Mr. Speaker, in the second group of motions, Group No. 2, the Bloc Quebecois had Motion No. 5. This part concerns access to tobacco products. This part maintains the ban on selling tobacco products to persons under 18 years of age. What is new in this second part of the bill is that retailers will now have to ask for an identity card with a photograph.
On many occasions, the Bloc Quebecois has criticized the fact that the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act was not enforced. According to certain investigations carried out in the year just ended, 50 per cent of convenience stores did not enforce the legislation and cigarettes were still being sold to young persons under 18 years of age. Worse yet, cigarettes were still being sold individually. This new provision requiring an identity card with a photograph is very laudable.
It is a measure welcomed by the Bloc Quebecois, because it can truly be effective. We have some questions, however, about how this measure will be enforced. Right now, there are only about 40 public servants throughout the country inspecting convenience store owners, merchants and retailers selling tobacco products. So how can we enforce this measure, although, I repeat, the Bloc Quebecois is in agreement with it? Who is going to report those who have no social conscience and who, for financial gain, will continue to sell cigarettes to those under 18 years of age?
This clause mentions regulations that will follow. It is like signing a blank cheque. We do not know how they will proceed. They are still working out the regulations not mentioned in this bill that, following the master plan tabled by the former health minister, took one year to reach first reading in the House. We have not yet seen the regulations to follow. This is all very laudable and we applaud this measure. We hope that it will be introduced, but we also want this legislation to be enforced.
This part also contains a ban on selling a tobacco product by means of a display that permits a person to handle the tobacco product before paying for it. Goodbye to self-service displays. We also applaud this measure.
The ban on furnishing a tobacco product by means of a dispensing device. It must be understood here that the prohibition concerns access to the products sold by vending machine, not the vending machine itself. This means, more or less, that the machines will have to be kept behind the counter in a restaurant, for example, and the staff will have to go and get the products.
It will also be prohibited to cause a tobacco product to be delivered from one province to another, or to be sent by mail, for a consideration. The obligation for retailers to post signs prohibiting sales to persons under the age of 18 years will be retained, as will the prohibition of sales of packages containing fewer than 20 cigarettes. But that was already in place.
How can it be that there are still corner stores and other businesses where unscrupulous merchants will sell tobacco to young people? According to the statistics and surveys, moreover, these children are often between the ages of 8 and 11. This is how our young people get hooked on nicotine and the taste of cigarettes, and are unable to quit afterward, and the reason why we are so concerned.
The applications or measures they want to put in place are actually quite laudable, as I have said, but there are already measures in place which are not being enforced. There are no inspections, no one making sure the laws are being adhered to. How can we then believe there will be a decrease in smoking by young people? How can we believe that the government has the will to do it? It has the will to put effective measures down on
paper, but when the time comes to enforce them, there is nobody around to do it. That is what we are finding fault with.
The bill contains other measures regulating labelling. Essentially, manufacturers are forbidden to sell a tobacco product if it does not bear a message on emissions and on health risks. Since the recent Supreme Court judgment, however, the message may be attributed to a body or individual determined by regulation. Thus, manufacturers will be able to attribute health-related messages to Health Canada, which they could not under the old legislation.
In short, Bill C-71 contains measures which could have a positive impact on tobacco use in Quebec and in Canada. This is worthy of applause, but as I was saying, only if these measures, this legislation, are enforced and not left up in the air, or set out in a bill which does not have the manpower to back it up, the inspectors to enforce it. One wonders how some forty inspectors are going to be able to look after all of Canada and all of the convenience stores across Canada. That is where the ridiculous part of the whole thing lies.
What is of interest to us in Group No. 2 is the Bloc Quebecois Motion No. 5, which refers to amending clause 12, so that vending devices, even without security mechanisms, are allowed in places to which young persons are denied access. The clause as amended would read as follows: "No person shall furnish or permit the furnishing of a tobacco product by means of a device that dispenses tobacco products except where the device is in a place to which the public does not reasonably have access or where that device has a security mechanism that is activated before each transaction or that is in a place to which young persons are not permitted by law to have access".
This is just a matter of common sense. The purpose of this clause is to prevent young people from buying their own cigarettes. We quite agree with this measure and with all other measures aimed at restricting access by minors to tobacco products.
If the vending machine is in a place to which young people do not have access, a bar, for instance, obviously they would not be able to use it. You cannot get anything at all from a vending machine unless you are in front of it, whether it is chocolate, gum or cigarettes.
If our laws are enforced, young people under the age of 18 should not be in bars and certainly not have access to cigarette vending machines.
The Bloc Quebecois received a memo from an association of operators of automatic cigarette vending machines. Its members are all small businesses that create jobs, and they informed us that in its present form, clause 12 in Bill C-71 would cause them to close, because these businesses would no longer be profitable. They said that the bill was unfair to operators of cigarette vending machines and, as such, discriminatory. "Our members are retailers as defined in clause 2 of the bill, and as such we ask, no more and no less, to be treated like other tobacco retailers, in other words, on the same level as corner stores, drug stores, grocery stores, and so forth".
I would draw your attention to what this group finds so illogical. Time already!