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House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was smoking.

Topics

Canadian Tourism CommissionRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario

Liberal

John Cannis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Canadian Tourism Commission's annual report for 1999-2000, entitled “Working Together, Succeeding Together”.

Indian Claims CommissionRoutine Proceedings

April 27th, 2001 / 12:05 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Liberal

John Finlay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 1999-2000 annual report of the Indian Claims Commission.

Terry Fox Day ActRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West—Mississauga, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-339, an act respecting Terry Fox Day.

Madam Speaker, the name of Terry Fox is one of the best known names across Canada. His efforts to fight cancer and to raise the awareness of Canadians are legendary. He was courageous, noble and modest. He united Canadians as no one has ever done before. Today over 60 countries hold the Terry Fox Day Run for Cancer. In memory of Terry, I have the honour to present to the House an act to establish throughout Canada in each and every year the second Sunday after Labour Day as Terry Fox Day.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Madam Speaker, I have in hand a petition of several hundred names of individuals from across Saskatchewan. Farmers across the province of Saskatchewan want the federal government to give them the necessary tools to fight a severe infestation of gophers.

The petition is calling on the federal government to amend regulations to permit the sale of concentrated liquid strychnine to registered farmers until an effective alternative can be found. Gophers are destroying hundreds of acres of pasture and grain land every year and to a great extent farmers are powerless to stop them. The damage to crop and hay lands caused by this infestation is very costly to farmers in lost productivity, equipment repairs and injury to livestock.

It is the hope of these petitioners that the petition will convince the federal government to relax those restrictions on strychnine poison so that farmers can get the gopher problem under control. We appreciate the opportunity to bring this serious problem to the attention of the House.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yolande Thibeault Liberal Saint-Lambert, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to table in the House a petition signed by 42 constituents of my riding of Saint-Lambert.

They ask the government to bring in amendments to Bill C-16, the charities registration act. They suggest that the bill violates fundamental freedoms and would like to see legislative safeguards added to ensure that it does not disproportionately target ethnic or religious groups.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, an act to amend the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Excise Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Income Tax Act in respect of tobacco, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I just want to ask for the unanimous consent of the House to table the lease I referred to during question period, since the Deputy Prime Minister seemed to question the very existence of such a lease.

Therefore, I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to table it so that everyone could have a look at it.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent?

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, if I understood correctly, the Liberals do not want to know the truth about the Auberge Grand-Mère. That is really what we heard. Nor do they want the lease to be tabled in the House. They do not want to see for themselves that the Prime Minister is talking through his hat when he says there was no financial connection between the auberge and the golf club after 1993. It is rather strange, but I will now get back to my remarks about Bill C-26.

I must say at the outset that Bill C-26 contains good measures to fight tobacco consumption. It provides various instruments, including a tax increase on tobacco products in general and on cigarettes in particular.

We support this bill. Why? Because tobacco kills. But before it kills, it creates considerable costs for our health system. These costs run into the billions of dollars every year. Tobacco kills through various smoking related diseases.

There is emphysema, heart disease and myocardial infarction in particular. There is lung cancer. There are strokes, many of which are linked to smoking.

In the end there are over 40,000 deaths a year in Canada caused by smoking.

There are still too many people smoking today. There are still too many people uninformed. There are still too many people today, especially young people, who are beginning to develop this bad habit of smoking.

And yet, tobacco kills. It is a real poison. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, there are a variety of components to cigarettes, chemicals, which should be made known to those who have the bad habit of smoking.

They are real poisons. To name but one, tar in cigarettes by itself contains 4,000 chemical compounds, 4,000 noxious compounds. Nicotine is the worst element in a cigarette causing dependency, because of its high level—between 5 and 7 milligrams per cigarette—of such magnitude that it is likened to cocaine and heroin dependency.

I know what it is like to break a habit like smoking because I myself smoked for many years. Given the withdrawal symptoms that one can experience over a long period of time, I know whereof I speak.

Cigarettes, and tobacco in general, contain acetone. This substance is normally used as a paint stripper. This is what one is inhaling along with cigarette smoke.

Cigarettes also contain methanol, something else one is inhaling. Methanol is wood alcohol, one of the most potent alcohols on the market. Tobacco also contains acetylene, another chemical, which is used to fuel flares. This is what one is inhaling in tobacco products.

One is inhaling hydrocyanic acid, which is used in gas chambers, benzene, a very strong solvent on the market, and ammonia as well. When one smokes a cigarette, one is breathing in ammonia. This is a colourless gas used for cleaning. I think that everyone is somewhat familiar with this chemical, which is extremely harmful if inhaled. It is very bad for the health.

Cigarettes also contain mercury, lead and cadmium. These are the substances one is inhaling when one smokes a cigarette: three highly toxic heavy metals. There is also carbon monoxide. Everyone has heard of carbon monoxide, a colourless, odourless and deadly gas. Nitrogen oxide, a toxic gas, is also present.

In short, if we could conduct an aggressive information campaign to provide this kind of fundamental data and make an analogy with a poison cocktail, we could not find anything more appropriate.

Imagine a large glass in which there is a certain amount of tar. This is the viscous, yellowish liquid which becomes black once it has been mixed with other products and which is used on roofs. Imagine a large glass with some tar in it.

Imagine another glass in which there is acetone and two or three spoonfuls of paint remover to enhance the flavour. To this, we would then add wood alcohol, a product used for torches, and hydrocyanic acid. We would also pour some acid into our explosive cocktail. And benzene, which is a solvent. We would also put a certain amount of heavy metals into the same glass. We would mix the whole thing with some ice and give it to someone to drink. This is the image that we should bear in mind whenever we light up a cigarette. This is what we are inhaling.

The fundamental question that I ask myself is: Would we give that cocktail to our children to drink? Would we be able give that explosive mixture, that poison which I just described, to our children to drink? This is what is happening.

Since the end of the eighties, the only age group that has significantly increased its tobacco consumption is the 15 to 19 year olds. Where are the parents? We must provide that information, but we must also have it. I could not give that to my child. I could not accept that my child would take such a quantity of poison. Yet, according to statistics, this is what is happening.

As a society, we have an obligation to act. In the case of young people aged 15 to 19, statistics on tobacco since the end of the 1980s are staggering. At the end of the 1980s, the percentage of habitual smokers among female teenagers 15, 16, 17 and 18 of age 24%. Today, it is 31%, an increase of almost a third since the end of the 1980s and early 1990s.

This is cause for concern, when one considers the devastating effects of tobacco. At the end of the 1980s, 21.6% of teenagers aged 15 and over smoked. Today, it is 27.2%.

This too is a cause for concern because we know that diseases that can be developed, like emphysema, myocardial infarction, lung cancer and even strokes are linked to a lifelong investment, from youth to maturity. It is a cause for concern when teenagers, who will become young adults and mature adults, are increasingly becoming smokers.

I believe we should take urgent action to put an end to the deplorable increase of smoking.

I was recently reading a report that showed that the situation with young people between the ages of 20 and 24 is stable but a stable catastrophe is still a catastrophe. When one looks at the data for young people between 20 and 24, and these are young adults we are talking about here, it is surprising to see that 39% of men and 32% of women in that age category are still smoking.

Again, when people hit 40 or 50 years of age, which is the time when tobacco illnesses surface, they end up with the health they built in their youth. If they neglected their health when they were young, it will not improve as the years go by.

What I am trying to say is that starting to smoke at a young age is a negative investment in one's health. It is a bad investment in one's health that can cause two major problems: first, it ensures a slow and painful death, and second, society has to pay for one's bad habit and one's choice not to quit.

Smoking kills and it costs billions of dollars in health care and other services. That is something those with government responsibilities have to bear in mind.

When the packaging of cigarettes and the horrible and repulsive pictures to be displayed on the cigarette packs were debated in the House, the Bloc Quebecois tabled a report containing a number of recommendations to better discourage smoking.

We, of course, recommended an increase in taxes, which has proven to be an effective tool. It has been proven in the past that tax increases have a deterrent effect on young people. Young people do not have a lot of money, particularly 15, 16 and 17 year olds.

We also said that putting photos on cigarette packs and increasing taxes was not enough. We need other solutions, such as requiring cigarette manufacturers to reduce the nicotine content of cigarettes.

As I was saying earlier, there are hundreds if not thousands of toxic products in a cigarette but nicotine is the one chemical that creates addiction. It is as addictive as cocaine or heroine. This should be our first priority so that young people who try that first or second cigarette do not become addicted.

There are means of reducing the nicotine level which, according to various scientific studies, should not exceed five milligrams a day for a person not to get addicted to cigarette smoking.

Members will certainly remember the scandal. If the tobacco industry was able to increase the nicotine level to get more people addicted to their product, an act which is totally reprehensible, irresponsible, appalling and despicable, it means that science is sufficiently advanced to enable the industry to lower the nicotine level. It could be a first step toward helping people to quit smoking or preventing them from becoming addicted to smoking.

Funding for anti-smoking campaign has to be increased as well. At the moment, some $40 million is spent on developing awareness. With new tax money available under C-26, $100 million could be set aside. There is an urgent national need to do so.

With slightly less than 30% of the population still smoking, still having the habit, and with the mortality rate of the various smokers' illnesses, and increased smoking by young people, it seems to me it would be worthwhile investing a little more money there. Instead of swelling surpluses or the government's consolidated fund, it seems to me that it would be a good idea to invest this tax surplus in information, training and public awareness, not only among children and adolescents, but among parents as well.

As parents, we have huge responsibilities and we cannot know everything. Despite all the information campaigns, I think there are still parents around, as there are adolescents, who are not completely in the picture about the problems of smoking and all its ins and outs. They are also unaware of the consequences of this bad habit smoking. We have to lay it all out in order to change these habits.

In the past 20 years, progress has been made. Fewer people smoke but there are target groups. Budgetary resources must be deployed such as information resources and educational resources, to ensure that there is reinvestment in health so that we do not end up 20 years from now with the same problems we have had for the last 20. I am thinking of such things as the increasing incidence rates of lung cancer, emphysema and stroke. Something must be done.

Our second recommendation at that time, and one I believe is still current today, was additional funding. There will be new funds connected with the new taxes imposed by the Minister of Finance on smokers and on the tobacco industry. Please, let us use this money to invest in the health of our young teens. It seems to me this would be a good thing to do.

Our third point was that smoking is not the only thing that creates victims, so do changes to the industry. If government continues its approach—and I choose this terminology because we are talking about smoking here—to burn an industry right off the map, even one as harmful as the tobacco industry, it must not penalize workers in the process.

There will be tens of millions of dollars at stake. Why could some of that not be earmarked for worker retraining and relocation? Why could some not be set aside for policies on conversion from tobacco?

Farmers in various regions of Quebec and of Canada are hurt by these measures. They will hurt even more because the government, like ourselves, seems determined to continue to battle against smoking. Why not earmark an amount to help them retrain?

Some farm families have invested a lot of money in machinery and land improvement to produce the best possible tobacco. Now that we are indirectly fighting this production, we must provide adjustment policies because there are none.

A few years ago the level of taxes on tobacco was so high that contraband was thriving. There is a direct link between the level of taxes and smuggling. If smugglers can sell cigarettes at a cheaper price than on the market, contraband will become more prevalent as the gap grows between these two markets.

This is my fourth point. We support an increase on tobacco taxes. We support any other measure that might be effective in the fight against smoking.

At the same time, we must realize that as taxes increase so will the urge to engage into contraband activities. This means that we must also step up law enforcement.

With these four measures—although there is no quick fix for such an issue—we would be on the way to helping those who are addicted to tobacco, an addiction that is often the result of the industry's greed. In the United States—I do not know if the same thing was done in Canada—it even increased the nicotine content of its products to get more people addicted. It seems to me that the victims of that industry could benefit from these four measures.

These four initiatives would also help the some 30% of Canadians who currently smoke kick this harmful habit so that some day there will not be any smokers left.

We will support the bill.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise today and support the steps being taken in Bill C-26, an act to amend the various acts including the Customs Act and the Income Tax Act in respect to tobacco.

Everyone in this Chamber knows that smoking kills. Everyone knows that more needs to be done to help those Canadians addicted to nicotine to quit smoking. More needs to be done especially to stop our kids from starting to smoke. Our goal in this place should be a smoke free generation.

Ways in which this can be done are to make this dangerous substance cost more, take away the incentives of tobacco companies and often less savoury organizations from making huge profits through smuggling, increase the taxes on what profits tobacco companies make and hopefully to divert the funds allocated to fight tobacco use in our population.

Bill C-26 is a step in this direction and I commend the government for that but, and yes there is a but, there is much more to do.

The tax increase on tobacco could and should have been higher. I believe higher prices are a major deterrent to smoking, especially for young people. The tax increase has been far too timid. We need just look across the border at the United States.

The price for a carton of cigarettes in Maine is $60.31 in Canadian dollars. In New York state a carton in Canadian dollars costs $65.21. In Michigan a carton costs $59.00 in Canadian dollars and so on. What would the price of a carton of cigarettes be in Canada once this bill is in effect? Our prices would range from a high of $54.38 in Newfoundland and Labrador to a low of $37.00 in Ontario. There is more room to tax smokers without the terrible fear of smuggling, which dominated the headlines in the early 1990s.

The government's use of an export tax, once again a bit timidly, is a welcome step in allaying the fears of the development of new booming cigarette smuggling operations. The financial measures contained in Bill C-26, including the clauses on taxing duty free cigarettes and eliminating the traveller's exemptions, are only the first steps to protecting ourselves, our neighbours and especially our children.

I commend the excellent work which has been done by organizations, such as the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control, the Canadian Lung Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the National Cancer Institute of Canada, the Non-Smokers' Rights Association and the Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, in developing an implementable plan of action which the government can use to further reduce tobacco consumption in our population.

I also feel compelled to congratulate Senator Kenny and my colleague from Winnipeg North Centre for their outstanding individual contributions in the fight against tobacco.

One of the most constant and recurring themes that these organizations and individuals have recognized as a priority is the need for adequate and sustained funding for tobacco control. The government currently takes in billions of dollars in taxes on cigarettes but does not spend anywhere near as much to directly discourage smoking. These organizations say that at least $360 million is needed to fight against smoking but the government has refused to commit those funds.

While I reluctantly support Bill C-26, I wholeheartedly support Bill S-15, a bill that has the seeds of a comprehensive anti-smoking plan and a funding mechanism through an arm's length agency. Bill S-15 would create a $360 million funding stream through a dedicated levy taken from tobacco manufacturers to an arm's length agency which would be committed to implementing real tobacco control programs aimed specifically at young people.

Frankly, I would love to stand in this place and say we do not need any arm's length agency to deliver unnecessary health policy, but the government has shown itself to be playing both sides of the tobacco fence in the past. Too many lives are at stake to trust this initiative to politicians. We need these things.

I do not wish to leave the impression however that nothing has been done up until now. I commend the government for the new bigger warning labels on cigarettes, and I look forward to them bringing in labels on alcohol bottles.

I commend the government for ending tobacco advertising even though I know the real pain that this initiative caused for many arts organizations across the country. I also know that most arts organizations never liked accepting tobacco money but they were given no alternatives after years of Liberal cuts to the arts.

The steps in Bill C-26 are not enough to move us toward a smoke-free generation. We need to support community initiatives aimed at making smoking uncool to young people. We need to work with all jurisdictions to make public places and all work places smoke-free. We need fund multitudes of community initiatives to help those addicted to tobacco quit. We need to eliminate the opportunities for our children to start smoking.

In short, we have to get a lot more radical on this front. I am not going to quote the horrific financial costs, both personal in health terms and as a country, that Canadians suffer due to tobacco. I am sure we all know them here, even the smokers. I will continue to urge the government to see Bill C-26 as only a small step towards this effort. Furthermore, New Democrats will continue to push for Bill S-15 hopefully with improvements.

It is going to take real sustained funding programs, creativity and tenacity through many anti-smoking initiatives to lead us to our first smoke-free generation. Let us get to work on it.

I will be splitting my time, Madam Speaker, with the hon. member for Churchill.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech the member just made. I spoke on this subject before question period. I feel very passionately about it because of the impact that it has particularly on our people who take up a lifelong addiction when they start smoking. The implications that this has range all the way from health to premature death and loss of loved family members to even issues like fires which are caused by careless smoking and so on.

Would the hon. member care to address the one burning question, if I can use a pun here, on this issue? Will the increase in taxes and the resulting increase in the cost of cigarettes actually curtail the number of young people who would start the habit? Does she have confidence in the Liberal government actually stopping the resulting smuggling of cigarettes which may again increase.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, we have room to further increase the cost of cigarettes without bringing about a massive smuggling effort. As I said, the cost of a carton of cigarettes in Maine is $60.31 Canadian. With the addition in Bill C-26, we would still not see our cigarettes go up that high. We would see a range anywhere from $54.38 to $37.00 in Ontario. Quite frankly, we need to put the prices a lot higher, then I think we would see a decrease in availability and a decrease of young people starting the habit.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the bill today. There has been much work done on behalf of the Standing Committee on Health. I recognize that the government is making efforts to improve the situation to reduce smoking among Canadians. Also, our health critic, the member from Winnipeg North Centre, has been very active and keeps us abreast of everything that has been going on.

I am not going to dwell so much on Bill C-26 as to the specifics of it. We are going to support the bill. Any incentive or anything we can do to decrease the opportunity for young people to begin smoking and to discourage people from smoking, is definitely the route to go.

I have no shame in admitting now that I started smoking when I was 12 years old. By the time I quite I was smoking a pack and a half to two packs a day. I could barely breathe when I got up in the morning. I did not have the guts to go to my doctor and say that I had a problem with my lungs. My biggest incentive to quit was not being able to face my doctor and listen to him give me a good tongue lashing over the fact that I was smoking and complaining about not being able to breathe. It took a number of attempts but I have not smoked for close to 20 years. I have had my moments when it seemed like a not so bad idea. Maybe price is a deterrent but I am not sure.

I certainly think we must do everything to discourage people from smoking. I have to admit I am truly concerned that this increasing will just not cut it. I have seen young people buying one cigarette at a time from someone down the street. For 25 cents a cigarette, children as young as seven or eight years old can pick up a cigarette from certain people they know.

We all know that video games, trips to the arcades and little hand held Game Boys are a lot more expensive than a 25 cent cigarette. Those same young people, who have money for those things, are the ones who are out there buying the cigarettes. They may not have to pay the $6 or $7 a pack but they can buy them individually a little at a time. It is not hard to find a quarter lying around in the shopping carts or wherever. There will be money available for that.

What is of the utmost importance is that we have proper education in place and that we have proper pharmaceutical supplies available, whether it be Nicorette or the patch. It is important to have these available to assist people when they do want to quit.

I tried to quit a number of times and I know there are people out there, even teenagers, who by the time they are 16 or 17 are thinking about quitting but they cannot afford buy a box of Nicorette. I am sorry to use just Nicorette but it is the only name that comes to mind. I am not giving them advertising and I am not getting paid for using that product. A lot of people want to quit but they cannot afford to buy Nicorette or the patch. They do not have a prescription plan available where they can go out and get it. As a result it makes their job to quit that much harder.

What I personally would like to see is a more sincere effort to dedicate dollars to education and to help people quit smoking. Maybe what we need is dollars or legislation to say to those tobacco companies that they will have to pay for all of the products that people who smoke need to use to help them quit. They should be required to pay for the oxygen required when someone's lungs get so bad they cannot breathe because they are responsible for it.

Tobacco companies, after all these years, now admit, for the most part, that they deliberately encouraged people to take up smoking and made it habit forming by increasing the concentration of certain chemicals within the cigarette. I would much rather see an increase in education than an increase in the cost of cigarettes.

To those of us who do not smoke, no one complains more about a smoker than someone who has quit smoking. I know a number of smokers who want to quit but who have a hard time quitting. They do need help and we need to provide that help. Increasing the price of cigarettes will not make their lives any easier. Granted, we should not hand cigarettes to them at will. They do need to pay a reasonable price because of the additional health care costs, not just for smokers but for others around them, associated with secondhand smoke and numerous other factors.

Children in homes of people who smoke are jeopardized. I wonder if at some point we may need to seriously consider whether we are injuring our children by continuing to smoke or having them in smoke filled places. We need to decrease the opportunities where people are able to smoke or where they inhale smoke, but slamming an increase in the cost of cigarettes on smokers will not do it. We need to have the dedicated dollars.

One of the issues that I get the most mail on, to the credit of Senator Kenny, is his bill. I have received literally hundreds and hundreds of letters supporting Senator Kenny's bill to ensure that dedicated dollars go to education. Recognizing that there is that support, we need to push along in those areas and dedicate dollars. People do not have faith that the government will use tax dollars for the benefit of health care, to assist smokers and those around them, and perhaps look after the environment.

Instead of creating a bullheadedness between smokers and non-smokers, between tobacco industry workers and those opposed to smoking, we need an alternative plan for those workers and alternative uses for tobacco other than smoking, so that we are not creating these head on forces. We do not need these divisions with smokers literally cursing every non-smoker around. This might make smokers put more of an effort into trying to quit.

I wish it could be quicker but I think we are a long way from a generation of non-smokers unless we seriously commit to educating people and deceasing the number of places where people can smoke. One of the best routes that we have taken which has had the most impact is having fewer places where it is okay to smoke. It is wonderful, even for smokers, to enter a place that is not filled with a haze of smoke. Our eyes do not get as sore. Smokers have to go outside for a smoke but overall even smokers appreciate the curtains and the ceilings not being covered with smoke. Smokers appreciate areas where there is non-smoking as well.

Those are the things that we need to be doing, along with possibly increasing the cost of cigarettes.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I suppose someone has to keep the debate rolling since the 172 Liberals do not seem to be interested in getting into the debate.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member knows the rules of the House. We do not mention the presence or absence of members. Would he put his question, please?

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I apologize. I do know those rules. I thought I was being careful. I said that the Liberal members did not seem to be interested in participating in the debate, and my statement stands.

The member made a very good speech. She showed a genuine compassion for people who want to quit smoking. It occurred to me while she was speaking that perhaps we, as leaders in the country, as those who set the standards which our young people should follow, are not vigorous enough in providing leadership in this particular area. Has she speculated as to what we could do, perhaps something really radical, that would turn this thing around, because it is so long overdue?

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, one of the things we can do is admit that we do not need to smoke. We can also encourage people not to smoke. We can let young people know that it is not a great thing. We can let smokers know that we do not appreciate them smoking in non-smoking places. I know a number of people who feel quite comfortable putting no smoking signs on their door even though it does not always go well with their friends.

As members of parliament, a radical thing we can do, if we want to see a generation of non-smokers, is make a commitment not to smoke. There will be those who say that it is easy for me to say that because I have quit, but the bottom line is that it has to come from somewhere. As a true representation of what we think people should be doing, we should all make a commitment to be non-smokers .

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, this morning the Ottawa Citizen had an op-ed piece commenting on warning labels. One of the members of the NDP had a motion before the House dealing with health warning labels on containers of alcoholic beverages. I found that to be an interesting argument with regard to warning labels in general. The applicability of warning labels with regard to tobacco is important, but the key point is that there is no empirical evidence that such labels work.

I want to put a comment forward and perhaps the hon. member would like to comment on it. To have empirical evidence would mean measuring things before and after doing something but keeping all other things constant over a long period of time to look at the marginal impact. This is not an issue of subjectivity about whether something will work or not. Labelling in itself is part of a more comprehensive strategy, including taxation and other healthy, lifestyle choices initiatives.

In my view Canadians have a right to know and a right to make choices, but in terms of having a comprehensive approach to healthy lifestyle choices for people, proper taxation, proper labelling and proper health incentives are a big part of it. Public education and awareness are probably the most significant factors which are key to changing behaviour. If we are going to change behaviour, we need to ensure that the public are properly informed in every possible way so that they can make healthy lifestyle choices.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I missed sharing this little story with everyone and the member has given me the opportunity to do that.

I agree with the member when he said that people have the right to know what is coming, whether they are inhaling it, eating it, drinking it or whatever, so they can then make conscious decisions.

I want to mention the different tobacco packaging. A young woman goes into a store and asks for a pack of cigarettes without a picture of ugly teeth.

It is funny the way things work. It is enough that it just sickens us a bit. If we happen to break down and sit with smokers at a table and they throw their pack of cigarettes down, for everyone else at the table the package is enough to make them a little ill. We should go ahead a do everything we can do to make it that much more distasteful.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, my question is for the member for Churchill. I found her speech most interesting. I am also a former smoker who had to fight hard and for a long time to kick the habit.

Even if the laws are tougher and if health warnings are required on cigarette packaging to warn about the dangers of smoking and so on, I notice that today the companies seem to easily sell their products in certain places, via television shows in particular. If I am not mistaken, there seems to be more actors smoking on television, particularly amongst the young actors and the stars.

I wonder how the producers of those shows could be made to join the fight and stop playing the companies' game. I would like the member to tell me what she thinks of the idea of trying to get young actors to stop holding a cigarette or smoking on television.