan, who worked there, a lot of credit. They were very active in ensuring people knew the facts about smoking, gambling, alcohol abuse and a whole bunch of other issues. I am proud of the fact that Nova Scotia, under Dr. Hamm's leadership, was the first province to bring in a health promotion department.

I have had the opportunity to speak to a number of my not-for-profit friends about this bill, organizations like Heart & Stroke, the Cancer Society, the Canadian Medical Association, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and the Lung Association. They want this bill passed. It may not be perfect and, in fact, I would argue that it is not. A number of things need to be looked at and adapted in the health committee but we need to get this through the House, which is what people are calling for.

I would like to quote Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society. He stated:

The Canadian Cancer Society strongly supports this bill as it will lead to fewer Canadians starting to smoke and encourage more to quit.... By working together to quickly pass this bill, federal MPs will send a clear message that the health of their constituents and all Canadians comes first. Cancer is a non-partisan issue.

Speaking of cigarillos, which I will speak to in a second, which come in fruit flavours and things like that, he says:

There is the risk that these flavoured products would be a starter product for kids who would never otherwise start smoking,

There is a concerning rate of cigarillo smoking among young Canadians. The Heart & Stroke Foundation, the aforementioned Sally Brown is doing a wonderful job with the Heart & Stroke Foundation. I am proud to say that I was part of the search committee that recommended her. She said:

Protecting children from harmful tobacco industry products such as candy-flavoured cigarillos and their associated marketing is critical to ensure that children do not get hooked on tobacco. This is crucial because long-term tobacco users, half of whom die from their tobacco use, more often than not begin their addiction in their youth. This initiative is critical to reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

I would also mention Paul Thomey, the chair of tobacco policy for the Canadian Lung Association, who was quoted as saying:

These are positive steps forward in the fight against tobacco. Strong measures such as these not only will protect Canada 's children from the harmful effects of smoking, but will also serve to curtail industry tactics aimed at marketing their products to the youth of this country.

The president of the CMA said, “Closing loopholes is a huge step forward in protecting our children from a deadly addiction to tobacco”. This is a very serious issue for many people.

I have spoken to my friends at the Heart & Stroke who have suggested that we should pass the bill and get it to committee and perhaps the health committee would amend the bill to address smokeless tobacco products: oral, chew, spit tobacco, et cetera. Some of these products contain flavourings that are meant to appeal to youth. We think that should be dealt with at the committee level.

Other speakers have probably referred to this, but how could we believe anything other than the fact that producers of tobacco products are trying to get children addicted to their products when chewing tobacco comes in flavours that appeal to kids? We should think about that. These are flavoured products that are meant to appeal to children and that needs to be changed.

We should think about how deliberate these strategies are, and this is for both smoking and for smokeless products. Little cigars, the cigarillos, whose sales have exploded in recent years, come in these flavours: grape, peach, tropical punch, chocolate and bubble gum. These are not the boys in the fishing camps sitting around having some bubble gum flavoured chewing tobacco that they are appealing to. These are my kids, other members' kids and grandkids and other children across the country. It is really abhorrent. They are not breaking the law right now. We need to change the law so that if they do it, they do break the law because our grandchildren are too important to the future of this country. Who are these intended for? It is pretty clear.

Bill C-32 would deal with what I think is a rotten marketing practice. We are told that more than 400 million little cigars were sold in Canada in 2007 and that must stop. The bill would deal with that. It also would deal with the practice of selling cigarillos in small quantities. That is the other thing. Flavoured products are sold in ones or twos. It is a lot easier for kids at recess or kids at lunchtime to get one or two than if they are mandated to come in a pack of 20 or more. We dealt with this with cigarettes. We cannot buy one or two cigarettes but we can buy one or two root beer flavoured cigarillos or tropical punch. This needs to be changed.

It should never be easy for children to buy tobacco. As a father, the thought of my children becoming addicted to these products is frightening. Any one of us would hope that would never be the case.

Another issue that my colleague from St. Paul's has spoken to quite passionately and very effectively to is the issue of contraband tobacco. In 2008, three billion more contraband cigars were sold than in 2007. That is $2 billion in lost government revenue. Officials estimate that 200 small cigars cost $8 to $15 and not what it should be, which is in the range of $55 to $80. That is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with. It is a huge percentage of the issue that we have to deal with here.

I now want to talk about advertising. We thought we had dealt with this issue because the law was that companies could not advertise tobacco except in publications where at least 85% of the readership were adults. However, there has been a strong resurgence of advertising recently. Who knows where a lot of these publications that carry these ads go. There is no way of knowing if children are getting them and reading them, finding them on the street or if the publications are being distributed for free. Therefore, that exemption for publications where at least 85% of the readership are adults, needs to be dealt with. We really cannot regulate the distribution of advertising in today's society.

We have made some good strides. I will read an article which states:

A recent resurgence of tobacco advertising--over 400 ads nationwide--between November 2007 and December 2008--has exposed young audiences to tobacco sales pitches.

Full colour tobacco ads have been appearing....

Between November 2007 and December 2008, tobacco companies spent approximately $4.47 million dollars to place nationwide ads....

That also would be dealt with by this bill.

We have made some great strides on the issue of dealing with tobacco and the dangers that it can cause. A lot of credit goes to organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart & Stroke Foundation, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, public health agencies across the country, municipal public health organizations, doctors, nurses, teachers, and many others who have brought this message forward for us. I think young people are much more aware of the dangers of smoking than they used to be, certainly more than when I was a child when it was kind of cool to smoke. I do not think that is the case any more. When I talk to my children, they do not think smoking is cool at all, and I want to keep it that way. It is good that we are headed in the right direction but it is nowhere good enough.

Good public education is in fact the key, as it always is, but so is good public policy. The government has a role in ensuring that we provide safe and healthy communities for all of us, but particularly for our children.

There have been a number of champions in this House. I think of former health ministers. like Dave Dingwall and Allan Rock, who did a lot of work on this issue. I think of my NDP colleague from Winnipeg North. I know this is an issue that she takes very seriously and it is an issue that she has championed in private member's bills. She deserves credit. I am sure she is very happy that this bill has come to pass and that she would want to get it into committee.

I also think of my colleague from St. Paul's, the former and first minister of public health in Canada, the originator of the Public Health Agency of Canada. We recognize that the Public Health Agency of Canada, when it was set up, was set up largely in reaction to the issues like SARS and was to deal with things like West Nile virus, but also that there are chronic health disease issues in Canada that are taking a huge toll on our health system and on our citizens.

The biggest issue we face in managing our health care costs today is chronic disease. Tobacco has no positive health benefits. It is designed and produced to be detrimental to health. It is highly addictive. For years, led by public health champions, Canadians have resisted the tobacco lobby and made progress against smoking. We have moved forward. Smoking is now severely restricted in public places, for example; advertising and promotion is curtailed; packaging has been legislated.

My colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood passed a private member's bill a few years ago that affected the burn rate of cigarettes. Again, he faced opposition.

Progress has come but this is now the new battle for our children. We must not allow our children to be easily led down a very dangerous path: a path of addiction to tobacco.

This bill is a very good start and I encourage all members to support the bill and get it into committee where we can make it even better.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2009 / 5:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, before anything else, I would like to congratulate my colleague from the Liberal Party on his fine speech.

I will pick up on his final comment, that indeed any campaign against smoking encompasses not just a battle against cigarettes but also an overall approach to the causes of tobacco addiction. A large part of this will involve education. Major advances have already been made on the educational level to raise public awareness, among young people in particular, in order to make sure they do not start smoking at that age, and then be stuck with it for the rest of their lives. There is therefore far more to be done than just to take concrete actions on today's smokers or the tobacco companies. There is also the whole educational approach to the diet and physical fitness of our young people, long before any direct attack on cigarettes.

The Bloc Québécois is in principle in favour of Bill C-32, although it is not of great use to Quebec, where the Government of Quebec has already enacted stricter control over cigarillos. I would like to take just a minute to show you that, once again, Quebec has been proactive rather than reactive like the federal government. Quebec has had an anti-smoking strategy for ages. For about three years now, there has been legislation in place banning smoking in bars and restaurants. Before that, there were segregated areas. but now smoking in public places is completely banned.

I must admit that this measure has made considerable strides toward reducing smoking, because smokers really have nowhere left to smoke except at home and outside. Even outside, it has to be nine metres away from a building. So it can be seen that Quebec has already taken great steps toward reducing smoking. Now too, corner stores have to store cigarettes in a closed cabinet so that young people who come into the store are not attracted by the packages of cigarettes.

I would like to come back to cigarillos. There is a problem: young people are smoking more and more, and start with cigarillos before gradually making the move to cigarettes. As my colleague said earlier, although tobacco companies are legitimate—we have nothing against the companies themselves—I have a problem with their ethics when they launch a vigorous marketing campaign targeted at young people and the most vulnerable people in society.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I have heard from a huge number of representatives from anti-tobacco lobbies, including Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, which the Liberal member is very familiar with. This group showed us the new packaging and tobacco products. I must admit that it is very scary. I am not afraid of the box itself, but of the way things are being done. There are advertisements with bright colours targeted directly at young people. Tobacco companies are trying to make it attractive and get young people interested in smoking. Everyone knows that the products in cigarettes and cigarillos are extremely toxic and addictive. They will make young people want to smoke. That is what is so great about their strategy. I am being sarcastic, of course.

Young people start with a little cigarette or cigarillo. The companies try to encourage them to buy just one or two. They make small packages of five cigarillos so that young people buy only a package, and thus do not consider themselves real smokers. Unfortunately, they start with a small package of five cigarillos, which gradually leads them to cigarettes, and maybe even worse. We can see that these companies have a marketing strategy to find young people on high school grounds or in CEGEPs, so that they gradually develop a dependence on cigarettes or cigarillos, and eventually become smokers—heavy smokers at that.

In spite of everything, the number of smokers has gone down over the years. My colleague to my left stopped smoking three months ago, and I want to congratulate him, because it is a very brave thing to do. He deserves a round of applause. He has tried to stop smoking for three months, and I encourage him to keep at it.

The number of smokers is going down from one year to the next. We have come a long way since the 1950s, when physicians said that cigarettes were good for your health and had studies to back their claims. I do not know whether hon. members remember this. Unfortunately, I had not yet been born in 1950, but the cigarette companies, with the help of the medical profession, sold their products without too much difficulty. People still did not know about all the problems cigarettes caused. Education has played a prominent role in the decrease in the smoking rate.

It is therefore important to raise awareness, especially among children. Public awareness of the harmful effects of cigarette smoking has caused this huge decrease from one year to the next. Certainly, there is still a lot of work to be done, but the bill is a step in the right direction and a way to continue bringing down the number of smokers.

Needless to say, there are some things missing from the bill. First, it should have more teeth, particularly to combat contraband cigarettes. I will come back to this. Bill C-32 lacks teeth, but it is a step in the right direction, and we will be able to study it in the Standing Committee on Health, which is what I am going to do, and do thoroughly, have no fear.

Reworking this bill in committee will give us the chance to make certain amendments so that the bill has more teeth. Of course, we will have to consult groups such as Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada to find out what sort of amendments they would like to see made to this bill.

The Bloc Québécois believes that cigarillos and all other tobacco products should be subject to the same prohibitions as cigarettes. Efforts to reduce the visibility and consumption of cigarettes must not be thwarted by the emergence of other equally harmful products.

The Bloc Québécois is asking that, as for cigarettes, it be prohibited to advertise tobacco products to children under 18, that all products display warnings about the dangers of smoking and that these products be hidden from public view.

As I was rereading my notes to prepare for the debate on Bill C-32, I got to thinking about the little labels on cigarette packages that show pictures of gingivitis and say that smoking too many cigarettes can cause impotence. Those messages turn young people off of smoking. Of course, we still have a lot to do.

It would be unfortunate if some young people began to ignore these messages because they have seen them over and over. We will have to work hard to educate them. We also have to make sure that cigarillo packages carry the same messages as cigarette packages. That is extremely important. We have to show young people that cigarillos are just as dangerous as cigarettes.

Unfortunately, young people tend to replace one with the other, and it would be really unfortunate if cigarillo packaging did not have to follow the same rules as cigarette packaging. That is covered in part in Bill C-32.

Nevertheless, it is clear that Bill C-32 will not put an end to tobacco use among minors, as I said earlier, and that tougher measures, particularly with respect to contraband cigarettes, will have to be enforced to minimize minors' access to illegal tobacco products.

Not so very long ago, I was in high school and at CEGEP. At the time, I was not a smoker. I was stunned to see 15 and 16 year olds smoking on high school property without a care in the world. On the one hand, we prohibit the sale of tobacco products to minors, but on the other, we let them smoke on public property in full view of everyone else. That was a major contradiction. But it is not the only contradiction we will ever see. As I was saying earlier to my colleagues, democracy is all about managing contradictions.

The Bloc Québécois is calling on the federal government to use every legal means possible to put an end to the explosion of smuggling, including for example, seizing smugglers' vehicles. Quebec has had many problems with cigarette smuggling. Many of the cigarettes sold to our young people, and some not so young, do not come from legal sources, but rather are smuggled. If we raise taxes on cigarettes, the sale of legal cigarettes will go down and smuggling activities will increase. Since smuggled cigarettes will be cheaper, there will be much greater demand for them. That is the law of supply and demand. So if we raise the taxes on packs of cigarettes too much and do nothing else, this will have a completely negative effect, since smuggling will increase.

The government must take decisive action and ensure that cigarette smuggling is eradicated in very specific regions of Quebec and Canada. That is the problem, since we know where the smugglers are. We know who they are, but unfortunately, it seems as though there is some sort of political fear around taking steps to limit cigarette smuggling. Until something is done, there will always be problems with tobacco. We can do all the publicity campaigns and educating we like, but if one day we reach the critical point at which we cannot get the rate of smokers below 20%, then we will have to implement other strategies, such as eradicating smuggling rings, as I was saying earlier.

At the same time, we believe that although police action is crucial, certain regulations must also be amended in order to discourage smugglers. That is key. Eliminating the source, the supplier, is still the best way to prevent smuggling.

My very honourable colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, a former minister of public safety, did extraordinary work with respect to both cigarette and drug smuggling. At the time, the Parti Québécois government—which was not afraid to assume its responsibilities—took concrete action to eliminate these smugglers. He sent the police and enacted extraordinary measures in an attempt to eliminate networks of cigarette smugglers that were often criminal organizations. To tell the truth, they are all criminal organizations.

The following are some of the measures that should be implemented: prohibit unlicensed manufacturers from purchasing raw materials and equipment used to manufacture cigarettes; revoke tobacco licences from manufacturers who break the law; establish an effective marking system for cigarette packages—a marking and tracing system—that would allow for close monitoring of tobacco deliveries; and lobby the U.S. government to shut down illegal manufacturers located on the American side of the border. This is not just a Canadian problem.

We can pass the best laws in Canada to prevent the sale of cigarettes and cigarillos to youth and to attempt to prevent cigarette smuggling but it will still be futile if the American government does not help us out with our tobacco control strategy. It is extremely difficult to wage this war against these criminals all by oneself. I am not afraid to call them that because they are poisoning our youth.

We would like to see the fee for a federal licence to manufacture tobacco products raised to a minimum of $5 million, rather than the paltry $5,000 required today.

Madam Speaker, do you not think it is ridiculous that licences are only $5,000? Some colleagues are telling me that they are convinced that you believe it is ridiculous that these licences cost only $5,000.

Any one of us here and perhaps even most of those watching on television could afford it. Between you and me, this amount is a pittance for tobacco companies, which make billions of dollars in profit every year. It is a paltry $5 million.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Rather, a paltry $5,000. We want to increase it to $5 million. I believe $5 million should be the minimum. Perhaps we could make it more than that.

This is impossible if all the stakeholders work independently. The federal government absolutely must coordinate the effort of the various organizations and departments because only one concerted effort will be able to address all the different aspects of tobacco addiction: prevention, education or even repressive measures against suppliers of contraband.

As I have said, there must be an overall approach to smoking. We cannot just go after the tobacco smugglers or raise the price of cigarettes. We really must have a concerted overall approach to all stakeholders to ensure that there are prevention activities in the schools, to go after the smugglers, and to use even more vigorous advertising to discourage young people from starting to smoke.

Mainly, we must try to discourage these manufacturers of harmful, dangerous products from advertising them with attractive campaigns to woo young smokers. They encourage young people to “try it, just a little”. They smoke a cigarillo or two, and the next thing they know they are smokers for life.

Finally, the Bloc Québécois believes that all measures focused on contraband cigarettes and cigarette smuggling on the reserves must be taken in conjunction with the aboriginal authorities. Cooperation in this area is vital, in order to identify and target the criminal organizations.

The purpose of Bill C-32 is a praiseworthy one: to discourage young people from smoking by limiting the availability of tobacco products and reducing the types of products available. The bill is also intended to correct some of the present shortcomings of the Tobacco Act, particularly the exception that permits tobacco advertising in publications with an adult readership of not less than 85%. This has led to the situation of such ads being placed in free newspapers or magazines that are readily accessible to young people.

To draw a parallel with what I was just saying a few minutes ago—and I will be brief because I am getting the one minute sign—I want to address the fact that young people are allowed to smoke in the school yard. So there are really some major shortcomings in the Tobacco Act and a concerted effort is needed to try and reduce smoking among young people. That is why the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-32, despite the presence of certain points that perhaps need looking at in committee. We—my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes, who has done an excellent job on the Standing Committee on Health, and I—will make it our duty to try to wipe out tobacco addiction among young people.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act. Even though we on this side of the House support the legislation in principle, I am disturbed by its implications. Despite the government's assertions, the bill does nothing to protect the rights of the child, especially those children under 18 years of age.

I will like to quote from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that:

States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.

The government is not upholding its obligations under that convention when, as my colleague from St. Paul's, Ontario point out yesterday in responding to a question, that rolling back the taxes increases the buying power of cigarettes for children, which is what the government has done. If we do not want children and youth to be a target of the tobacco industry, we must not decrease the taxes on cigarettes. What we have done with the decrease of taxes on tobacco has taken $12 billion out of the treasury.

I would like to say a few words about a phenomenon which has not, to my knowledge, been addressed sufficiently by my colleagues, although two or three of them have just spoken of it. I want to speak of the extent of the role of smuggling in the trade and sale of tobacco products.

The Canadian government's decision on smuggling is not the best one. The 1999 report by the World Bank makes the point that even when there is a considerable amount of contraband, higher taxes increase government revenues and reduce smoking. Price hikes encourage smokers to quit, stop others from starting, and reduce the number of former smokers who start up again.

It is also difficult to understand the statement by the Minister of National Revenue reported in the Gazette on April 2, 2009. According to him, the federal government has issued 14 permits to Quebec companies out of a total of 38 across Canada, or 37%. This is in marked contradiction with the stated objective of the government to protect children and youth from the tobacco industry's marketing tactics.

Moreover, 11 of these cigarette manufacturers are located on the Mohawk reserve, where organized crime seems to have infiltrated the tobacco industry. Clearly, contraband is a growth industry. I am not the only one who says so. Other members from other parties have talked about this. It seems to me that it is more prevalent in Quebec than in the other provinces, because the members from the other provinces have not talked about it.

It is estimated that 30% to 40% of the cigarettes sold in Quebec are contraband. The shortfall for the province is in the order of $300 million. Although the government clearly does not have the means at present to effectively monitor the industry and make sure that manufacturers comply with their licences, which would require them to collect taxes on what is sold, this bill will not prevent children and young people from being able to buy tobacco from the lucrative illegal industry. The bill is weak and ineffective, even though it prohibits the packaging, importation for sale, distribution and sale of little cigars and blunt wraps unless they are in a package that contains at least 20 little cigars or blunt wraps.

According to a letter I received from Casa Cubana/Spike Marks Inc. of Montreal dated May 26, 2009, it said: “The government's proposed ban will not in the least address minors' access to tobacco issues. As importantly, the government's proposal will come to further fuel the contraband trade in tobacco by providing exclusive market rights to these products to Native manufacturers and criminal groups”.

The illegal industry will find a way to circumvent the laws if the kind of public education demanded under article 42 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is to make the convention widely known to adults and children, is not carried out. Article 44.6 of the convention also requires Canada to make the reports on child rights widely available to the public and to have the public actively engage in children's rights.

For example, 71% of Canadians who participated in an Ipsos Reid study undertaken for Save the Children Canada in 2004, only five short years ago, gave Canada a C or lower in fulfilling its obligations to improve the lives of Canadian children. At the same time, only 33% of adults who were interviewed answered questions accurately when it came to Canadian children living with HIV, in poverty, with abuse or other social conditions as a result of the increasing marginalization of their parents.

The government has not only failed in its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to educate the public but it is also derelict in those obligations by failing to put in place the necessary legislative policies with effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to curb the lucrative contraband trade.

Here is what is fascinating about this entire approach. According to Luc Martial of Casa Cubana, he was surprised to learn during his meeting with Health Canada officials that the government had little or no actual relevant research on flavoured tobacco products, their market or the industry.

More precisely, Health Canada had no comprehensive understanding as to who exactly is consuming these products; what products are actually being consumed: little cigars or cigarillos, plain or flavoured and in what quantities and frequencies; where and how these products are actually being accessed, whether through friends, family, peers, legal channels or contraband; why consumers were beginning to access these products as opposed to other traditional cigars or cigarettes; and how the use of flavours actually impacts a consumer's decision to start or continue smoking. That seems to be an extremely important point, considering what other colleagues have said earlier.

I find all of that strange to understand because, according to the Canadian Cancer Society's website, findings from a 2006-07 youth smoking survey released on June 23, 2008, and funded by Health Canada, say:

--teenagers in Grades 10-12 use cigars and cigarillos the most. Thirty-five per cent said they had tried cigars, cigarillos and little cigars (39.5% were boys and 30% were girls), while 48% had tried cigarettes.

The Cancer Society's press release says:

Teenagers are very vulnerable to trying tobacco products. There is a risk that cigarillos, which can be just as addictive as cigarettes, could be a starter product for kids who would never start smoking.

The press release also says:

Cigarillos can be cheaper to buy than cigarettes because they come in smaller quantities and are easier to obtain because they are not regulated in the same way.

It would appear that the Conservative Minister of Health, even though she might fund surveys or, and I am giving her a lot of credit here, know what her own department's reports indicate, sales have grown in cigarillos over the last five years. There is obviously no plan in place to protect the most vulnerable. In 2001 about 50,000 cigarillos were sold and 80 million were sold in 2006. What an increase.

What a disaster for our youth. The Canadian Cancer Society also says that the steady decline in smoking observed in recent years among young Canadians aged 10 to 14, in grades 5 to 9, could very well have stopped.

The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of this government. The Conservatives' actions have led to an increase in the risk of mouth, throat, larynx, lung and esophagus cancer.

When will the government shoulder its responsibilities by putting policies and practices where they are really needed?

I support this bill even though it is weak and ineffective. I support it because I recommend referring this bill to committee so that the members can make the necessary amendments to it and turn it into a bill that really addresses the situation facing our young people.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2009 / 3:40 p.m.
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Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this House to urge all members to support Bill C-32, the bill which cracks down on tobacco marketing aimed at youth.

Smoking is Canada's most serious preventable public health issue. It lies at the root of deadly conditions such as emphysema, lung cancer and cardiac disease. Every year these conditions kill thousands of Canadians and cause suffering for thousands more. We want to reduce future suffering by helping to prevent young Canadians from starting to smoke in the first place. That is why our government is following through on a key campaign commitment by proposing these crucial amendments to the Tobacco Act.

These changes will help protect our children from marketing practices designed to entice them into smoking. By amending the Tobacco Act, we can keep more young people from experimenting with an addictive substance. By doing so, we can shield them from unwittingly laying the foundation for a possible lifelong addiction with potentially serious health consequences.

Through this bill, we are taking a tougher stand against tobacco products that are packaged, priced and flavoured to appeal directly to young people. For example, Bill C-32 seeks tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising. It also seeks to rid store shelves of certain products tailored and packaged specifically for young people.

For example, in 2007 more than 400 million little cigars, or cigarillos, were sold in Canada. Many of these come in flavours such as chocolate, bubble gum and tropical punch, flavours designed to entice young people to try smoking. Flavoured sheets or tubes made from tobacco, known as blunt wraps, are also marketed to young people and sold individually or in low-priced kiddie packs.

These types of marketing strategies have to stop. Tobacco is not candy and should never be mistaken as such. It is time that we recognized these kinds of products for what they are: simple enticements aimed at luring non-smokers into a potential lifetime of addiction. It is for this reason that Bill C-32 proposes making it illegal to add flavours to cigarillos, cigarettes and blunts.

Another factor encouraging young people to try smoking is pricing. If a product is inexpensive, more young people are likely to try it. More than a decade ago, the Tobacco Act was changed to require that cigarettes be sold in packages of at least 20. This change was made precisely so they would be less affordable for our children. Today under Bill C-32 we are going a step further by proposing that the same rule be extended to cigarillos and blunts for exactly the same reason.

This legislation proposes new action on banning flavours to make tobacco less enticing to young people. It proposes new measures to make it less affordable and therefore less accessible. In addition, we are proposing new restrictions on advertising to ensure our youth are not tempted.

Indeed, it is our goal to put an end to a resurgence of tobacco advertising capable of reaching out to our youth through a variety of publications. As it stands now, the Tobacco Act prohibits most advertising; however, advertising in publications claiming an adult readership of at least 85% is still permitted.

In the first few years following the last amendments to the Tobacco Act, the industry did not actively advertise, but things have changed. Over the last two years we have seen a new wave of advertising aimed at young people. Of particular concern are the many free publications with content geared to teens, publications that are available in curbside boxes, at malls and bus stops in just about every community across our country.

What is clear is that in the years following the last changes to the law, the tobacco industry has adapted. It has poked and prodded and found the loopholes it needs to penetrate and get its products into the hands of young Canadians. By doing so, the industry seeks to recruit a new generation to replace the thousands upon thousands who have either fortunately succeeded at quitting, or unfortunately lost their lives prematurely.

Let me be clear. In the face of an industry preying upon a new generation to protect its profits, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, I am dedicated to taking action that will protect the health of this country's future, and I am proud to say that I am far from alone. In fact, I am but one of several members of this House who feel the same way. I say so because this House and the Standing Committee on Health are composed of dedicated members from all parties who have advocated valiantly for the kinds of changes we seek in Bill C-32.

In particular, I want to point to the great work the hon. member for Winnipeg North has undertaken during her time as a member of Parliament. Many of her ideas are included in Bill C-32 and I want to thank the member for her support and efforts in this regard.

In closing, let me summarize some things that we know in relation to this issue. One, we know that the vast majority of adult smokers became addicted when they were in their teens. Two, we know that if people have not started smoking by the age of 19, they are unlikely to ever become a lifelong smoker. Three, using the illustrative examples that I have provided, the tobacco industry is alive and well and trying as hard as it can to exploit gaps in the law to reach more and more young people with its products to start them smoking. As a result, we have an obligation to update our law to make tobacco products less appealing to young people, less affordable and less accessible.

Finally, when it comes to a question like this one and the problems that Bill C-32 seeks to address, I call upon all parties to seek a strong consensus in favour of this very important bill. No matter what party members belong to, what region we hail from, or what community we represent, we are all elected to protect the health of our citizens and safeguard the future of our country. This is precisely what Bill C-32 seeks to do.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2009 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today to speak to Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act.

On April 23, in an effort to hold the government to account, I submitted a question to the order paper asking two things.

First, what is the government's strategy to combat the illegal cigarette trade and ensure tobacco control?

Second, what has the government done to follow through on the September 17, 2008, commitment to ban flavoured tobacco products that appeal to children and ban tobacco advertising in print and electronic media that can be seen and read by our youth?

While it appears that Bill C-32 does little to answer my first question, which I will address shortly, it is clear that the bill seeks to amend the Tobacco Act to provide the additional protection of youth from tobacco marketing and the other things as the hon. member mentioned.

Bill C-32 was introduced last Thursday before World No Tobacco Day. The bill is also part of the federal tobacco control strategy, the government's policy framework to reduce death and disease caused by tobacco use, slated for 2011.

I am pleased that on World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization decided to promote the evidence-based approach by the former minister of health, Allan Rock, on the graphic labelling of cigarette packages. We know that tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death. More than five million people die from the effects of tobacco every year. That is more than those who die from HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. It is the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as the manufacturer intends. Up to half of all smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease. Second-hand smoke harms everyone who is exposed to it.

Tobacco companies spend tens of millions of dollars every year turning new users into addicts and keeping current users from quitting. Through advertising and promotional campaigns, including the use of carefully crafted package designs, the tobacco industry continues to divert attention from the deadly effects of its products. More and more countries are fighting back by requiring that tobacco packages graphically show the dangers of tobacco, as we have done in Canada, and have called for the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. They use the MPower technical assistance package developed by the World Health Organization to meet their commitments under this international treaty.

Effective health warnings, especially those that include pictures, have been proven to motivate users to quit and reduce the appeal of tobacco for those who are not yet addicted. Despite this fact, nine out of ten people live in countries that do not require warnings with pictures on tobacco packages.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. Warning people about its true risks can go a long way toward reducing tobacco addiction. Requiring warnings on tobacco packages is a simple, cheap and effective strategy that can vastly reduce tobacco use and save lives.

Tobacco use is still too prevalent. Tobacco does a great deal of harm and is responsible for the deaths of 37,000 Canadians every year, deaths that could be prevented.

Additionally, in 2008, over three billion more contraband cigarettes were sold in Canada than in 2007, three billion cigarettes that are now more available to Canadian youth.

Contraband cigarettes cost the Canadian government nearly $2.4 billion a year in lost revenue that could be invested quite usefully in programs and health research.

I hope that in writing Bill C-32 and engaging thorough stakeholder consultations rather than information sessions, the government sought to push for more interdepartmental coordination, re-evaluated the failed enforcement strategy that has seen the number of contraband cigarettes rise rapidly and pushed for the cheap and effective strategy of warning labels on tobacco packages. It is not enough for the government to ban something without finding out about and dealing with the other places where this same product can come into Canada, in the same way that we are fighting so terribly about contraband cigarettes.

Right now on the playgrounds in Ontario, 48.6% of cigarette butts found are contraband, illegal cigarettes that kids are buying out of duffle bags in the parking lot for $6 a carton. This is the way kids are getting addicted. This bill is a good first step to deal with flavoured tobacco, but it will do nothing unless the government actually works much harder to deal first-hand with contraband cigarettes.

Bill C-32 repeals the exemption that permits tobacco advertising in publications with an adult readership of not less than 85%. It prohibits the packaging, importation for sale, distribution and sale of little cigars and blunt wraps unless they are in a package that contains at least 20 units. We know the price point for tobacco is very important to children. Long ago we eliminated the kiddie packs and now it is important to ensure that this also applies to cigars and blunt wraps.

It also prohibits the manufacture and sale of cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps that contain the additives set out in a new schedule to the act, as well as the packaging of those products in a manner that suggests that they contain a prohibited additive. It also prohibits the manufacture and sale of tobacco products unless all the required information about their composition is submitted to the minister.

Bill C-32 also aims at protecting children and youth from tobacco industry marketing practices that encourage them to use tobacco products. These marketing practices included the use of flavourings and additives that would appeal to children and youth, the availability of little cigars and blunt wraps, sheets or tubes or tobacco in small quantities and kiddie packs and an increasing number of tobacco ads in daily newspapers and free entertainment weeklies.

Little cigars, also known as cigarillos and blunt wraps, are marketed today with fruit flavours such as grape, cherry, peach, banana split, tropical punch and additives such as vitamins, sugar and others that taste like candy that mask the harshest of the tobacco and appeal to children and youth.

Research from both American sources and the tobacco industry's own internal documents released through court cases indicate that the addition of fruit and candy flavours to tobacco products make them more appealing to new users. The tobacco industry's internal documents show that flavours and additives increase the “try factor”.

There is no question that California ads that portray tobacco industry executives corralling youth or sitting in smoky boardrooms saying, “Our customers are dying off, we had better go get the young ones”, has been clearly demonstrated with the advent of these truly sinister products.

This is a growing problem. Wholesale sales of little cigars have increased from 53 million units in 2001 to 403 million units in 2007, making them the fastest growing tobacco product on the Canadian market. Bill C-32 would amend the Tobacco Act by prohibiting the addition to little cigars, cigarettes and blunt wraps of fruit flavours and additives that would appeal to children and youth. It would also prohibit the representation of these flavours and additives on the package, such as a picture or a graphic.

The amended Tobacco Act would also provide Health Canada the flexibility, through governor in council authority, to ban other appealing additives or include other product categories in the flavour ban at any time in the future if the evidence indicated that these were serving as inducements to youth.

Regarding minimum package requirements, unlike cigarettes that must be sold in packages of 20, little cigars and blunt wraps are often sold individually and priced as little as $1. Bill C-32 would amend the Tobacco Act by extending the minimum quantity provisions that exist for cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps, requiring they be packaged in quantities of at least 20. This change would end the industry practice of selling these products in single or small kiddie packs that are attractive youth because of their cheaper price.

Regarding advertising, although there are currently restrictions on tobacco advertising in both print and electronic formats, the tobacco industry has been taking full advantage of an exemption allowing them to advertise in publications that have at least 85% adult readership. A recent resurgence of tobacco advertising, over 400 ads nationwide between November 2007 and December 2008, has exposed youth audiences to tobacco sales pitches.

Full colour tobacco ads have been appearing in daily newspapers, magazines and in free entertainment weekly papers. The free entertainment papers are available to anybody by way of a curb-side box, making it impossible to restrict access by children or determine if the readership is at least 85% adult.

Between November 2007 and December 2008, tobacco companies spent approximately $4.47 million to place nationwide ads in print publications, a dramatic increase from the amount spent in the previous 14 months. The proposed legislation will repeal this exemption that allows tobacco ads to be placed in a print publication, again with adult readership of not less than 85%.

The legislation to ban flavoured tobacco is important. However, in many areas it misses the point. In my order paper question I asked whether the government would develop a strategy to combat contraband tobacco. It is clear that Bill C-32 simply would add regulations and would do little to keep contraband out of the hands of children. It makes the legal industry deal with the problem caused by the illegal industry. As we know, children are unable to purchase the legal product.

I agree with the stakeholder groups such as the Ontario Korean Businessmen's Association, which claims that Bill C-32 will have no impact on the true problem, how children start smoking in the first place. It is the illegal product that causes the rise in consumption and the government continues to do nothing to combat the wave of illegal manufactured cigarettes from being distributed in high schools for, as I said, as little as $6 a carton. In fact, we have seen flyers where people can dial for a carton, except it is not in a carton. It is a garbage bag full of cheap cigarettes delivered right to one's door. We know these are the same organizations that also deal in guns and drugs and this must be stopped.

The Ontario Korean Businessmen's Association says that it does not work. If a person calls the local police, it takes six hours for a police officer to get there. These business people can actually see people selling things right outside their stores. There needs to be at least a 1-800 number and a task force, for which the RCMP called, where all levels of policing could come together to deal once and for all with this dangerous and illegal trade.

The RCMP has also called for the dismantling of the illegal manufacturing sites and called for a multi-jurisdictional department task force. Yet the government has issued licences to illegal operations to make them legal and the task force apparently has never met.

As I mentioned before, illegal tobacco costs taxpayers $2.4 billion a year in lost tax revenue and undermines every single tobacco control law and regulation currently being administered by the federal and provincial governments.

The sale of illegal tobacco is more than just a tobacco industry issue. This growing trade affects everyone. It deprives Canadian governments of significant revenues, it fosters other criminal activities, it has an impact on public health and provides unregulated, easy and affordable access to tobacco products.

There is also a direct correlation between the rise in contraband tobacco consumption and the change in government in 2006. Looking at the statistics for the growth of illegal tobacco sales, we can see that 33% was the national average last year, up from 16.5% in 2006. This is a jump up over 100%. In 2008 it was 48.6% on the playgrounds in Ontario schools and 40.1% in Quebec.

The Liberals had a strategy in place and multi-pronged approach to deal with problems, but the Conservative government let the rate of contraband consumption grow exponentially. Now we have learned that the American Secretary for Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, knew nothing of the huge problem in tobacco smuggling until after she came out of the meeting with the Minister of Public Safety. She only responded to this problem after it was raised by a journalist. This is totally irresponsible.

Why is the government refusing to deal with contraband tobacco? Contraband causes huge losses in tax revenues. Does it not need the money? It sees more and more Canadian children becoming addicted on cheap cigarettes and allows smugglers and members of organized crime to profit off the illegal trade.

As I said, it is the same people smuggling the cigarettes who are smuggling the drugs and the guns. This is organized crime. We should look at the statistics. There were 13 billion estimated total Canadian purchases of illegal cigarettes in 2008 compared to 10 billion in 2007.

It is time that the government got smart on crime. If the government were serious about reducing youth smoking, it would consider stopping youth from having access to these cigarettes. The government needs to deliver a plan and enforcement strategy to stop the importation of illegal black market tobacco.

In a Hamilton Spectator article written on April 30, 2009, it was reported that the jump in smoking rates was directly correlated to easy access to contraband and tax free cigarettes that sell for a fraction of the regular price. Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, mentioned in the article that he was very concerned about the impact of inexpensive contraband cigarettes on smoking rates.

Public health officials estimate that 200 contraband cigarettes cost $8 to $15, compared with the usual $55 to $80. Mr. Cunningham continued to say that higher tobacco taxes were the single most effective measure to reduce smoking, and the presence of widespread, inexpensive contraband tobacco was dramatically impeding the progress that we would otherwise be making.

The government must address the fact that contraband cigarettes are the cheapest and easiest cigarettes to get for children. I am concerned that in the media backgrounder, the department skirts the issue entirely by saying that contraband is the purview of Public Safety. While this may be true, it completely ignores the fact that an entire strategy is undermined by the lack of action by whatever department is in charge of contraband, and it shows that the government is working in silence, to the total detriment of the health of Canadians.

These are only some of the stakeholder reaction groups we have heard so far. However, many groups, including Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and the Canadian Medical Association have been pushing the government for laws that would crack down on the sale and marketing of cigarillos.

Paul Thomey, the chair of the tobacco policy for the Canadian Lung Association, is quoted in the government press release accompanying the bill stating that these are positive steps forward in the fight against tobacco, and that strong measures such as these not only will protect Canada's children from the harmful effects of smoking but will also serve to curtail industry tactics aimed at marketing its products to the youth of this country.

I say again, banning these products in this country will not do anything if they just arrive in duffle bags and dunnage bags from across the border or, as this industry has done before, from Canada, outside and back into Canada, and then dealt with in the black market.

The president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Robert Ouellet, also quoted in the government press release, thanked the government on behalf of Canada's doctors and their patients, adding that closing loopholes is a step forward in protecting our children from a deadly addiction to tobacco.

Despite our concerns that Bill C-32 does nothing to address the contraband issue that is at the heart of youth smoking rates, the Liberal Party will support the bill in principle. However, we will be asking the government questions at committee. Why does the bill not include restrictions against menthol, and why will there be a 270 day period before store owners must take these products off their shelves?

We will also investigate whether the ban on flavours can be extended to chewing tobacco and smokeless tobacco as a kiddie product, as one quarter of the users are children under 19. Flavouring smokeless with candy flavours is a problem so similar to the flavouring of little cigarillos that it makes no sense to exclude this one category.

We understand that smokeless is not as large a problem as smoking, but it is significant enough to worry. For every five boys who smoke cigarettes, there is one smokeless user. Adding smokeless to the bill would require a very simple amendment to the schedule. Although it could be done by regulation later, there is no reason to delay.

Bill C-32 is a step in the right direction to protect Canadians, and youth in particular, from tobacco marketing. Tobacco products should not be marketed as inoffensive. By prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps that contain a series of additives that have flavouring properties, and by prohibiting packaging that suggests that these products contain these additives, the bill aims at avoiding the misleading marketing of tobacco products.

By prohibiting advertising in all types of magazines and newspapers regardless of their readership, the bill ensures that all Canadians, and youth in particular, will not be exposed to tobacco sales pitches.

However, as I mentioned in detail, this bill will not solve the problem of smoking among youth altogether, and that is because the bill fails to address the question of contraband tobacco which is an important source of supply for youth, contraband products being cheap and easily accessible.

Despite the omission of contraband, the Liberal Party will support the bill at second reading. We look forward to engaging in a deeper study at the health committee. We will take witness testimony at committee into consideration in assessing whether this bill should be amended.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2009 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-32. This bill has a commendable objective, which is to discourage tobacco use among young people by limiting availability and reducing the types of tobacco products on the market.

Needless to say, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, and we are not alone. Earlier, I got out a May 26 press release from the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac that welcomes the federal government's tobacco bill. Louis Gauvin, the spokesperson for the coalition, says:

Even though it does not go as far as we would have liked, the legislation contains crucial provisions that will provide much more protection for young people against the tobacco industry's marketing strategies.

We know that the tobacco industry targets young people. Because nicotine is addictive, young people risk being hooked for a long time. The member for St. Paul's said earlier that someone who is unfortunately addicted to nicotine will likely have to try a number of times to quit smoking. She talked about eight times. My mother, who was a smoker, did not have to try that many times. She tried to quit once in her life and fortunately was successful the first time. But addiction is a fact, and that is why companies target young people.

I digressed briefly, but I will continue. Louis Gauvin says:

From now on, the industry will no longer be able to mask the harmful effects of its products using fruit and candy flavours...These products, which came on the market barely five years ago, are alone responsible for the increase in tobacco use by young Quebeckers. Finally, companies will be prohibited from marketing these deadly chocolate- and strawberry-flavoured products in fun, multicoloured kiddie packs.

Continuing with the press release:

The most recent research shows that tobacco use, even when very limited, can lead to dependency. Young people who have tried cigarillos [a type of little cigar that is even sold singly] can easily develop a dependency on nicotine, since the nicotine content in these is similar to the amount in a cigarette. They are then at risk of changing to cigarettes because they are very much cheaper when bought in large quantities. In other words, “even if they account for only a small part of the market, cigarillos play a major role in introducing young people to smoking”.

I will share a personal experience if I may. When I was 12, 13, 14, like a lot of kids, I had some people in my group of friends who smoked occasionally, and some others a bit more regularly. As I have said, my mother smoked as well. So yes, I have sneaked my mother's cigarettes. We took them to the park and we puffed away on them. Then we found out we could get them at the corner store. I must point out that we were certainly not of legal age to be buying them. I do not know what the age limit was at the time, but I am sure that you could not get packages of cigarettes legally at 12 or 13.

However, they sold little cigars with a plastic filter end and a grape flavour. Grape flavoured cigarillos, with a picture of a grape on the package. They were sold in a pack of four or five, I do not remember exactly. When we started smoking those cigarillos, it was a lot more interesting, because inhaling smoke that smelled and tasted like grapes was a lot easier than inhaling the smoke from a regular cigarette.

I am therefore convinced that this kind of marketing was created by the companies to target young people. I remember that we preferred the cigarillos to cigarettes but I am sure the harmful effects were the same. I will assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I did not continue along that path. I quit completely when my mother did, when I was 14 or 15. Everybody in the family was pleased. My brother, unfortunately, continued to smoke for a long time, but he finally quit as well. At a certain point, a person finally listens to reason despite the harmful efforts of the tobacco companies.

As I said, the Bloc Québécois is in favour in principle of Bill C-32, although it is not particularly useful in Quebec because the Government of Quebec already has more severe restrictions on cigarillos.

The cigarillos we are talking about and all other tobacco products should be subject to the same bans as cigarettes.

As with cigarettes, advertising of tobacco products to young people under 18 must be banned. In addition, the message warning of the dangers of smoking must be applied to all these products, and the products must be hidden from public view.

The companies have tried to convince us, without saying so and just by the product's appearance, that tobacco was less harmful, that it smelled good and that the taste of it was much milder and more pleasant. My colleagues and I talked about all sorts of flavours such as strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. I know we are not allowed to show any props here and I do not want to advertise, but I have in the palm of my hand one of these vanilla cigarillos. I do not want to show it or hold it up to the camera, but the packaging is delightful. It looks like a treat or a candy. A young person getting hold of this would think it was a candy more than anything else. However, far be it from me to advertise it or light it here.

All of us in the House of Commons were given a small package by an anti-smoking coalition to show us how the tobacco companies use this type of marketing to disguise their product, which is in fact harmful. We saw an image of candies and real treats interspersed with tobacco products, which were presented as if they were treats. You cannot tell which is which. There was nothing to indicate that what I had in my hand earlier was harmful to my health. The law in Quebec requires it, however, for tobacco products. Fortunately this will change with Bill C-32.

Some of the demands I mentioned earlier are in part covered by Bill C-32. Still, it must be added that the federal government needs to take stronger action, in connection with cigarette smuggling, among other things. Action must be taken to limit the supply of illegal tobacco products as much as possible, for they are available to minors as well. If the supply is cut, young people will have less access to tobacco products, especially those at lower cost. The low price is, of course, why tobacco smuggling exists.

While police action is needed, certain regulations should be changed to discourage smugglers. There is talk of eliminating the source of supply, which is still the best way of preventing smuggling. There is a proposal to prevent unlicensed manufacturers from acquiring the raw materials and equipment used to produce cigarettes. It has also been suggested that the licences of tobacco manufacturers who fail to obey the law be revoked and an effective system established for marking cigarette packages—the term is traceability— so that tobacco deliveries can be more closely monitored.

Efforts could also be made to persuade the United States federal government to close the factories of illegal manufacturers on the American side of the border. In some places, it is easy to cross by boat. Everyone has seen television reports about this kind of thing. It is very easy to smuggle goods across the U.S.—Canadian border. Not everyone is caught. We should try, therefore, to persuade the American government.

Finally, there are proposals to increase the fee charged to obtain a federal licence to manufacture tobacco products. It could be increased to $5 million instead of the laughable $5,000 it is today. These are some of the measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois to help reduce smuggling.

About a year ago, on May 7, 2008, the public safety minister of the time, who is now the Minister of International Trade, announced an RCMP strategy to fight tobacco smuggling. There were three objectives: dismantle the production facilities, disrupt the supply and distribution networks, and seize illegal tobacco and related products of crime. We never heard any details about the implementation of this strategy and the methods to be used were never clearly explained. The only conclusion we can draw is the results have fallen far short of the expectations.

Ever since 2003, and even before, the Bloc Québécois has been constantly calling on governments of all stripes to act vigorously to prevent the explosion of cigarette smuggling. The Bloc even proposed measures to fight this crime, which undercuts all our efforts to discourage smoking, especially among young people.

The conclusion after a year is that the strategy has not been very well defined. According to several studies, illegal tobacco products supply one-quarter of the Quebec and Ontario market. The federal and provincial governments lose nearly $2 billion a year in taxes. It may be even more by now. Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada is right to emphasize that the reduced cost of contraband cigarettes is undermining the progress we have been making in reducing smoking, especially among young people.

I am talking about contraband products today because all the efforts we might make in the House as parliamentarians, through things like Bill C-32 or other measures to reduce smoking among young people, will be in vain if we do not attack the root of the problem, which is smuggled cigarettes.

The Bloc Québécois demands that the RCMP utilize every legal means to effectively combat this illegal importing of tobacco. We absolutely must fight the evil at its root by taking action on both supply and demand. If that means going so far as to seize the automobiles of people going to stock up at the many illegal smoke shacks, so be it. Obviously this would be an excellent way to deter the resellers.

This problem is very expensive for Quebec and Canadian taxpayers, and deprives regular merchants who have the right to sell tobacco—even though we are trying to reduce the availability of tobacco products and cigarettes are no longer displayed openly in convenience stores—of legitimate income because of this unfair competition. This is why it is absolutely necessary to tackle cigarette smuggling.

To return to the famous cigarillos—I have even given my own personal example—I would describe their attractiveness to children as a con game, because of what the tobacco companies have managed to do, which is to present them almost as if they were candy. The variety of cigarillo flavours makes them seem less harmful to children and youth. The trick lies in perception. I think the kids will have the impression that they are less harmful because of the better taste and smell. All the flavours come from the natural world, but I think that is exactly what these companies were aiming for—to ensure that there is less of the bad cigarette smell so that children are not put off so much and are attracted to the product. As a result of this con game, children really like the cigarillos. Yet those little cigars pose as much risk to their health in terms of nicotine dependence as real cigarettes.

One Health Canada study done in 2000 concluded that cigarillos contain between 67% and 200% more tar than standard cigarettes. Furthermore, unfiltered cigarillos contain twice as much nicotine.

According to the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac, there are many reasons why children are attracted to cigarillos. First, the unit price is very accessible. One cigarillo can be bought at a convenience store for $1. This used to be possible, but things are changing. As I said earlier, it is no longer possible in Quebec. There are also the attractive flavours and packaging, as I demonstrated earlier.

The selling of individual cigarettes is prohibited in Quebec. The reason is quite simple: single cigarettes and cigarillos are more financially accessible. Children generally do not have much money, and buying cigarillos is easier and more accessible when they cost $1. In my time, it may have been 10¢ or 25¢, and we were all able to collect enough coins from our piggy banks to buy one cigarette or cigarillo. Not so long ago this was also going on in Quebec, and it may be happening, as it should not, in Canada. This will be corrected when Bill C-32 comes into force.

Quebec law prohibits selling to minors. Unfortunately, certain merchants do not abide by the law, and I am sure this is not just in Quebec. According to Health Canada data, nearly 86% of merchants were complying with the law in 2007.

Still, that left 12% who were not, who were selling tobacco products to minors.

The survey by the Institut de la statistique du Québec, the ISQ, estimates that approximately 38% of students purchase cigarettes themselves at a shop. In other words, at some point, the word gets around. It is just a matter of finding the convenience store or shop that will sell tobacco products and all the children will go there. Every group has one youngster who looks older than the others. That was the case in our group, and it wasn’t me. There is always someone who looks older and succeeds in duping the merchant and buying cigarettes or alcohol. There is always a way: young people are imaginative.

Therefore it is up to the merchant to be very vigilant and to require ID when someone who looks young comes in to buy cigarettes or cigarillos.

When it comes to flavours, I would again point out that cigarillos come in many flavours. We heard the list earlier. I kept a copy of the list here to show the extent to which the marketing of this kind of product was probably aimed much more at children and young people. They come in raspberry, vanilla, cherry, spearmint, strawberry, cinnamon and even rum. Some may say they are trying to attract adults with this, but in any event, the intention behind this marketing is really very clear. Flavouring tobacco products obviously encourages people to take up smoking by making their first puffs sweeter and more pleasant.

They have chosen attractive packaging. Catching people’s eye, the visual aspect, is very important. Cigarillo packages conjure up treats and candy. There are no warnings on the boxes. As I was saying just now, when they are purchased as singles, the little package has absolutely no indication of the danger of inhaling, really of smoking, and using these products. You can even buy chewing tobacco now. It is also presented as an attractive product.

I said that I have smoked, but I have to say I have never tried that. It completely repulses me, but I think some children who like to try things, if it is presented in a way that it looks almost like a treat, a candy, they are certainly going to try it. Imagine what a catastrophe it may be when they put that in their mouth. In the United States, studies have been done, and people who chewed tobacco were more likely to develop cancers of the mouth.

I said earlier that we have all had the evidence from an anti-smoking coalition placed on our desks, showing that these products were hidden among the treats and the attempt was made to pass them off as candy. We were also given a brochure with information.

We are told that the market for new flavoured tobacco products has grown by over 400%. In 2001, 50,000 items were sold, and in 2006 it was 81 million items. We can see what a master stroke of marketing this has been, one that has been diabolically effective, but at the same time a damaging and terrible thing for our young people’s health.

I mentioned the Institut de la statistique du Québec. I have more information, in particular about a Quebec survey on tobacco, alcohol, drugs and gambling among secondary school students. Statistics were collected in the fall of 2006 from nearly 5,000 students.

The ISQ found that students were starting to smoke cigars between secondary 2 and 3, and boys and girls were using these products in equal numbers. In the month before the survey, 22% of boys and 21% of girls had smoked a cigarillo. In secondary 5, more than a third of students said they had smoked a cigarillo in the month before the survey. Eight out of 10 students who smoked or were starting to smoke cigarettes every day or occasionally had smoked a cigar. One out of 10 students who did not smoke cigarettes had even tried cigars or cigarillos.

These statistics, which have been collected not only in Quebec but more or less everywhere in Canada, show that tougher legislation has got to be enacted. While Bill C-32 is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2009 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a real privilege to rise today in support of this legislation, Bill C-32. This is a good news day for Canadians.

I am very pleased that the government has responded to suggestions by the New Democratic Party opposition to move in this area and that it has listened to the voices of Canadians from one end of this country to the other to try to close a very serious loophole in terms of tobacco addiction.

I have listened to some of my colleagues in the opposition, and I agree there are major areas yet to be dealt with by the government, by Parliament, issues of huge importance, like the contraband issue, like the fact that we have not been able to stop tobacco companies from designing new smokeless products. There is no end to the job at hand by parliamentarians, but we have to take this journey of cracking down one step at a time, wherever possible, when it comes to the very crass, very manipulative marketing of big tobacco. Let us face it, that is what this is all about.

We are here today because big tobacco in this country has found a loophole in the Tobacco Act and regulations that tries to restrict the sale and marketing of tobacco products. The companies have taken advantage of that loophole and designed products that are specifically targeted at creating a whole new market, another generation of smokers. Their market is dwindling, their market shares are falling, their profits are not as large as they once were, and they need to capture the hearts and minds of another group of Canadians so they are addicted to tobacco products for a lifetime.

We are talking about the most clever products one could imagine. I wish we could use props in the House. I know it is against the rules, but if we could, we would show Canadians what we are talking about, show parents how serious this issue is and how important it is that the House finally acts on cracking down on these kiddie products, these little cigarillos that are designed to look like candy or cosmetics, which have the flavours of the world embodied in them, from cotton candy to peanut butter to banana to orange to cherry, and the list goes on and on.

These are wonderfully smelling products that are designed to appeal to young people, to make them want to purchase them because they look so harmless, so appealing. Big tobacco knows that if these young people smoke these products they are more addictive than even normal, regular cigarettes. They are more harmful than the run-of-the-mill tobacco products. Worst of all, they get those kids addicted to cigarettes and smoking before they are even of legal age to smoke.

This is really about shutting down, closing a loophole that tobacco companies have taken advantage of. These products were never intended to be part of any legislation or regulations that this Parliament would allow. We cannot envisage the creativity, the ability of big tobacco to develop such products.

Who would have thought that big tobacco in this country would be so crass, so profit hungry, so disrespectful of human health and well-being that it would design products to deliberately get young people hooked? Imagine.

The bill is something that many anti-smoking activists have called for in this country for a number of years. They called on members on our side of the House, and we responded by saying this is a serious issue and it is time that we had legislation.

I brought forward a private member's bill last spring. What was important about that was not so much that I brought it forward but that it was the result of work by many young people across this country.

The youth behind this legislation have to take credit for what has happened here today. They have to claim a victory. Members saw their lobbying here in the House last week. They were responsible for bringing forward a little pencil container for every member of Parliament, which contained two products that resembled each other. They looked sweet and innocent and trendy and colourful, and they smelled pretty. One was a tobacco product and one was a candy product.

This showed all of us how far tobacco companies and large profit seeking corporations will go in order to trap young people into a lifelong addiction to smoking. They know that if they can get them at that age they can get them for a lifetime and their profits will continue to go up. It is more important than anything else we do in the House to stop tobacco companies dead in their tracks when it comes to products that appeal to children and teenagers.

The facts are in. Some in the House may say that the legislation does not go far enough. That is true. The bill could do other things. It could go after all sorts of smokeless products. The bill could look at chew products, which about 1% of the population actually uses, many of them young people. These products are typical chewing tobacco, but they are flavoured. They are interesting to chew, I guess, but they are addictive. We acknowledge that is a problem with the bill.

The bill is also flawed because although it gets at most flavours, it does not go after menthol, because that has been around since the 1920s. We would have liked the bill to close all loopholes and to crack down on all flavoured products and all types of products, not just cigarillos, but we have to make progress in this place. We cannot sit back and continue to squabble.

We have to leap at this moment. We have to capture the imagination of young people and join with them in their efforts. We have to tell them it was a good campaign. We have to tell them they did a great service to Canadians and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their leadership.

I dare say that if it had not been for those young people and many anti-smoking alliances and organizations, I would not have brought forward a bill, the Conservatives of Canada would not have promised to take up my bill in the last election, and the Minister of Health would not have brought forward a government bill that adopts many of the ideas that I raised in my private member's legislation.

It is a sequence of events that shows how important it is to listen to Canadians and to be responsive and to take steps toward ending something evil, something that is harmful, that is contrary to any notion of a healthy population, to curtail and eliminate those products.

That is what we have done today with this legislation. The government has brought in legislation that would eliminate flavoured tobacco products from the marketplace. All of those interesting flavours and smells that ensnare young people, that capture their attention and imagination and make them want to try one of those cigarillos, are gone. Furthermore, we have said that companies cannot try to get young people to start smoking by selling little cigarillos individually.

Not is only is the flavour gone, and by the way, Mr. Speaker, Let's Make Flavour ... GONE!, is the slogan of the young people who worked so hard on this issue, the Northwest Youth Action Alliance and the eastern Ontario youth action alliance, all those folks involved in stopping the sale of flavoured cigarillo products have to take credit that the bill not only bans flavoured tobacco but it bans the sale of individual cigarillos.

Even if they were not flavoured, the fact that these tiny products are sold individually without proper warning labels is also an inducement to start smoking. They are also designed to appeal directly to young people.

Young people go to corner stores and buy one of these little products for $1 or $2 because they think they are harmless. “Why not? Let's just try it for the heck of it. It is something to do, and others are doing it.” Before they know it, they are hooked. Before we know it, there are serious, high rates of smoking among young people and we have a higher than ever rate of death and illness among Canadians. It is no joke. When we look at the statistics, this is a serious issue.

Tobacco use is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, that there are more than one billion smokers in the world? Globally, the use of tobacco products is increasing, although it appears to be decreasing in some of the high-income countries. Almost half of the world's children breathe air that is polluted by tobacco smoke. The epidemic is shifting to the developing world, with more than 80% of the world's smokers living in low- and middle-income countries.

We know that tobacco kills 5.4 million people a year. That is an average of one person every six seconds, and it accounts for one in ten adult deaths worldwide. It kills up to half of all users, and it is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death in the world.

Because there is a lag of several years between when people start using tobacco and when their health starts to suffer, the epidemic of disease and death has just begun. There were 100 million deaths caused by tobacco in the 20th century. If current trends continue, there will be up to one billion deaths in the 21st century.

Unchecked, tobacco-related deaths will increased to more than eight million a year by 2030, and 80% of those deaths will occur in the developing world. Therefore, every step we can take towards preventing people from getting started in the first place is absolutely critical. It is a life and death situation.

If we were to look at cigarillo products and realize that the sales of cigarillos in a few years jumped from 50,000 to 80 million or more, we get a pretty good idea of how clever the tobacco companies have been and what their intentions were. Their intentions were to design a product that would appeal to young people and get them hooked on cigarette smoking, thereby handing them a life sentence of addiction to tobacco.

Smoking statistics in Canada are real, glaring and horrific. In Canada today, smoking rates for 15- to 19-year-old boys are about 18%, and among 20- to 24-year-old boys, it is 32%. It is slightly lower than for girls, although we know the tobacco companies are busy trying to design products to appeal to young women as we speak.

On the same day that the minister introduced this groundbreaking legislation, Bill C-32, there was a program on national CBC TV called Busted. It was about the tobacco companies designing new packaging to appeal to all kinds of different populations, such as slender packs that look sexy, packages that open sideways because that is innovative, some with light coverings because people will think they are light cigarettes when those words cannot be used, or dark coverings to show that these are solid products. The tobacco companies know no end. We have to stop them each and every step of the way, every time we can.

Let us look at the statistics, in terms of cigarillos. Boys, between the ages of 15 and 19 years old, either have smoked occasionally or every day a cigarillo 30% of the time. Among 20 to 24-year-olds, 57% of young men have smoked cigarillos on an occasional or a daily basis.

Let us translate that kind of intensity of smoking among young people to the deaths we face down the road. Based on 2008 statistics, for cancer, men have an incidence rate of 11,900 and women of 5,500. For heart disease, men have an incidence rate of 6,300 and women of 3,900. For respiratory problems, men have an incidence rate of 4,900 and women of 3,500. The total of men with some sort of complication because of smoking is 23,800 and of women 14,500.

The statistics speak for themselves. I think everybody in this place knows we have to do something. This is why I recommend we support the bill even though it has a few flaws such as the absence of menthol, it does not include smokeless products like chew and it gives the tobacco manufacturers and the retailers a fairly lengthy period of time to get the products off the shelves, up to 270 days. Some would say that is a long time, and I agree. I would like our manufacturers and our retailers to take note of the debate today and come to the conclusion, I hope, that this place is united in its support for the legislation and that it will not be a matter of very much time before it is passed and they must abide by the law.

In fact, I hope, despite the concerns of members of the Liberal and Bloc parties, which I share, they will see the importance of dealing with this bill quickly, getting it to committee, seeing if there are any amendments that have to be made, which can be handled quickly and expeditiously, and getting the bill passed by both houses before we rise for the summer. By the time children start to go back to school in September, many of these products will be off the shelves, not visible and not there to tempt and tantalize them. We owe that to Canadians. We owe prompt and swift action on this legislation to prevent any more young people and children from trying these cute, trendy products, which bring death and sickness if they lead to an addiction to smoking, and we do know that they lead to addictions.

I have heard many of my colleagues suggest that the real issue is not these products and that we really have to focus all of our attention on contraband. Contraband is a very serious issue. I know about the amount of cigarettes that appear in garbage bags and are readily passed around for cheap. I know how harmful that is. However, I also know we have to deal with that issue separately.

In fact, members will know that I presented a motion to the House that had support from all parties. It called on the government to take immediate steps to deal with contraband. In fact, all three health critics of the opposition sent a letter to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Safety, demanding action on contraband. There is no doubt that we will keep the pressure on that issue.

However, let us not be fooled into thinking, as big tobacco would have us believe, that the real problem is not its products but contraband. While it is busy trying to go after contraband because its own markets are threatened, it refuses to acknowledge that its products designed to create a niche market to build its markets and profitability is a part of its doing and has to be stopped. The industry refuses to acknowledge its wrongdoings and how it, each and every day, tries to develop a new market and a new product to appeal to people to get them addicted to smoking because its livelihoods and profit margins depend upon it.

Let us not mix apples and oranges. The bill is designed to get after those kiddie products. It is designed to stop those flavoured cigarillos. It says that cigarillos must be packaged into containers of no less than 20 and they must have proper warnings. That is the objective the bill.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2009 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Bramalea—Gore—Malton.

Today I rise to speak to Bill C-32, for a cause that is near and dear to me, both as a former health professor but also as a coach and judge, namely, reducing tobacco use among Canadians and particularly among our youth. Today, over 125 countries grow tobacco on four million hectares of land. The global crop is worth about $220 billion per year, with five trillion cigarettes rolling off the assembly lines annually.

Not surprisingly, tobacco consumption is increasing and it may kill over eight million people a year by 2020 in the absence of drastic controls. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, 60 of them known or suspected carcinogens, such as arsenic, DDT and methanol. Adults who smoke risk heart disease, lung cancer, nasal sinus cancer and respiratory disease. Even light smokers risk their health. For example, a 2005 British Medical Journal study showed that smoking only one to four cigarettes per day was associated with a significantly higher risk of dying from heart disease.

Studies show substantially higher levels of lung cancer among people who work in bars, restaurants and other smoke-filled environments. Exposure to second-hand smoke also increases the risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, miscarriage and stroke. Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are at an increased risk of asthma induction and exacerbation, bronchitis, low birth weight, pneumonia and sudden infant death syndrome. Over 1,000 and possibly as many as 7,800 Canadians are thought to die from second-hand smoke each year.

Most smokers begin smoking in childhood or early adolescence. Ninety per cent smoke before the age of 18. Early starters are more likely to become addicted daily smokers. Partly because the tobacco industry targets adolescents, 82,000 to 99,000 young people start smoking every day. Gro Harlem Brundtland, then director-general of the World Health Organization, angrily spoke out:

That is no freedom of choice! Civilized nations protect their people under 18--they don't let them play around with a product which statistically kills one out of two of its permanent users.

Fifty per cent of young people who continue to smoke will die from tobacco related causes. Smoking causes 90% of lung cancers and 75% of bronchitis and emphysema. On average, tobacco kills 560 people every hour, 13,000 per day or 4.9 million per year. The World Health Organization reports that not a single country fully implements all key tobacco control measures. As a result, the World Health Organization outlines six MPOWER strategies that governments can adopt to prevent tens of millions of premature smoking deaths by the middle of this century.

The six MPOWER strategies are: monitor tobacco use and prevention policies; protect people from tobacco smoke; offer help to quit tobacco use; warn about the dangers of tobacco; enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and raise taxes on tobacco. In Canada, between 63% and 79% of the price of a package of cigarettes is tax. In comparison, the tax on cigarettes in New York is 38%. Unfortunately, governments around the world collect 500 times more money in tobacco taxes each year than they spend on anti-tobacco efforts.

The Canadian government has initiated many programs to try to lower rates of smoking in Canada. These include: encouraging Canadians to support smoke-free living; increasing product pricing through taxation; informing Canadians about the health effects of smoking and second-hand smoke; providing programs to support those who choose to quit smoking; reducing access to tobacco products by minors; and restricting tobacco product advertising and promotion.

Tobacco is a communicated disease, communicated through advertising which appeals to the psychological needs of adolescents, and sponsorship.

Many of Canada's leading cigarette brands are now sold in packs that imitate BlackBerries, cell phones and mp3 players. Making tobacco products look like everyday objects minimizes the harm associated with tobacco use and makes them socially desirable and trendy.

A 2002 study showed that tobacco companies use cigarette packaging as an integral component of marketing strategy and a vehicle for creating significant in-store presence and communicating brand image. Market testing results indicate that such imagery is so strong as to influence smokers' taste ratings of the same cigarettes when packaged differently.

I am pleased to support this bill and am encouraged that it is receiving strong support from anti-smoking and health groups. Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said, “We are hopeful that MPs will adopt this bill quickly. It is a very important gain for us”.

The bill bans flavoured cigarettes and cigarillos. One-third of youth and close to half of all young adults have tried cigarillos with flavours such as chocolate mint, peach, strawberry and vanilla. These products have as much or more nicotine as cigarettes, and are just as likely to trap young people into a deadly smoking addiction. They are also the fastest growing tobacco product on the Canadian market, with 53 million sold in 2001 and 400 million in 2007.

The bill will also ban tobacco companies from advertising in print publications, repealing an exception that currently allows advertising in publications with an adult readership of at least 85%.

If the bill is passed, the revised Tobacco Act would leave tobacco companies with only two possible ways to advertise: on signs in places where minors are prohibited and in publications that are delivered by mail to an adult.

It is my hope that the time has to come for sustained funding and political support. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health examined state tobacco prevention and cessation funding levels from 1995 to 2003 and found that the more states spent on these programs, the larger the declines they achieved in adult smoking. The researchers also calculated that if every state had funded its program at the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control during the period, there would have been between two million and seven million fewer smokers in the United States.

It is also my hope that the government will engage high level opinion leaders and high profile champions to help achieve the significant health and economic benefits of a reduction in tobacco use.

We must be vigilant in identifying and raising awareness about all new forms of tobacco products which industry continues to develop.

We must recognize that the tobacco industry obstructs effective tobacco control measures and continues to promote tobacco products through all possible means, including the entertainment industry, as traditional marketing is becoming more and more limited due to the ratification by 164 countries of the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Considerable research has suggested that youth are influenced to smoke by positive smoking portrayals in the movies, with celebrities serving as role models. A recent study in fact suggests that exposure to smoking portrayals in the media may be very important in prompting initiation among adolescents, whereas tobacco marketing may exert a specific influence on their progression to established smoking.

What steps will the government take to snuff out contraband tobacco, which accounts for 49% of cigarettes smoked in Canada, menthol cigarettes and smokeless tobacco?

Finally, when the next product emerges, and it will, let us take immediate steps to snuff it out.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, May 31 was World No Tobacco Day.

It is only fitting in light of the efforts of so many anti-smoking groups that we have this debate today on ways to prevent young people from becoming addicted to a product that kills thousands of Canadians every year.

I am proud to rise today and speak to proposed legislation that would amend the Tobacco Act and assist in protecting our young people from tobacco addictions while encouraging the tobacco industry to amend its marketing practices.

Recently I rose in this House to support a petition signed by several hundred of my constituents demanding that this Parliament take immediate action in amending the Tobacco Act. The petitioners were asking for changes to limit and restrict the marketing of tobacco products to minors.

Studies show that increased exposure to tobacco advertising has a significant impact on the decision by young people to start smoking or using tobacco products. We also know that 85% of all regular smokers started smoking before the age of 18.

It is fair to say that advertising and marketing efforts aimed at young people have been a contributor to the rising number of young people using tobacco products.

Recent research has shown us that following a reduction in tobacco advertising there has been a decrease in the number of young people who smoke. However, simply putting further restrictions on the advertising and marketing of tobacco products to young people will only go so far.

We know that tobacco use is responsible for killing approximately 37,000 Canadians every year.

The Liberal Party is supportive of this bill in principle. We believe this bill is a step in the right direction to protect Canadians, and youth in particular, from tobacco marketing.

Our position is that tobacco should not be marketed to young people and should not be advertised in any publications that could be viewed by those under 18 years of age.

We have seen an increased number of tobacco ads in daily newspapers and free entertainment weeklies that are more likely to be read by young people. We believe that prohibiting advertising in all types of magazines and newspapers, regardless of their readership, is a necessary first step.

This bill would ensure that all Canadians, and youth in particular, would not be exposed to tobacco sales pitches. The limiting of advertising is a start, but I wonder if the government has considered the other factors at work here.

For example, some of the current marketing practices include using various flavours and additives that would make tobacco products more appealing to children and youth. We are seeing a growing number of tobacco products, ranging from mini cigars to blunt wraps, sheets or tubes of tobacco, that are available in flavours like grape, cherry, peach, banana-split and even tropical punch. We are also seeing tobacco companies include various additives such as vitamins, sugar and others that taste like candy to help mask the harshness of the tobacco and make it appeal to children and youth.

We are now aware of research findings from various sources, including documents from the tobacco companies themselves that show the addition of fruit and candy flavours to tobacco products makes them more appealing to young and new users. For the tobacco industry, this dramatically increases the appeal for young people to give tobacco a try.

Young people today are aware that cigarettes and tobacco products are highly addictive, and tobacco companies know this. Therefore, they must find new and innovative ways for young people to try them, despite being aware of the dangers. By adding flavours or other additives to increase the appeal of tobacco, it would seem that the tobacco industry is trying to increase the “try factor” and increase sales.

This brings me to my next point. Recent data shows that wholesale sales of little cigars has increased from 53 million units in 2001 to 403 million units in 2007, making them the fastest growing tobacco product on the Canadian market. This is quite alarming and needs to be addressed.

The availability of little cigars and blunt wraps in single or small quantities is one of the contributing factors. Unlike cigarettes, that must be sold in packages of 20, little cigars and blunt wraps are often sold individually and priced for as little as a dollar.

It is important to regulate the industry to create minimum quantities of tobacco products, so that the opportunity to price them low and make them more available to youth is no longer an option.

Bill C-32 would amend the Tobacco Act to extend a minimum quantity provision that exists for cigarettes and apply this to little cigars and blunt wraps, requiring them to be packaged in quantities of at least 20. We agree this change would limit or end the industry practice of selling these products in single or small quantities that are often more accessible and attractive to youth.

My next point is that the bill currently fails to address the concerns of contraband tobacco, which is an important source of supply for youth who decide to start smoking or using tobacco products and acquire them through illegal channels. The primary concern is that contraband tobacco products are cheap and easily accessible, and the bill does not address this issue.

There is a direct correlation between the rise in contraband consumption and the change of government in 2006. We had a strategy in place and a multi-pronged approach to deal with the problem. It appears the government has let the rate of contraband consumption grow to almost 33% nationally, 40% in Quebec and almost 50% in Ontario.

The Liberal health critic and my colleague from Etobicoke North have made very strong statements about this issue in the past. This legislation would be effective in limiting the sale and manufacture of specific types of tobacco in Canada, but in order to effectively reduce the consumption of tobacco by children, the legislation completely misses one primary point.

Kids are not able to purchase legal product and for them to access legal products, someone else must be breaking the law. As such, the legislation will have no impact on one very real problem. It is a well established fact that most teenagers gain access to tobacco from the illegal industry.

The issue of contraband tobacco sales affects several departments including Revenue, Public Safety, Justice, Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Health, Finance and Intergovernmental Affairs.

In making amendments to the Tobacco Act, it should be noted that the bill is a reasonable starting point but must include measures that control accessibility as well as enticement through clever marketing activities.