Mr. Speaker, I will try to speak over the din of the crowd and proceed with the debate on Bill C-24.
Just before question period I was addressing the shared responsibilities of the stakeholders and all interested parties in the control of tobacco consumption everywhere. I indicated that some of the areas involved different levels of government, schools, parents and smokers. I left off by indicating that the federal government is committed to providing leadership in this area. Perhaps I could resume the debate on that theme.
I realize that all members' attention is riveted on the debate. The government will continue to participate in consultations and to collaborate with its partners in the national strategy to reduce tobacco use, along with the provincial and territorial governments and a wide range of health groups.
Partners in the national strategy recognize that there is no simple or easy solution to the problem. To be effective, solutions will need to be multifaceted and will need to be based on collaboration. The proposed plan of action meets these criteria.
On December 11, 1995, the government tabled Bill C-117 which was reintroduced in this session as Bill C-24. At that time we tabled a document entitled "Tobacco Control-A Blueprint to Protect the Health of Canadians". That document sets out the government's proposed approach to tobacco control in response to the Supreme Court decision.
The overall objective is clearly stated in the blueprint, specifically, to reduce tobacco consumption among Canadians and the adverse health effects that it causes. This objective is supported by three broad legislative goals.
First, to protect the health of Canadians in light of conclusive evidence implicating tobacco use in the incidence of numerous debilitating and fatal diseases.
Second, to protect young people and others to the extent it is reasonable in a free and democratic society from inducements to use tobacco products and consequent dependence on them.
Third, to enhance public awareness of the hazards of tobacco use by ensuring effective communication of pertinent information about tobacco products and their use. The blueprint document reflects the government's recognition that because millions of Canadians are addicted to tobacco products, these products cannot simply be made illegal and banned from the marketplace.
The Supreme Court recognized that a prohibition on the sale or consumption of tobacco would not be a practical, public policy option, given the addictive nature of tobacco products. Rather, the tobacco control measures under consideration must necessarily focus on reducing the demand for tobacco products.
I can confirm that there is a consensus in the health community that, given the addictive nature of nicotine, it is better to concentrate our efforts on preventing experimentation and uptake rather than try to overcome that addiction. Because very few people start to smoke after their teenage years, tobacco control efforts must focus on dissuading youth from experimenting.
The recent data that shows increases in youth smoking, as my colleague opposite wanted to indicate earlier, in various regions of Canada lend urgency to the development of a legislative response.
Since the advertising and promotion of tobacco products influence not only brand choice but also the perceptions of the products and the disposition to using the product, there is clear need to counter the effective advertising and promotion that results in experimentation and addiction among youth who appear to be especially susceptible to product advertising and promotion. Furthermore, because the demand for tobacco products is influenced by other marketing activities like retail merchandising, packaging, product design, these areas must also be addressed in order to achieve the stated health goals.
The complex social, economic and health issues surrounding tobacco use suggest the need for a comprehensive, mutually reinforcing set of strategies. It is important to ensure that any legislative initiative be consistent with and complementary to the ongoing public education and awareness programs that are part of the larger federal strategy as well as the broad policy thrusts in other areas of federal activity.
Similarly, the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy must be consistent with related municipal-provincial-territorial activities and legislation. The tobacco control blueprint outlines a comprehensive set of measures that would establish the conditions and requirements under which tobacco products would be manufactured, sold and marketed in Canada.
The measures under consideration include, first, the most comprehensive restrictions possible on advertising. The government is committed to providing the necessary information to support the most comprehensive prohibition on advertising possible, always taking into account the guidance of the Supreme Court and our concerns for protecting youth from the inducements to smoke. Second, it would include restrictions on other promotional activities, and third, a comprehensive set of ground rules for sponsorship promotion. I see that my colleague from Haldimand-Norfolk is in complete agreement.
I want to make it clear that the government is not proposing to ban the sponsorship of cultural and support groups and philanthropic activities by tobacco companies, quite the contrary. Such companies can and should support cultural and sporting events that they consider to be worthwhile. What the government objects to is sponsorship promotion of tobacco products and their use.
The measures set out in the blueprint document for sponsorship promotion include, among others, prohibiting the use of brand names and logos on non-tobacco items associated with an event or activity, prohibiting the incorporation of brands names or logos into the name of a sponsored activity or event, prohibiting testimonials and personal endorsements, and requiring health messages on all sponsorship advertising and signs.
The blueprint document also proposes to further reduce the likelihood of easy access to tobacco products by minors by eliminating self-service tobacco product displays and mail order sales. It proposes to restrict point of sale promotional activities, such as in-store advertising, promotion and product display. It also proposes to require additional new packaging and labelling requirements that would control package information and prohibit false and misleading claims on that packaging. Finally, it proposes to expand reporting requirements for tobacco manufacturers, distributors and importers to regulate tobacco products, their constituents and tobacco smoke emissions.
I might emphasize that consultation is continuing with interested parties on the impact of the blueprint measures on the health of Canadians and tobacco and collateral industries supported by tobacco funding.
This legislation, together with the research and public education components of the tobacco demand reduction strategy, will strengthen efforts to counter the ill-effects of tobacco consumption in Canada.
Given the unique problems associated with tobacco use, the government is developing tobacco specific legislation which will again make Canada a leader in the battle against the health effects of tobacco consumption. The bill before the House today is the government's first legislative response aimed at redressing the legal problems identified by the Supreme Court's ruling. It is the important first step in the overall action plan.
The amendments to the Tobacco Products Control Act in Bill C-24 are straightforward and vital to the health goals. Through Bill C-24 the government is reinstating the requirement to display health messages on tobacco products and in accordance with the direction of the Supreme Court of Canada, is giving the tobacco companies the option of attributing health messages on tobacco packaging to Health Canada.
We know from studies conducted by the Department of Health that despite an awareness of the general health affects of tobacco use, Canadians lack knowledge about the specific health consequences of that tobacco use. Knowledge about specific health consequences is important because it may result in a better appreciation of the harmful affects of smoking.
I acknowledge that the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council released a voluntary packaging and advertising code in December 1995 that continues to use health messages with an attribution to Health Canada although in a different format than that set out in the regulations that were made inoperative by the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Tobacco companies want to return to the format of the health messages that were used prior to 1994 before it was improved to make messages more visible and readable. The code requires that health messages be on advertisements. Despite that, within days of the release of that code, advertisements without health warnings, whose art work and designs were obviously targeted to youth, were placed within 200 metres of schools, violating the code. That code is both insufficient and unenforceable. Its pre-clearance and review processes are not subject to public scrutiny. It does not impose any sanctions on those who fail to comply with it. It is clear that public, transparent and forcible regulatory controls are required if we are to meet our health goals. That is what Bill C-24 begins to put in place.
What Canadians need is a legislative framework that will control the manufacture, sale and marketing of tobacco products in this country. They need legislative measures to protect youth from
inducements to using tobacco products. This government intends to provide Canadians with that framework.
Bill C-24 is a vital first step toward a safer and healthier country for all Canadians. I am sure all colleagues on both sides of the House will join with me in supporting the amendments listed under Bill C-24. I thank you for your attention and support.