This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Sri LankaRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair has considered the submissions of the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt and the hon. member for Scarborough Centre, and the letters received from the other hon. members that I listed.

I note that I have ordered a debate on this subject previously. I believe it was in February. I granted the debate on the basis of the humanitarian crisis that was existing at that time, and the House did have a debate on the subject.

The conflict has ended, but there is continuing difficulty in the country, I agree. However, whether it is something that constitutes an emergency for the purposes of debate in this chamber, I have doubts.

I am sure that having heard the submissions of the hon. members, I agree that further submissions by the Government of Canada may be helpful in this matter, and the government is free to make those submissions, and indeed questions are asked during question period and statements made in the House dealing with this subject, which I am sure are influencing the opinions of members of the government who make the decisions in respect of these matters.

I am not convinced at the moment that a debate in the House, on an emergency basis, is something that is required and, accordingly, I am going to deny the request at this time, bearing in mind the possibility of the matter being brought back to the chamber at another time, as it has been a couple of times since the debate in February.

Accordingly, I do not feel the submissions meet the exigencies of the Standing Order at this moment.

Before I call orders of the day, I wish to inform the House that pursuant to order made on Tuesday, June 2, because of the ministerial statement and the deferred recorded divisions, government orders will be extended by 78 minutes.

The House resumed from June 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are resuming debate on Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act. It is important to point out the alternative title. The bill contains the following note: “This Act may be cited as the Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act.”

I wanted to point that out because it is clear that, in the mind of the legislator, this bill definitely fits in with the objectives set out in the Tobacco Act of 1997. In section 4(c), it states that the purpose of the act is to protect the health of young persons by restricting access to tobacco products.

Clearly, generally speaking, tobacco is very harmful to human health, as we know. It is clear that, as a society, we want the best for our young people and our children. We want to ensure that whatever they consume things is in no way harmful to their health, their development or their growth.

Clearly, and again generally speaking, no one wants to see someone who is still growing consume products that are harmful to health. It is only natural that a society like ours creates legislation to try to ensure only the best for our young people. That is why it is important to limit the use of tobacco products by our young people.

That is precisely what we are doing by prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors. That is the message we are sending to all our citizens, not only to the young people themselves, of course, but also to their parents and their peers. As we know, at a certain age, young people often use tobacco products to imitate others. We see people smoking and might then be inclined to smoke as well, since one of the rituals of some groups.

However, as I was saying, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that our young people do not consume tobacco products. That is what the law tells us, by prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors.

Furthermore, according to a 2007 Health Canada survey, close to 85% of merchants abide by this law. Of course, we would prefer that all merchants abided by the law. That would reinforce the message we want to get across to young people, their parents and their friends of legal age, which is to discourage them from using these products.

However, it is rather clear that merchants are generally aware of their roles as responsible citizens in promoting healthy lifestyles among our young people.

An important part of Bill C-32 is to restrict the use of little cigars, or cigarillos. It is true that young people who smoke them from time to time, may not be happy to learn that flavoured cigarillos will no longer be found on the shelves. However, it is clear that in this case, we are making this change to the Tobacco Act for their own good.

It is important to note that in 2000, Health Canada determined that cigarillos contain between 67% and 200% more tar than standard cigarettes, and that unfiltered cigarillos contain twice as much nicotine. We know that these harmful substances are addictive, and it is important to restrict the use of the products by young people as much as possible. It makes me smile to think of an interview I heard at the end of last week. Louis Lemieux, a morning host on the RDI news network was having a rather candid interview with Sylvie Fréchette, spokesperson for No Tobacco Day. He spoke about his own desire to quit smoking. He was even wearing a patch during the show. During the interview, Mr. Lemieux admitted that he did not think many people enjoyed smoking, but that it was difficult for them to quit because they were addicted.

We do not want our young people to develop an addiction to tobacco products during their development in adolescence. So it is important, in accordance with paragraph 4(c) of the 1997 Tobacco Act, to try to restrict access to tobacco products for young people as much as possible.

We have some interesting statistics from the Institut de la statistique du Québec. Our young people, both boys and girls, begin smoking cigars between secondary 2 and 3, that is, grades eight and nine. About 21% to 22% smoke cigars. We tend to believe that things are the same as in an earlier time and that only boys smoke; however, girls smoke now as well and that is not what we want for them.

Exactly what is Bill C-32 trying to do? It introduces three things.

It prohibits certain types of flavouring agents used in little cigars or cigarillos. Surely everyone has seen them. The little cigars now come in cute packaging resembling a package of candy or treats in all kinds of flavours that are unusual, interesting and colourful. This bill will eliminate these flavoured tobacco products from our stores.

It also prohibits the sale of single products. Young people do not necessarily have a lot of money. They often manage on odd jobs or perhaps gifts or allowances from their parents or grandparents. They do not necessarily have the money to buy a package of 20 or 25 cigars or cigarettes. At present, these flavoured little cigars are sold individually or in packages of three, five or eight. Subclause 10(1) of the bill reads as follows:

No person shall import for sale in Canada, package, distribute or sell cigarettes, little cigars or blunt wraps except in a package that contains at least 20 cigarettes, little cigars or blunt wraps or, if a higher number is prescribed, at least the prescribed number.

From now on, it will be much harder for minors to purchase these products because the larger packages will be more expensive.

With respect to advertising, current legislation allows tobacco product manufacturers and distributors to advertise in publications that have an adult readership of 85%. It is also interesting to note that there will be some advertising restrictions because we noticed that some of these publications were being distributed free of charge and were available to everyone, including minors. These publications may have been community, culturally or socially oriented, and their content may have been of interest to young people.

It is interesting to note that, to prevent these ads from reaching minors, legislators decided to take that option away from advertisers who wanted to put tobacco advertising in such publications.

I also want to point out that the Government of Quebec did not wait. I always like to remind people that the Government of Quebec and Quebeckers generally do the responsible thing when they realize that it is in the collective best interest and in young people's best interest.

The Government of Quebec has already implemented a number of rules to limit minors' access to tobacco products. According to Quebec law, a package had to include at least 10 units of a tobacco product and had to be priced above $5. As of June 1, that went up to $10. In Quebec, tobacco products are now out of sight of consumers, so when minors go into convenience stores, they will not see tobacco products that they might be tempted to buy.

However, I want to emphasize that, if we want to win the war on tobacco use among young people, we have to be much more open in our interpretation and enforcement of the measures we want to implement. If the per-unit cost is a factor for young people, then which currently available products will they buy? They will buy contraband cigarettes.

Everyone knows these cigarettes are easy to get and inexpensive. They are not, however, monitored in any way as far as ingredients or contents are concerned. What is more, they are not monitored for their ignition potential, either. If there is no clear, effective, vigilant and concerted attack on contraband tobacco, thanks to Bill C-32, young people will no longer be able to get cigarillos or flavoured tobacco products but they will be able nonetheless to turn to other products, such as contraband cigarettes.

Any one of us can look around near a high school to look at the ground where the kids hang out and find a number of butts. We will of course find some cigarillo butts, but we will also find a lot of butts from contraband cigarettes. If the legislator's clearly stated desire is to restrict the marketing of tobacco products to young people, and their access to those products, it is vital to attack contraband tobacco products in a vigorous and clear manner.

To date we have had no clear sense that the government is firmly committed to attacking this problem. I am certain that all the stakeholders will very definitely be in favour of much stronger and more effective measures against contraband. The survival of many businesses depends on it, of course, but it is also important to remember that all governments are increasingly concerned about tax leakage due to contraband. In addition, as I said earlier, it is impossible to analyze the content of the contraband products in circulation.

Another slight contradiction in the bill concerns the flavours covered by the bill. Why are menthol products still allowed? The bill puts them in a separate category, and manufacturers will still be able to make and sell menthol products, even though products flavoured with raspberry, vanilla, cherry, wild blueberry, peach, strawberry, cinnamon, honey, black cherry and rum are prohibited. Menthol is being kept because it is apparently not a flavour young people appreciate. But how do we know which of the flavours I listed young people like better than others? In my opinion, menthol should not be excluded.

Moreover, many new products will come on the market, and the government does not even make provision for them in the current version of the bill.

This is a flaw I noticed. It will be important to know why. When cigarillos came on the market, they were not very popular at all, just like other new products, but look how popular they are now.

In conclusion, I call on my colleagues to refer this bill to committee.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think the bill is certainly a good step forward.

Over the years we have found that scaring people with warnings on cigarette packages and so on has had an effect, but people are still managing to smoke. We tried raising the prices, and we raised them so high we saw increased smuggling efforts with contraband cigarettes showing up on the market. Some people did stop smoking, but still we have a problem here.

I would like to know whether the member agrees that at some point the government will perhaps have to look at providing financial incentives to existing smokers to stop smoking. Perhaps we could look at administering that through the medical profession. I am not sure what mechanism could be used, but there has to be a way to work out a program with doctors so that if people stop smoking the government would provide an incentive. To the extent that this would work, I think we should take a look at exploring that avenue as well.

I would like to know what the member thinks of that idea.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very pertinent question. As I mentioned earlier, people try to find ways to quit smoking because they do realize that cigarettes are harmful to their health. Without naming him, I would like to congratulate one of my colleagues in this House, who has decided to stop smoking because it is important for his health.

It is important that, collectively, we try to find effective means of allowing our fellow citizens to make choices about their health even though we know it is difficult to stop smoking.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-32, which is a very important piece of legislation, particularly as it affects public health.

What is Bill C-32? This enactment amends the Tobacco Act to provide additional protection for youth from tobacco marketing. It repeals the exemption that permits tobacco advertising in publications with an adult readership of not less than 85%. It prohibits the packaging, importation for sale, distribution and sale of little cigars and blunt wraps unless they are in a package that contains at least 20. It also prohibits the manufacture and sale of cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps that contain the additives set out in a new schedule to that act as well as the packaging of those products in a manner that suggests they contain a prohibited additive.

This is a really important piece of legislation, and I have a particular bias on this.

When we look at legislation affecting tobacco, the first thing we have to accept is that tobacco has no redeeming qualities. One could argue that for people who smoke the taste is a redeeming quality, but there are no redeeming qualities. It is dangerous, it is addictive and it shortens life.

Tobacco abuse is sometimes compared to alcohol abuse, but there are some significant differences. One difference is that alcohol can be used responsibly in moderation. Some research even indicates that there are health benefits to certain types of alcohol. We often hear about red wine. Even the beer distributors have evidence indicating that beer used in moderation can be helpful. It has not helped me very much, but I accept the argument. Whether one believes it or not, it can be argued that alcohol does not automatically shorten life. Of course the abuse of alcohol can have dramatic impacts: early death, drinking under the influence, et cetera. But we have laws that pertain in those circumstances.

Tobacco has no health benefits. It is very important that we ensure young Canadians do not fall into this trap and become addicted to tobacco. The bill is important for that reason, and for me it has a historical importance as well. From 1991 to 2004, I was very involved as a volunteer with the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Nova Scotia and in Canada. I was the president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Nova Scotia for three or four years, and I served on the national board for a number of years.

I had the opportunity to work with some great health advocates who worked very hard in the anti-tobacco strategies. Joan Fraser was a mentor to me in Nova Scotia, and Jane Farquharson was a pioneer in healthy living. Mary Elizabeth Harriman, who works with the Heart and Stroke Foundation nationally, and is now the executive vice-president, was involved in health promotion when I worked with her on a number of these issues. Sally Brown is now the executive director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and she has been for a number of years. People in Nova Scotia, like Tanya Willis, Rollie Jameson, Grant Morash, George Buckell, are business leaders who became presidents of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and advocated for many issues, including but not specifically restricted to the battle against tobacco.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation has done a great deal of work on the anti-tobacco strategy. The key was when the organizations with a common interest in promoting healthy living, particularly as it pertained to tobacco but also on other things like obesity and other issues, started working together. The health charities round table in Canada had great success. They have done a lot of great work. We know the work that the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Lung Association, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, the CMA and other organizations do. Those organizations have been active on this for a long time.

We have come a long way in the battle against tobacco, but it was not always easy. I can recall 30 years ago that my now mother-in-law told people that if they were going to smoke in her house they should leave. That was radical in those days. People thought she was crazy. They thought she was hypersensitive to tobacco smoke to actually ask someone to leave her house to smoke. That was only three decades ago. They thought it was just an inconvenience. They did not understand the health detriment of second-hand smoke. That is not that many years ago.

We have come a long way, but it has not always been easy. At times success came incrementally, in small steps, and the tobacco advocates, who were well financed and well resourced, fought back every step of the way. But success has come to some degree. It has not come all the way, but it has come, and we have reduced the incidence of smoking. It has taken a lot of hard work.

I can recall a time, probably about 10 years or so ago, when the Liberal government of the day was cracking down on tobacco companies being able to sponsor events. The tobacco companies, to their credit, were very involved in things like the artistic community.

I remember arriving at my office one day and receiving calls from two organizations with which I was involved. One was from the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia asking if I would write a letter encouraging the government, in the piece of legislation that it was pursuing, so that tobacco companies could not sponsor events and take advantage of that sponsorship to leverage people to become addicted to smoking. That was fine.

I was also on the board of Neptune Theatre, probably the finest theatre company in Canada, with the possible exception of Eastern Front Theatre in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and perhaps the St. Peters Playhouse. The one in Charlottetown is not half bad, I must say, thanks to Anne of Green Gables and a number of other fine productions.

When I was on the board of Neptune Theatre I was asked to write a letter opposing the legislation because Neptune Theatre was the beneficiary, largely of du Maurier but other companies that provided sponsorship. It was a difficult position. Tobacco companies knew that governments had been reducing their role in the artistic and cultural communities and that they had an opportunity. To their credit, they stepped in.

I wrote the letter for the Heart & Stroke Foundation, which was the right thing to do. The Heart & Stroke Foundation has been a great advocate on a number of things.

We have had discussions in the House on things like trans fats. The Heart & Stroke Foundation has led on Health Check, where it identifies products that are healthy for people and puts a check mark on them so that when people go to grocery stores they will know what is healthy and what is not because consumers still have an awful lot of trouble identifying what is actually good for them and do not understand all the ramifications and differences in products, such as polyunsaturates, trans fats and everything else.

My bias on this bill is the work that I did with the Heart & Stroke Foundation and the people I met, including the many people who had become addicted to tobacco. Quite honestly, in my parents' generation it was a pretty easy thing to do. It seemed everybody smoked and, before they knew it, they were hooked on tobacco. Thank heaven, today my own children face probably more pressure if they do smoke than if they do not, although there are some areas where that is not always the case.

We have had great champions in Nova Scotia. I recall Ron Stewart, who was the minister of health in Nova Scotia in my father's government in the 1990s. He postulated at one point in time that we should not have things like the candy licorice pipes. I am sure members have had those before and probably in recent years. I have been known to enjoy them myself. However, the idea was that maybe we should not have them because it makes it easy for kids to become accustomed to pretending that they smoke and eventually they do. He was pilloried. People thought he was crazy. I think he was ahead of his time, as Ron Stewart always is.

Dave MacLean is with Heart Health Nova Scotia. I am very proud of the fact that in Nova Scotia, when I was involved in the Heart & Stroke Foundation, we had an organization that pulled together a number of advocates in public health, largely on smoking, headed by Dr. Dave MacLean, who was a champion on this issue. He is now at Simon Fraser University. Both he and his wife have teaching positions there. He was a pioneer.

Anne Cogdon in the city of Dartmouth was very involved in the healthy communities project.

Those are people who understand that people should not smoke. There was a day when people said that we were taking away their freedom. It was like seat belts and a number of other things but there is a role for the state in ensuring we provide opportunities, and not dangerous ones, for all citizens, but particularly for children.

I was always proud of the fact that Nova Scotia, under the Progressive Conservative government of Dr. John Hamm, back maybe five, six or seven years ago, was the first province in Canada to have a health promotion department. I give Dr. Hamm and people like Scott Logan, who worked there, a lot of credit. They were very active in ensuring people knew the facts about smoking, gambling, alcohol abuse and a whole bunch of other issues. I am proud of the fact that Nova Scotia, under Dr. Hamm's leadership, was the first province to bring in a health promotion department.

I have had the opportunity to speak to a number of my not-for-profit friends about this bill, organizations like Heart & Stroke, the Cancer Society, the Canadian Medical Association, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and the Lung Association. They want this bill passed. It may not be perfect and, in fact, I would argue that it is not. A number of things need to be looked at and adapted in the health committee but we need to get this through the House, which is what people are calling for.

I would like to quote Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society. He stated:

The Canadian Cancer Society strongly supports this bill as it will lead to fewer Canadians starting to smoke and encourage more to quit.... By working together to quickly pass this bill, federal MPs will send a clear message that the health of their constituents and all Canadians comes first. Cancer is a non-partisan issue.

Speaking of cigarillos, which I will speak to in a second, which come in fruit flavours and things like that, he says:

There is the risk that these flavoured products would be a starter product for kids who would never otherwise start smoking,

There is a concerning rate of cigarillo smoking among young Canadians. The Heart & Stroke Foundation, the aforementioned Sally Brown is doing a wonderful job with the Heart & Stroke Foundation. I am proud to say that I was part of the search committee that recommended her. She said:

Protecting children from harmful tobacco industry products such as candy-flavoured cigarillos and their associated marketing is critical to ensure that children do not get hooked on tobacco. This is crucial because long-term tobacco users, half of whom die from their tobacco use, more often than not begin their addiction in their youth. This initiative is critical to reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

I would also mention Paul Thomey, the chair of tobacco policy for the Canadian Lung Association, who was quoted as saying:

These are positive steps forward in the fight against tobacco. Strong measures such as these not only will protect Canada 's children from the harmful effects of smoking, but will also serve to curtail industry tactics aimed at marketing their products to the youth of this country.

The president of the CMA said, “Closing loopholes is a huge step forward in protecting our children from a deadly addiction to tobacco”. This is a very serious issue for many people.

I have spoken to my friends at the Heart & Stroke who have suggested that we should pass the bill and get it to committee and perhaps the health committee would amend the bill to address smokeless tobacco products: oral, chew, spit tobacco, et cetera. Some of these products contain flavourings that are meant to appeal to youth. We think that should be dealt with at the committee level.

Other speakers have probably referred to this, but how could we believe anything other than the fact that producers of tobacco products are trying to get children addicted to their products when chewing tobacco comes in flavours that appeal to kids? We should think about that. These are flavoured products that are meant to appeal to children and that needs to be changed.

We should think about how deliberate these strategies are, and this is for both smoking and for smokeless products. Little cigars, the cigarillos, whose sales have exploded in recent years, come in these flavours: grape, peach, tropical punch, chocolate and bubble gum. These are not the boys in the fishing camps sitting around having some bubble gum flavoured chewing tobacco that they are appealing to. These are my kids, other members' kids and grandkids and other children across the country. It is really abhorrent. They are not breaking the law right now. We need to change the law so that if they do it, they do break the law because our grandchildren are too important to the future of this country. Who are these intended for? It is pretty clear.

Bill C-32 would deal with what I think is a rotten marketing practice. We are told that more than 400 million little cigars were sold in Canada in 2007 and that must stop. The bill would deal with that. It also would deal with the practice of selling cigarillos in small quantities. That is the other thing. Flavoured products are sold in ones or twos. It is a lot easier for kids at recess or kids at lunchtime to get one or two than if they are mandated to come in a pack of 20 or more. We dealt with this with cigarettes. We cannot buy one or two cigarettes but we can buy one or two root beer flavoured cigarillos or tropical punch. This needs to be changed.

It should never be easy for children to buy tobacco. As a father, the thought of my children becoming addicted to these products is frightening. Any one of us would hope that would never be the case.

Another issue that my colleague from St. Paul's has spoken to quite passionately and very effectively to is the issue of contraband tobacco. In 2008, three billion more contraband cigars were sold than in 2007. That is $2 billion in lost government revenue. Officials estimate that 200 small cigars cost $8 to $15 and not what it should be, which is in the range of $55 to $80. That is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with. It is a huge percentage of the issue that we have to deal with here.

I now want to talk about advertising. We thought we had dealt with this issue because the law was that companies could not advertise tobacco except in publications where at least 85% of the readership were adults. However, there has been a strong resurgence of advertising recently. Who knows where a lot of these publications that carry these ads go. There is no way of knowing if children are getting them and reading them, finding them on the street or if the publications are being distributed for free. Therefore, that exemption for publications where at least 85% of the readership are adults, needs to be dealt with. We really cannot regulate the distribution of advertising in today's society.

We have made some good strides. I will read an article which states:

A recent resurgence of tobacco advertising--over 400 ads nationwide--between November 2007 and December 2008--has exposed young audiences to tobacco sales pitches.

Full colour tobacco ads have been appearing....

Between November 2007 and December 2008, tobacco companies spent approximately $4.47 million dollars to place nationwide ads....

That also would be dealt with by this bill.

We have made some great strides on the issue of dealing with tobacco and the dangers that it can cause. A lot of credit goes to organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart & Stroke Foundation, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, public health agencies across the country, municipal public health organizations, doctors, nurses, teachers, and many others who have brought this message forward for us. I think young people are much more aware of the dangers of smoking than they used to be, certainly more than when I was a child when it was kind of cool to smoke. I do not think that is the case any more. When I talk to my children, they do not think smoking is cool at all, and I want to keep it that way. It is good that we are headed in the right direction but it is nowhere good enough.

Good public education is in fact the key, as it always is, but so is good public policy. The government has a role in ensuring that we provide safe and healthy communities for all of us, but particularly for our children.

There have been a number of champions in this House. I think of former health ministers. like Dave Dingwall and Allan Rock, who did a lot of work on this issue. I think of my NDP colleague from Winnipeg North. I know this is an issue that she takes very seriously and it is an issue that she has championed in private member's bills. She deserves credit. I am sure she is very happy that this bill has come to pass and that she would want to get it into committee.

I also think of my colleague from St. Paul's, the former and first minister of public health in Canada, the originator of the Public Health Agency of Canada. We recognize that the Public Health Agency of Canada, when it was set up, was set up largely in reaction to the issues like SARS and was to deal with things like West Nile virus, but also that there are chronic health disease issues in Canada that are taking a huge toll on our health system and on our citizens.

The biggest issue we face in managing our health care costs today is chronic disease. Tobacco has no positive health benefits. It is designed and produced to be detrimental to health. It is highly addictive. For years, led by public health champions, Canadians have resisted the tobacco lobby and made progress against smoking. We have moved forward. Smoking is now severely restricted in public places, for example; advertising and promotion is curtailed; packaging has been legislated.

My colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood passed a private member's bill a few years ago that affected the burn rate of cigarettes. Again, he faced opposition.

Progress has come but this is now the new battle for our children. We must not allow our children to be easily led down a very dangerous path: a path of addiction to tobacco.

This bill is a very good start and I encourage all members to support the bill and get it into committee where we can make it even better.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased that in his excellent speech the member recognized all the work that my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North, has done on this file. She introduced a bill in the spring of 2008 on this very subject in an effort to pressure the government to act. It has taken a while, but the government has finally brought in a bill. We support the bill.

I asked the member for St. Paul's yesterday when she made her speech about the possibility of going beyond where we are in this area. We have scared people with warnings. We have raised the price of cigarettes to reduce smoking. Does the member think that at some time in the future, and maybe not so far in the future, we will have to look at providing some sort of financial incentive to people to get them to stop smoking? A program like that could probably be administered through the medical system. For example, a patient who was addicted to cigarettes would get involved in a program run by a doctor, and upon completion of the program and upon stopping smoking, would get some sort of financial reward from the federal government.

Doctors could be much more aggressive than they have been in encouraging people to improve their health. We should be mandating the medical system in our country to be more aggressive in trying to get people to live more healthy lifestyles.

I would like the member's comments.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, the member's comment makes sense on many levels.

Physicians and nurses in Canada have played a big role in reducing smoking. Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and the CMA have been active on this file.

There is no question that if we look at the health costs of tobacco use, the money could be much better used at the front end in terms of health promotion so that we could actually do more to prevent people from smoking. The money could also be used for a smoking cessation program.

I am pleased the government has brought the bill forward, but on the other hand, I am disappointed that the government cancelled the smoking cessation program for aboriginals.

There are a number of things we should be putting money into now that would encourage people to stop smoking, but even before that we need education policies to encourage young Canadians not to start in the first place.

The economic case for what my colleague is talking about is pretty clear.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to compliment my colleague on his intervention with respect to the health issues associated with smoking and the abandonment of smoking.

There are two issues I wish to raise, and I hope there will be enough time for him to address them. He alluded to one of them and that is the issue of contraband cigarettes and all that they impose on the system. The other issue is enforcement.

My colleague has already acknowledged that the bill has a considerable amount in it that needs to be addressed and reviewed. Imposing fines such as $50,000 for infractions is a very important issue, but most people who are involved in anti-smoking strategies admit that enforcement of these measures is more important.

Other governments in the past have discovered that the most common measure for promoting anti-smoking has been to increase the price of legitimate cigarettes. What has happened is that those cigarettes have been replaced by ones from less legitimate manufacturers and retailers, in the process criminalizing a lot of people who engage in the manufacture, sale and distribution of illegitimate cigarettes. There is nothing in the bill that addresses a mechanism to ensure that contraband distributors and sellers of the product are put in the target area. Today there are a lot of people who will actually deliver contraband cigarettes to the home. They will arrange meetings. They have phone numbers. They hand out business cards.

I know my colleague is going to look at this in committee, but I wonder if he would comment on this a bit further because the bill deserves to be supported if it includes all the dimensions of an anti-smoking strategy.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, my colleague is entirely right that this issue demands more attention in committee on the regulation and enforcement of what is happening in the contraband market. I can recall when my father was premier of Nova Scotia and the price of cigarettes went up back in the 1990s. There was a huge problem with contraband product.

We have to get very serious about this. We are looking at a price difference of between $8 and $15 versus $55 and $80. Unless we do something about that contraband market, we cannot make the impact we need to make across the board. I absolutely agree with his comments.

His comments are much more learned than anything I could add to that particular topic. I think it has to be looked at in committee, but it is really important that we get this bill through and get something done about this. This is a step in the right direction.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to compliment my friend on being an advocate on behalf of his constituents and Canadians on issues that matter, such as this one, and of course on employment insurance reforms which are desperately needed in Canada right now.

In terms of this particular topic, my friend mentioned in his speech that historically, tobacco advocates have always fought back, and they are doing it again with respect to this legislation. Many arguments have been used. One of them is that if this legislation passes, there will be an increase in smuggling and related contraband.

I would like the member's views on that topic and the advocates, and whether this bill should be passed in that light.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Brampton West is a very knowledgeable and well-informed person.

Let me read a comment that came from a representative of one of the tobacco companies in speaking about this bill. He said that his company “does not target minors in any of its marketing and advertisement efforts, the focus is really towards adults”.

Bubble gum, tropical punch, chocolate, grape, peach and whatever else, these are not flavours typically geared toward the adult market. I understand people are in business. They are legitimate business people. I do not want to suggest that anybody is criminal in what they are doing. That is not what I am saying.

What I am saying is that the government has a role to stand up for the rights, the safety and the future of our children. When it comes to tobacco, this bill is a step in that direction. We have to do more on this. We have always had fights with the tobacco lobby when it has come to making changes and improving public health safety in this country, and we are going to have to do it again. The good news is that we have been steadily winning, but we cannot slip back with things like smokeless tobacco, chewing tobacco and these cigarillos that are marketed to children.

This bill is a step in the right direction.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Eglinton--Lawrence has time for a very short question. We have one minute left.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, I will cede the floor to my colleague who made an intervention on health prevention that I think merits expansion.

He talked about the ways we would be proactive in terms of delivering the message of a smoke-free society. I am wondering if he would comment on that, given that he also has some experience with many of the enterprises that initially objected to those kinds of measures and strategies in the retail industry, whether they were in the entertainment business or the food business.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, the future of our health care system is in advocating for population health, public health, promoting healthy living among all citizens but particularly among kids, making sure that they do not smoke tobacco, making sure they lead a healthy lifestyle, making sure there is physical education in the schools, and making sure they have safe foods.

I hope that the Public Health Agency of Canada models itself on the vision of the former public health agency minister, the member for St. Paul's. It was a very strong model which I think we may have gotten away from just a little bit.

We should and can have a public health care system that is publicly delivered and publicly funded, but we have to do everything we can to get out in front of sickness instead of waiting for it to happen.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, before anything else, I would like to congratulate my colleague from the Liberal Party on his fine speech.

I will pick up on his final comment, that indeed any campaign against smoking encompasses not just a battle against cigarettes but also an overall approach to the causes of tobacco addiction. A large part of this will involve education. Major advances have already been made on the educational level to raise public awareness, among young people in particular, in order to make sure they do not start smoking at that age, and then be stuck with it for the rest of their lives. There is therefore far more to be done than just to take concrete actions on today's smokers or the tobacco companies. There is also the whole educational approach to the diet and physical fitness of our young people, long before any direct attack on cigarettes.

The Bloc Québécois is in principle in favour of Bill C-32, although it is not of great use to Quebec, where the Government of Quebec has already enacted stricter control over cigarillos. I would like to take just a minute to show you that, once again, Quebec has been proactive rather than reactive like the federal government. Quebec has had an anti-smoking strategy for ages. For about three years now, there has been legislation in place banning smoking in bars and restaurants. Before that, there were segregated areas. but now smoking in public places is completely banned.

I must admit that this measure has made considerable strides toward reducing smoking, because smokers really have nowhere left to smoke except at home and outside. Even outside, it has to be nine metres away from a building. So it can be seen that Quebec has already taken great steps toward reducing smoking. Now too, corner stores have to store cigarettes in a closed cabinet so that young people who come into the store are not attracted by the packages of cigarettes.

I would like to come back to cigarillos. There is a problem: young people are smoking more and more, and start with cigarillos before gradually making the move to cigarettes. As my colleague said earlier, although tobacco companies are legitimate—we have nothing against the companies themselves—I have a problem with their ethics when they launch a vigorous marketing campaign targeted at young people and the most vulnerable people in society.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I have heard from a huge number of representatives from anti-tobacco lobbies, including Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, which the Liberal member is very familiar with. This group showed us the new packaging and tobacco products. I must admit that it is very scary. I am not afraid of the box itself, but of the way things are being done. There are advertisements with bright colours targeted directly at young people. Tobacco companies are trying to make it attractive and get young people interested in smoking. Everyone knows that the products in cigarettes and cigarillos are extremely toxic and addictive. They will make young people want to smoke. That is what is so great about their strategy. I am being sarcastic, of course.

Young people start with a little cigarette or cigarillo. The companies try to encourage them to buy just one or two. They make small packages of five cigarillos so that young people buy only a package, and thus do not consider themselves real smokers. Unfortunately, they start with a small package of five cigarillos, which gradually leads them to cigarettes, and maybe even worse. We can see that these companies have a marketing strategy to find young people on high school grounds or in CEGEPs, so that they gradually develop a dependence on cigarettes or cigarillos, and eventually become smokers—heavy smokers at that.

In spite of everything, the number of smokers has gone down over the years. My colleague to my left stopped smoking three months ago, and I want to congratulate him, because it is a very brave thing to do. He deserves a round of applause. He has tried to stop smoking for three months, and I encourage him to keep at it.

The number of smokers is going down from one year to the next. We have come a long way since the 1950s, when physicians said that cigarettes were good for your health and had studies to back their claims. I do not know whether hon. members remember this. Unfortunately, I had not yet been born in 1950, but the cigarette companies, with the help of the medical profession, sold their products without too much difficulty. People still did not know about all the problems cigarettes caused. Education has played a prominent role in the decrease in the smoking rate.

It is therefore important to raise awareness, especially among children. Public awareness of the harmful effects of cigarette smoking has caused this huge decrease from one year to the next. Certainly, there is still a lot of work to be done, but the bill is a step in the right direction and a way to continue bringing down the number of smokers.

Needless to say, there are some things missing from the bill. First, it should have more teeth, particularly to combat contraband cigarettes. I will come back to this. Bill C-32 lacks teeth, but it is a step in the right direction, and we will be able to study it in the Standing Committee on Health, which is what I am going to do, and do thoroughly, have no fear.

Reworking this bill in committee will give us the chance to make certain amendments so that the bill has more teeth. Of course, we will have to consult groups such as Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada to find out what sort of amendments they would like to see made to this bill.

The Bloc Québécois believes that cigarillos and all other tobacco products should be subject to the same prohibitions as cigarettes. Efforts to reduce the visibility and consumption of cigarettes must not be thwarted by the emergence of other equally harmful products.

The Bloc Québécois is asking that, as for cigarettes, it be prohibited to advertise tobacco products to children under 18, that all products display warnings about the dangers of smoking and that these products be hidden from public view.

As I was rereading my notes to prepare for the debate on Bill C-32, I got to thinking about the little labels on cigarette packages that show pictures of gingivitis and say that smoking too many cigarettes can cause impotence. Those messages turn young people off of smoking. Of course, we still have a lot to do.

It would be unfortunate if some young people began to ignore these messages because they have seen them over and over. We will have to work hard to educate them. We also have to make sure that cigarillo packages carry the same messages as cigarette packages. That is extremely important. We have to show young people that cigarillos are just as dangerous as cigarettes.

Unfortunately, young people tend to replace one with the other, and it would be really unfortunate if cigarillo packaging did not have to follow the same rules as cigarette packaging. That is covered in part in Bill C-32.

Nevertheless, it is clear that Bill C-32 will not put an end to tobacco use among minors, as I said earlier, and that tougher measures, particularly with respect to contraband cigarettes, will have to be enforced to minimize minors' access to illegal tobacco products.

Not so very long ago, I was in high school and at CEGEP. At the time, I was not a smoker. I was stunned to see 15 and 16 year olds smoking on high school property without a care in the world. On the one hand, we prohibit the sale of tobacco products to minors, but on the other, we let them smoke on public property in full view of everyone else. That was a major contradiction. But it is not the only contradiction we will ever see. As I was saying earlier to my colleagues, democracy is all about managing contradictions.

The Bloc Québécois is calling on the federal government to use every legal means possible to put an end to the explosion of smuggling, including for example, seizing smugglers' vehicles. Quebec has had many problems with cigarette smuggling. Many of the cigarettes sold to our young people, and some not so young, do not come from legal sources, but rather are smuggled. If we raise taxes on cigarettes, the sale of legal cigarettes will go down and smuggling activities will increase. Since smuggled cigarettes will be cheaper, there will be much greater demand for them. That is the law of supply and demand. So if we raise the taxes on packs of cigarettes too much and do nothing else, this will have a completely negative effect, since smuggling will increase.

The government must take decisive action and ensure that cigarette smuggling is eradicated in very specific regions of Quebec and Canada. That is the problem, since we know where the smugglers are. We know who they are, but unfortunately, it seems as though there is some sort of political fear around taking steps to limit cigarette smuggling. Until something is done, there will always be problems with tobacco. We can do all the publicity campaigns and educating we like, but if one day we reach the critical point at which we cannot get the rate of smokers below 20%, then we will have to implement other strategies, such as eradicating smuggling rings, as I was saying earlier.

At the same time, we believe that although police action is crucial, certain regulations must also be amended in order to discourage smugglers. That is key. Eliminating the source, the supplier, is still the best way to prevent smuggling.

My very honourable colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, a former minister of public safety, did extraordinary work with respect to both cigarette and drug smuggling. At the time, the Parti Québécois government—which was not afraid to assume its responsibilities—took concrete action to eliminate these smugglers. He sent the police and enacted extraordinary measures in an attempt to eliminate networks of cigarette smugglers that were often criminal organizations. To tell the truth, they are all criminal organizations.

The following are some of the measures that should be implemented: prohibit unlicensed manufacturers from purchasing raw materials and equipment used to manufacture cigarettes; revoke tobacco licences from manufacturers who break the law; establish an effective marking system for cigarette packages—a marking and tracing system—that would allow for close monitoring of tobacco deliveries; and lobby the U.S. government to shut down illegal manufacturers located on the American side of the border. This is not just a Canadian problem.

We can pass the best laws in Canada to prevent the sale of cigarettes and cigarillos to youth and to attempt to prevent cigarette smuggling but it will still be futile if the American government does not help us out with our tobacco control strategy. It is extremely difficult to wage this war against these criminals all by oneself. I am not afraid to call them that because they are poisoning our youth.

We would like to see the fee for a federal licence to manufacture tobacco products raised to a minimum of $5 million, rather than the paltry $5,000 required today.

Madam Speaker, do you not think it is ridiculous that licences are only $5,000? Some colleagues are telling me that they are convinced that you believe it is ridiculous that these licences cost only $5,000.

Any one of us here and perhaps even most of those watching on television could afford it. Between you and me, this amount is a pittance for tobacco companies, which make billions of dollars in profit every year. It is a paltry $5 million.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

An hon. member

$5,000.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Rather, a paltry $5,000. We want to increase it to $5 million. I believe $5 million should be the minimum. Perhaps we could make it more than that.

This is impossible if all the stakeholders work independently. The federal government absolutely must coordinate the effort of the various organizations and departments because only one concerted effort will be able to address all the different aspects of tobacco addiction: prevention, education or even repressive measures against suppliers of contraband.

As I have said, there must be an overall approach to smoking. We cannot just go after the tobacco smugglers or raise the price of cigarettes. We really must have a concerted overall approach to all stakeholders to ensure that there are prevention activities in the schools, to go after the smugglers, and to use even more vigorous advertising to discourage young people from starting to smoke.

Mainly, we must try to discourage these manufacturers of harmful, dangerous products from advertising them with attractive campaigns to woo young smokers. They encourage young people to “try it, just a little”. They smoke a cigarillo or two, and the next thing they know they are smokers for life.

Finally, the Bloc Québécois believes that all measures focused on contraband cigarettes and cigarette smuggling on the reserves must be taken in conjunction with the aboriginal authorities. Cooperation in this area is vital, in order to identify and target the criminal organizations.

The purpose of Bill C-32 is a praiseworthy one: to discourage young people from smoking by limiting the availability of tobacco products and reducing the types of products available. The bill is also intended to correct some of the present shortcomings of the Tobacco Act, particularly the exception that permits tobacco advertising in publications with an adult readership of not less than 85%. This has led to the situation of such ads being placed in free newspapers or magazines that are readily accessible to young people.

To draw a parallel with what I was just saying a few minutes ago—and I will be brief because I am getting the one minute sign—I want to address the fact that young people are allowed to smoke in the school yard. So there are really some major shortcomings in the Tobacco Act and a concerted effort is needed to try and reduce smoking among young people. That is why the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-32, despite the presence of certain points that perhaps need looking at in committee. We—my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes, who has done an excellent job on the Standing Committee on Health, and I—will make it our duty to try to wipe out tobacco addiction among young people.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member who just spoke not only about smoking, but also about the problems the federal and provincial governments have preventing tobacco use and the criminal activities linked to tobacco. He spoke briefly about strategies, which he thinks are not yet comprehensive enough, and I agree, and about how to make them much more effective.

I would like him to take a few more minutes to explain and give more details on the strategy needed to target organized crime groups and organizations that, as he mentioned, are often found in predominantly aboriginal areas, as well as tobacco imported from the United States.

Does he have detailed strategies? The government is not at all interested in this subject. In fact, I see that no government members want to speak on this topic.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my Liberal Party colleague's knowledge of the issue. So far, his questions have been very precise. I can see that he wants to crack down on contraband. Unfortunately, I do not know his riding very well; perhaps he will have a chance to show me around someday. I do not know if he has problems with cigarette smugglers. I would also like to thank him for differentiating between provincial and municipal levels and aboriginal reserves.

With respect to smugglers, key public safety players absolutely have to work together. In Quebec, a number of operations have been undertaken involving collaboration between Peacekeepers on reserves and the SQ or the RCMP, and sometimes even the Carcajou squad, which used to focus on drugs and sometimes infiltrated smuggling networks. In many cases, cigarette smugglers are not just smuggling cigarettes. We have to face the fact that they sometimes traffic in other drugs, and that is much more dangerous.

We need our police forces to work together to improve communication, which does not happen often enough. We have to respect jurisdiction, but sometimes on reserves, where there are lot of cigarette smugglers, Peacekeepers have a role to play because they know the community. All the same, they have to have good communication with the SQ and the RCMP to carry out coordinated raids to break up these networks.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague from Repentigny for his kind words about me. I could also say that I am extremely pleased with all of his efforts and his work in this House, particularly his work on the Standing Committee on Health, where I am pleased to serve with him.

The bill seems to completely disregard a number of new tobacco products that can be used by young people. Clearly, if we eliminate the market for flavoured cigarillos, manufacturers will try to find other ways to target young people to turn them into smokers.

Should the bill not contain more significant measures regarding the elimination of smokeless tobacco products? I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that. Does he not believe, as I do, that all the members of this House should do everything in their power to make the government yield on this?

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, what else can I say, after my colleague asks me such a great question. As we can see, smoking-related problems are very important to him, and so is defending our young people.

The hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes has in fact been our health critic for years now. He is therefore very knowledgeable about the issues and concerns of this debate. As always, he will do an excellent job. I just used an English word, “issues”. The proper word in French is “dossiers”. I thank my colleague from Sherbrooke.

Flavoured products are a serious problem. They are what encourage young people to smoke. So in committee, my hon. colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes and I must challenge the government and propose amendments that will give this bill more teeth.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to see this legislation advance in the House. I am particularly pleased that this follows the hard work of my colleague, the hon. member for Winnipeg North.

I come from British Columbia, where we have one of the lowest rates of smoking in the country, one of the most health conscious populations in the country.

When I came to Parliament Hill and was met by people from the Canadian Medical Association, who showed me these products in tubes, flavoured cigarettes and flavoured rolling papers with flavours like peanut butter and jelly and cookie dough, I was absolutely appalled, shocked and disgusted.

Our country should not allow these products for sale because they are clearly geared at addicting our young people to one of the most carcinogenic and unhealthy products in the country.

Will my friend and his party be supporting the bill and doing everything they can to help make the bill law as soon as possible so we can protect the children of our country immediately?

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I will answer his question directly, which does not happen often in the House of Commons. Yes, we will be doing that. It is extremely important.

My colleague spoke of an interesting problem, which I only had the chance to touch on even though I spoke for about twenty minutes. As a parliamentarian, I like to talk. I would like to talk about new tobacco products. Let us look at new tobacco products, how they are advertised and the casings used. Take cigarillos, for example. I challenge all MPs to do an eyeball survey. I did it. Cigarillo smokers are mostly youths; they are not people in their forties or fifties. These products truly target young people by using attractive packaging, design and flavours in order to get them to start smoking.

When young people see a peach-flavoured cigar, they may not realize the health hazards of this cigarillo, which looks quite harmless. A small peach-flavoured cigar is really cute. Unfortunately, it is extremely harmful and is just as bad, if not more so, than a conventional cigarette.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, it is all well and good to want to pass laws here in Ottawa, just as laws have been passed in Quebec, but there cannot be one law for whites and one law for aboriginal people. There cannot be a double standard either.

We can tighten laws, make it harder to get cigarettes, raise taxes and try to discourage young people from smoking, but if the only way young people can smoke is to get cheap cigarettes, they are going to go to aboriginal communities.

It is too bad when a small corner store owner, who has a hard time making ends meet and depends on his clients and his environment, is charged because a young person with a false ID bought a pack of cigarettes. The store owner is fined $5,000, yet people can buy cigarettes near certain aboriginal reserves.

The aboriginal police, the Sûreté du Québec and the RCMP go by these businesses every day, but no one controls contraband cigarettes. They are all afraid to shoulder their responsibilities. That is what gives rise to contraband. I was a smoker, and I was asked whether I smoked Indian cigarettes. I did not smoke Indian cigarettes, I smoked real cigarettes.