I welcome the commentary of the hon. member opposite. It is favourable to the introduction I am presenting. Rarely has there been such a clear and compelling case for government action, as the member acknowledges.
To put matters as simply as possible, smoking kills. The supreme court recognized this fact. The warning labels are entirely accurate, scientifically correct and vital to Canada's health strategy on smoking. They cannot, however, tell the entire story.
Tobacco is the only consumer product that has absolutely no known benefits, none whatsoever. When used as intended, it can cause irreparable damage and can kill those who use it. A couple of my colleagues opposite in the medical profession will attest to that as well. They will also attest to the fact that research tells us a smoker's life expectancy decreases by some seven to eight minutes for each cigarette smoked. That is a terrible price to pay.
Between one-third and one-half of Canadians who now smoke will die prematurely as a result of tobacco use. This means that over three million people will die an early death because of tobacco use. When the Tobacco Products Control Act was introduced in 1987 some 72 Canadians died each day of tobacco related causes. Today, as we debate some minor amendments to the act, the toll has risen appreciably. Today, tomorrow the next day and each day in this year on average 110 Canadians will die of tobacco related causes. Sadly, we have every reason to believe this toll will continue to increase for some time.
Tobacco addiction does not take its toll immediately or quickly. It often takes some 20 to 30 years for the consequences of smoking to manifest themselves. That is why deaths attributable to smoking continue to escalate, even though fewer people are smoking now than 10 or 20 years ago. From 1989 to 1991 Canadian deaths attributed to smoking increased by some 8 per cent to more than 41,400.
Even those who do not smoke can be affected. The United States centre for disease prevention and control published some alarming findings recently about second hand smoke in a journal of the American Medical Association. I point to the study because the study is noteworthy for not only its findings but for its sample size and its methodology.
It involved some 10,642 people over four years of age and older randomly selected at 81 different sites in 26 separate states. It was the first centre for disease prevention and control tobacco study to combine blood samples, physical examinations and questionnaires.
Using the blood tests of the 10,642 people, the centres for disease prevention and control were able to confirm almost universal exposure to tobacco smoke even among young people and people who never smoked and who do not work or live around people who smoke.
Their tests showed 87.9 per cent of non-smokers in the group had a blood chemistry that indicated exposure to cigarette smoke. Their blood tested positive for cotinine metabolic residue from the body's processing of inhaled nicotine. There is virtually no other source of that chemical than inhaled tobacco smoke.
We know from other scientific studies that second hand smoke can have 20 to 30 times the carcinogens found in smoke inhaled directly through the filter by the smoker. This study confirms those carcinogens find their way into the lungs and bloodstream of almost everybody, including non-smokers.
The centres for disease prevention and control estimated that in the United States second hand smoke caused 3,000 deaths annually among the non-smoking public and 150,000 to 300,000 cases of respiratory infections among children.
This is generally consistent with the data available in Canada. Here it is estimated that about 330 people each year die from the effects of second hand smoke. Almost half of all Canadian children under the age 15, some 2.8 million, are exposed to second hand smoke on a regular basis.
These data provide clear and compelling evidence that tobacco use is not a personal choice issue, as the tobacco industry would maintain. It is clearly and irreputably a public health issue.
The American study clearly shows no one is safe from the effects of tobacco smoke. A smoker's decision to use tobacco products has demonstrable and negative impacts on the health of those with whom the smoker lives and works.
This year about 50 billion cigarettes will be smoked in Canada with tragic consequences for public health. In addition to the human consequences I have already noted there are hidden costs. The health care costs of tobacco use are estimated at some $3 billion per annum. Another $8 billion is lost in absenteeism and productivity loss. In short, the personal and public costs of this addiction are tragic, pervasive and wholly preventable.
If this product were discovered today it would not be allowed for use in the marketplace. The government realizes, as did the Supreme Court of Canada, it would be impractical and unrealistic to ban a product that is part of the daily lives of almost 7 million Canadians.
At the same time, it would be irresponsible and callous to allow unfettered marketing and promotion of such a lethal product. The government has an obligation to take appropriate action. The government is prepared to act, it is determined to act. It is determined to take action, although the solutions to this national public health problem are complicated and difficult.
Tobacco use is an integral part of the daily life of almost 7 million Canadians, roughly one-third of the population aged 15 and over. Each day in films, magazines and on television tobacco products are portrayed as normal consumer products associated with contemporary lifestyles. This benign portrayal of tobacco products ignores that tobacco is inherently hazardous and addictive.
The length of time between initial experimentation and the onset of adverse health consequences is typically between 20 and 30 years and results in the loss of immediacy that has prompted dramatic public reaction to other less threatening public health issues. Its addictive qualities make it difficult to quit even when smokers know the toll is exacting on their health. Many smokers would like to quit but are unable to.
Government efforts to reduce tobacco use in Canada involve powerful and competing interests in a highly complex social, legal and economic context. The debates on the various pieces of legislation regulating tobacco have elicited strong reaction from such diverse interest groups as tobacco farmers, manufacturers, retailers, printers, artists, cultural groups, health groups and average Canadians whose health or families have been affected by tobacco use.
Because of tobacco's unique hazards, the enormous profits generated from selling it and the many competing interests involved, reducing tobacco consumption and its resulting adverse health effects is a challenging task indeed. It involves shared responsibilities among the various stakeholders and partners: the different levels of government; employers promoting smoke free environments among their employees; schools through the education of their students on the hazards of tobacco use; parents by encouraging their children not to start smoking; and of course the smokers themselves.