Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the bill on contraband tobacco.
We cannot separate the issue of contraband tobacco from the problem of tobacco consumption. We know how hard it is to stop smoking. If more people stop smoking and fewer people start smoking, demand decreases. The law of supply and demand affects smuggling. That is why we have to take a more comprehensive approach to this problem.
I am particularly pleased to rise because when I spoke to the bill when it was introduced in the House, I announced to my colleagues that I had just quit smoking. I would like to tell them that it has been a year since I quit smoking. It is possible to stop smoking, but it is not necessarily easy. That is why I am pleased to talk about it.
To grasp the comprehensive nature of an anti-tobacco approach, we must understand that a number of ministers are concerned. The Minister of National Revenue is one of them since we cannot collect taxes on contraband. The government cannot collect that money. Moreover, since smoking generates huge costs in the health sector, a portion of the government's revenues is used to deal with this problem. Therefore, if we cannot have these revenues, we are obviously affected. This makes one minister affected by this issue.
For her part, the Minister of Health is responsible for implementing anti-smoking initiatives and approving drug products to help people stop smoking and warnings on cigarette packages. She can act in a number of areas. That makes two ministers affected by this issue.
As regards international trade, a lot of contraband products cross borders. Therefore, it is in that department's interest to be involved.
At the same time, the Minister of Industry must supervise the tobacco industry, which is still legal and which is incurring losses because of contraband tobacco. The Minister of Industry can be much more proactive in encouraging people to stop smoking. We now have four ministers involved.
As for the Minister of Agriculture, he must work with tobacco producers, particularly aboriginal communities, whereas the Minister of Justice is responsible for offences, fines and jail sentences related to contraband tobacco. Of course, these ministers are also affected. So is the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, since the issue involves the security of the borders where tobacco is smuggled into the country. This now makes six ministers.
The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is affected, of course, because criminal organizations sometimes use aboriginal communities. Under the Constitution, and because of how things are organized, these communities are particularly involved. In fact, since there are higher than average smoking rates in aboriginal communities, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs must introduce ways to help aboriginal people reduce their tobacco consumption. He must also provide police resources and financial means to help them take action in their communities. This is another minister involved.
The Minister of State for Small Business is also involved because it is small businesses, like convenience stores, that claim to be losing money.
I am no expert here, but I count eight ministers who could easily be involved, not just in the issue of contraband tobacco, but in the issue of tobacco use in general. If we want to take action on contraband tobacco, we need to take a comprehensive approach.
The Minister of Justice did not adopt a comprehensive approach. He introduced a bill containing several measures that will have an impact, but since he refused to sit down with aboriginal communities to discuss this, he probably did not take the time to sit down with his counterparts to adopt a comprehensive approach.
The minister introduced a bill with some effective measures, but this bill could probably have been more complete and comprehensive.
The NDP will support the bill, but we recognize that the Conservatives could have decided to take a much more comprehensive approach.
Not only did the minister not take a comprehensive approach to this bill, but he also took a long time to introduce it. It should move through quickly enough, unless the government decides not to put it back on the order paper. He could have acted much more quickly and globally. He did not, and that is unfortunate.
Tobacco is a real scourge. Some people start smoking very young. This is embarrassing to admit, but when I quit smoking, I realized that I had smoked my first cigarette at the age of eight. That is rather unusual. I was still in elementary school. There were two elementary schools and I was still in the smaller school with grades one, two and three when I started to smoke. By the age of 12, I was smoking every day. I quit smoking at the age of 29. I am now just 30, which means that I have spent more of my life as a smoker than a non-smoker. That is rather unusual.
That is why we cannot talk about contraband tobacco without having a comprehensive approach. Often it is young people who are targeted by this contraband because they cannot buy cigarettes legally. Obviously they are going to try to find other ways or people who are not concerned about their age and will sell them the product. Those people know full well that young people are particularly drawn to these products.
What is more, contraband cigarettes are a lot cheaper. Sometimes a bag of 200 cigarettes are sold for the same price as a pack of cigarettes at the corner store. Young people do not have the same financial means as adults and are more likely to turn to these products. Some organized crime groups recruit young sellers. They tell them that they can smoke for free, by keeping a bag of cigarettes and selling the rest.
This is a serious problem. That is why if we want to tackle such a big problem, we cannot compartmentalize it. We cannot tackle contraband tobacco, tackle consumption, tackle consumption among young people and tackle the safety of contraband products without taking a comprehensive approach. Unfortunately, the government did not want to do that with this bill. That is what I find unfortunate. If the government had taken a global approach, then we probably would have had a much more comprehensive bill.
We know how long it takes to pass a bill. We cannot start over with four different bills that address different aspects. Considering how much time it takes, it would be much more strategic and advantageous to come up with a more comprehensive bill where all the stakeholders could share their experiences. That is how we end up with better legislation.
I was pleased to speak to this bill a second time and I will be sure to remain a non-smoker.