Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-260, the private member's bill to amend the Hazardous Products Act. I thank the member for Scarborough East for bringing such an important matter before the House of Commons in the form of this bill.
Let me state at the outset that this bill deals with property damage caused by careless smoking, but most importantly, it deals with saving lives. In 1992, careless smoking in Canada accounted for 68 fatalities, 385 injuries, $37 million in damages and 3,199 fires. On average Canadians consume approximately 56 billion cigarettes annually and the damage caused by them is substantial.
The solution to this may be found in what are known as flammability standards. When I read over this piece of legislation, the first thought that came to mind was that the bill is not trying to get Canadians to stop smoking, because smoking is an addiction that requires help. Rather, what this bill is saying and what it is trying to do is make it safer for people to smoke and safer for the people around them.
Essentially what this bill would do is compel the Minister of Health to report to Parliament and explain why the Hazardous Products Act should or should not be amended to include cigarettes under the category of flammability standards. Clearly this is an issue that affects all of us in the entire country, regardless of age or region. Further, members would no doubt agree that saving lives of smokers and non-smokers alike is of significant public interest to all of us here in the chamber.
One lit cigarette left unattended can have dire consequences and devastating impacts. Dangerous smoking may seem to be a non-issue; however, it is a very important one, which Canadians from coast to coast must be encouraged to take seriously. Over the years, cigarette fires have caused a large number of fatalities. The terrible tragedy is that most of these deaths could have been prevented if smokers had just taken a few simple precautions.
One thing that Canadians must be aware of is that it can happen to anyone, young or old, and at any time. If one is smoking late at night or after a drink, it is only natural that one's reactions tend to be slower. As such, this is a time when extra care must be taken while smoking.
A smouldering cigarette is the biggest cause of fatal fires, causing one-third of all deaths from fires in the home. These fires are more likely to start during the night. Some of the most common places for them to start are sofas, beds and carpets. A cigarette burns at up to 780 degrees centigrade, so I would remind all Canadians to ensure that when they put out their cigarettes they really are out.
There is good news in all of this, because cigarette-related fires can be prevented by taking a few simple precautions. Some of these include: avoid smoking in bed; avoid leaving lit cigarettes unattended; always use a proper ashtray and make sure it cannot be knocked over; take special care when one is tired or drinking; keep matches and lighters away from children; and fit and maintain a proper smoke alarm.
Although these personal safety precautions can be taken, more can and must be done. It is for this reason that I applaud my colleague for bringing forward this private member's bill. Cigarettes should be included in the Hazardous Products Act and flammability standards should be applied to them.
It is worth noting that currently in the United States the Massachusetts legislature has before it a unique opportunity to move Massachusetts out front in its efforts to save lives, lives lost to cigarettes.
Smoking materials are the leading cause of fatal fires in the United States. Recent statistics from the National Fire Protection Association show that there were 900 fire-related deaths, 2,500 injuries, and $410 million in property damage caused by smoking materials in one year in the United States.
In Massachusetts in 1990, there were 178 deaths, 763 injuries related to burns and $75 million in property damage caused by such fires. During the same period, these fires caused 677 firefighter injuries in Massachusetts.
The legislature has before it the Moakley bill, a state version of the federal legislation first introduced in Congress by Joe Moakley in 1979 which would require that all cigarettes sold in Massachusetts have strict fire safety standards. When left burning unattended they would extinguish themselves or burn at temperatures that would not ignite furniture or mattresses, thereby lessening the chance of fires.
This is a very good idea and a very worthwhile piece of legislation. Lessons can be learned from the Massachusetts approach. Also, New York State has recently passed a similar bill while unanimously stating that all cigarettes sold in the state had to meet flammability standards by July 2003.
It remains my solemn opinion that this is certainly the right thing to do.
We learn from statistics in Great Britain that smoking can be more dangerous than we think. Every three days someone dies because of a cigarette fire. The highest injury rate in smoking material fires is among young people between the ages of 25 to 34. Men are more likely to be killed or injured in cigarette fires. Six out of ten of those killed are men and over half of those injured are men. Six out of ten smokers say cigarettes are one of the top causes of house fires, but every year fewer people are taking steps to prevent these fires.
Only four out of ten smokers say they check their ashtrays before going to bed each night. Nearly half of all households have a smoker living in them. These households are nearly one and one-half times more likely to have a fire than non-smoking households.
Despite the dangers of falling asleep and setting bedding on fire, 70% of smokers confess to lighting up in bed. People 18 to 34 years old are even more likely to smoke in bed.
I think that my remarks today reflect the importance of implementing cigarette safety standards in Canada. The choices are simple: life or death.
We have a golden opportunity to support this private member's bill in the hope that the Minister of Health and the entire government will take notice of the widespread support for the bill and as a result will work hard toward implementing appropriate standards for cigarettes in the country.