Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak on second reading of Bill C-24 which will amend the Tobacco Products Control Act. Action on the proposed amendment is a key element of our strategy for reducing the consumption of tobacco products in Canada. Before I address the specifics of Bill C-24, I first want to take a few moments to touch on the historical and policy context of this legislation.
When the Tobacco Products Control Act became law in 1989 it set a number of important public health precedents. It phased out tobacco advertising. It restricted the promotion of tobacco products. It required health warnings and toxic constituents information on packages. Finally, the act required manufacturers to report information on tobacco constituents and sales to the Minister of Health.
In passing this legislation, Parliament acknowledged the hazards inherent in tobacco use. It acted to protect all Canadians but especially youth from inducements to the use of tobacco products. To this day Canada is recognized as a world leader for the action it took in 1989 to regulate tobacco marketing and promotion.
Since the implementation of the Tobacco Products Control Act, Canada has been viewed as a model in terms of tobacco control measures. Australia, New Zealand, France and Thailand are among the countries which have used aspects of the Canadian model, including advertising bans, prominent health messages on packaging and increased health promotion activities. In some cases these countries have gone further than Canada with various components of their policies and legislation. Their non-smoking policies are based not only on Canada's experience but also on the recommendations of international health organizations such as the World Health Organization.
As countries co-operate on tobacco control, these international agencies have an increasing wealth of data and models to draw upon. The World Health Organization for instance recently released a report indicating that three million people a year now die prematurely from tobacco related causes. If the current trend continues, the body count would reach some 10 million deaths per year within one generation.
Last September the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Parliament had the power to control advertising and promotion of tobacco products under the criminal law power of the Constitution. The court also found unanimously that the purpose of the act, specifically to reduce tobacco consumption, was a valid and important health objective, one sufficiently important to warrant the limiting of the freedom of expression.
However, the court was also of the view that the government had failed to demonstrate that some of the measures in the act, in particular the total ban on advertising, the restrictions on promotion and the inability to attribute health warnings to the government, were justified under the charter. As a consequence, the majority ruled that large portions of the act were without force and effect, including provisions requiring health warnings and toxic constituents information.
The government accepts the responsibility conferred on it by the Supreme Court of Canada decision. It will not allow the unrestrained marketing and promotion of a product that kills so many Canadians.