Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of the amendment to the Tobacco Act placed before the House by the Minister of Health.
The amendment's proposal for a complete ban on the promotion of tobacco sponsorship is a step to be applauded and supported by all members of the House. It is a significant protective measure that will help reduce youth smoking and ultimately save young lives. It says no once and for all to tobacco companies using sponsorship to link their deadly products to popular youth oriented events and lifestyles. It says no to the consistent barrage of images that encourage young people to take up smoking and stay addicted to cigarettes.
The bill is the result of extensive consultation with many concerned parties across the country. As a result of this consultation we have proposed legislation that takes us further than ever before in protecting children and youth from harmful effects of tobacco. The latest consultations carried out this month by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health confirmed the need for firm legislation to reduce tobacco use among youth.
The committee listened carefully to the views of a number of groups before approving three new recommendations from the Canadian Cancer Society and other health NGOs. The recommendations presented today as amendments to the legislation make the bill a stronger, more precise instrument for reducing tobacco use among Canadian youth.
As past president of the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association I worked a few years ago with the then minister of health on a program called a break free all stars program aimed at making sure that young people between seven and and twelve years of age did not smoke or take up smoking. I know these kinds of programs can be and are effective. I applaud the government for the type of legislation that it is bringing to the House.
There is no question the bill specifically identifies October 1, 1998 as the start date for the transition. In effect this means that the five year clock has already begun to tick down on sponsorship promotion if the amendment and bill pass.
The bill mandates that the only events which can be grandfathered would be those that have been held in Canada, although it was never the government's intent to allow otherwise. The change will make it clear that an event cannot be moved from elsewhere into Canada and treated as if it has always been here.
The bill mandates that only events which have been held in Canada between January 25, 1996 and April 25, 1997 can be grandfathered. Once again it was never the government's intent to allow events to be resurrected solely for their value as marketing tobacco products.
All three of these changes are important clarifications that are completely consistent with strengthening the government's health objectives. I thank members of the Standing Committee on Health for supporting the inclusion of three amendments in the bill. No doubt critics of the legislation will claim that the government is going too far. Given the alarming statistics on youth and smoking in Canada today, the amendment is appropriate and necessary.
As a former educator having worked with young people for 20 years, I can tell the House of the devastating effects on young people who take up smoking and who get addicted. I will point out some statistics which will illustrate what the government is trying to prevent.
Smoking among Canadian teens between 15 and 19 years of age has increased 25% since 1991. Currently one in three young Canadians smoke and half of them will die prematurely of tobacco related disease. It is for that important reason the Minister of Health has called tobacco use by Canada's youth an urgent public issue. The amendment before the House today is a firm response to the issue on the part of the federal government.
The government's response is clearly in line with the attitude of Canadians toward smoking. Canadians recognize that smoking is our number one health problem. They are also all too aware of the devastation tobacco has wreaked upon the health of our current generation. They implore the government to make every effort to ensure that such devastation will not be inflicted on future generations.
When it comes to youth and smoking the statistics show that we have our work cut out for us: 29% of 15 to 19 year olds and 7% of 10 to 14 year old are current smokers. According to the 1994 youth smoking survey, 260,000 kids in Canada between the ages of 10 and 19 were beginner smokers that year. Figures like these are very disturbing. They are being replicated in other countries and have prompted other governments and the World Health Organization to classify smoking as a global pediatric epidemic.
Assumption patterns reveal that the number of young female smokers has been rising significantly. Again I can speak from personal experience having taught for many years. Girls in particular smoke early, continue to smoke and are less likely to break the habit. As all youth smokers get older, they smoke more. Smokers 10 to 14 years of age on average smoke seven cigarettes a day. Of those 15 to 19 years of age smoke on average 11 cigarettes a day.
What is striking as evidence of youth smoking is the knowledge among youth about the effects of tobacco use.
More than 90% of people between the ages of 10 and 19 believe that tobacco is addictive. A similar percentage believes that environmental tobacco smoke can be harmful to the health of people who do not smoke themselves. About 85% of all smokers surveyed say they began smoking before they were 16 years of age.
My own father, who passed away six years ago, started smoking when he was 13. He died of lung cancer.
The critical time for smoking decisions appears to be between the ages of 12 and 14. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that tobacco sponsorship targets events like music festivals, tennis tournaments and motor racing, which are popular with this age group.
For young people, taking up smoking is a gradual process. It begins with forming a predisposition to smoke; that is, a perception that smoking is normal behaviour and acceptable in society among one's peer group. The perception of normalcy and acceptability that cigarettes are an integral part of a happy and fulfilling life is exactly the perception that tobacco sponsorship promotion encourages among children and youth.
Trying smoking can lead to the experimental stage when smoking happens repeatedly but irregularly. Regular use and addiction follow. The transition from trying to daily use takes an average of two to three years.
About two-thirds of teens will try smoking and about one-half of this group will become regular daily smokers. About 90% of smokers start well before the age of 20.
In surveys, youth have told us that they never expected to become addicted, believing instead that they would be able to quit whenever they wanted to do so. Just as addiction to cigarettes is a gradual process, so is quitting.
Many young people contemplate quitting, prepare to quit and then try to quit. But quitting is not an easy proposition. That is because nicotine is highly addictive. It is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. It is not surprising then that about three-quarters of smokers over the age of 15 have tried to quit but failed.
It is ironic that my own father quit smoking three years before he died. It was an arduous task for him to quit smoking after having smoked for more than 50 years.
Based on the evidence of the health threats of tobacco, based on the thousands of deaths from tobacco related diseases and the terrible toll that tobacco addiction takes on individuals in society, it is very difficult to imagine any reason for not supporting the bill and its important amendments to the Tobacco Act.
It has often been said that young people are the future of this country. It only makes sense, therefore, that we invest in them by protecting them and by ensuring the safest and healthiest environment for their growth and development. That is what this amendment is all about.
I call on all members of the House to support the amendment. A vote in favour of a ban on the promotion of tobacco sponsorship in this country is a vote for a safer, healthier and more productive future for Canada's youth.