Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this House to urge all members to support Bill , the bill which cracks down on tobacco marketing aimed at youth.
Smoking is Canada's most serious preventable public health issue. It lies at the root of deadly conditions such as emphysema, lung cancer and cardiac disease. Every year these conditions kill thousands of Canadians and cause suffering for thousands more. We want to reduce future suffering by helping to prevent young Canadians from starting to smoke in the first place. That is why our government is following through on a key campaign commitment by proposing these crucial amendments to the Tobacco Act.
These changes will help protect our children from marketing practices designed to entice them into smoking. By amending the Tobacco Act, we can keep more young people from experimenting with an addictive substance. By doing so, we can shield them from unwittingly laying the foundation for a possible lifelong addiction with potentially serious health consequences.
Through this bill, we are taking a tougher stand against tobacco products that are packaged, priced and flavoured to appeal directly to young people. For example, Bill seeks tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising. It also seeks to rid store shelves of certain products tailored and packaged specifically for young people.
For example, in 2007 more than 400 million little cigars, or cigarillos, were sold in Canada. Many of these come in flavours such as chocolate, bubble gum and tropical punch, flavours designed to entice young people to try smoking. Flavoured sheets or tubes made from tobacco, known as blunt wraps, are also marketed to young people and sold individually or in low-priced kiddie packs.
These types of marketing strategies have to stop. Tobacco is not candy and should never be mistaken as such. It is time that we recognized these kinds of products for what they are: simple enticements aimed at luring non-smokers into a potential lifetime of addiction. It is for this reason that Bill proposes making it illegal to add flavours to cigarillos, cigarettes and blunts.
Another factor encouraging young people to try smoking is pricing. If a product is inexpensive, more young people are likely to try it. More than a decade ago, the Tobacco Act was changed to require that cigarettes be sold in packages of at least 20. This change was made precisely so they would be less affordable for our children. Today under Bill we are going a step further by proposing that the same rule be extended to cigarillos and blunts for exactly the same reason.
This legislation proposes new action on banning flavours to make tobacco less enticing to young people. It proposes new measures to make it less affordable and therefore less accessible. In addition, we are proposing new restrictions on advertising to ensure our youth are not tempted.
Indeed, it is our goal to put an end to a resurgence of tobacco advertising capable of reaching out to our youth through a variety of publications. As it stands now, the Tobacco Act prohibits most advertising; however, advertising in publications claiming an adult readership of at least 85% is still permitted.
In the first few years following the last amendments to the Tobacco Act, the industry did not actively advertise, but things have changed. Over the last two years we have seen a new wave of advertising aimed at young people. Of particular concern are the many free publications with content geared to teens, publications that are available in curbside boxes, at malls and bus stops in just about every community across our country.
What is clear is that in the years following the last changes to the law, the tobacco industry has adapted. It has poked and prodded and found the loopholes it needs to penetrate and get its products into the hands of young Canadians. By doing so, the industry seeks to recruit a new generation to replace the thousands upon thousands who have either fortunately succeeded at quitting, or unfortunately lost their lives prematurely.
Let me be clear. In the face of an industry preying upon a new generation to protect its profits, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, I am dedicated to taking action that will protect the health of this country's future, and I am proud to say that I am far from alone. In fact, I am but one of several members of this House who feel the same way. I say so because this House and the Standing Committee on Health are composed of dedicated members from all parties who have advocated valiantly for the kinds of changes we seek in Bill .
In particular, I want to point to the great work the hon. member for has undertaken during her time as a member of Parliament. Many of her ideas are included in Bill and I want to thank the member for her support and efforts in this regard.
In closing, let me summarize some things that we know in relation to this issue. One, we know that the vast majority of adult smokers became addicted when they were in their teens. Two, we know that if people have not started smoking by the age of 19, they are unlikely to ever become a lifelong smoker. Three, using the illustrative examples that I have provided, the tobacco industry is alive and well and trying as hard as it can to exploit gaps in the law to reach more and more young people with its products to start them smoking. As a result, we have an obligation to update our law to make tobacco products less appealing to young people, less affordable and less accessible.
Finally, when it comes to a question like this one and the problems that Bill seeks to address, I call upon all parties to seek a strong consensus in favour of this very important bill. No matter what party members belong to, what region we hail from, or what community we represent, we are all elected to protect the health of our citizens and safeguard the future of our country. This is precisely what Bill C-32 seeks to do.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today to speak to Bill .
On April 23, in an effort to hold the government to account, I submitted a question to the order paper asking two things.
First, what is the government's strategy to combat the illegal cigarette trade and ensure tobacco control?
Second, what has the government done to follow through on the September 17, 2008, commitment to ban flavoured tobacco products that appeal to children and ban tobacco advertising in print and electronic media that can be seen and read by our youth?
While it appears that Bill does little to answer my first question, which I will address shortly, it is clear that the bill seeks to amend the Tobacco Act to provide the additional protection of youth from tobacco marketing and the other things as the hon. member mentioned.
Bill was introduced last Thursday before World No Tobacco Day. The bill is also part of the federal tobacco control strategy, the government's policy framework to reduce death and disease caused by tobacco use, slated for 2011.
I am pleased that on World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization decided to promote the evidence-based approach by the former minister of health, Allan Rock, on the graphic labelling of cigarette packages. We know that tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death. More than five million people die from the effects of tobacco every year. That is more than those who die from HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. It is the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as the manufacturer intends. Up to half of all smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease. Second-hand smoke harms everyone who is exposed to it.
Tobacco companies spend tens of millions of dollars every year turning new users into addicts and keeping current users from quitting. Through advertising and promotional campaigns, including the use of carefully crafted package designs, the tobacco industry continues to divert attention from the deadly effects of its products. More and more countries are fighting back by requiring that tobacco packages graphically show the dangers of tobacco, as we have done in Canada, and have called for the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. They use the MPower technical assistance package developed by the World Health Organization to meet their commitments under this international treaty.
Effective health warnings, especially those that include pictures, have been proven to motivate users to quit and reduce the appeal of tobacco for those who are not yet addicted. Despite this fact, nine out of ten people live in countries that do not require warnings with pictures on tobacco packages.
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. Warning people about its true risks can go a long way toward reducing tobacco addiction. Requiring warnings on tobacco packages is a simple, cheap and effective strategy that can vastly reduce tobacco use and save lives.
Tobacco use is still too prevalent. Tobacco does a great deal of harm and is responsible for the deaths of 37,000 Canadians every year, deaths that could be prevented.
Additionally, in 2008, over three billion more contraband cigarettes were sold in Canada than in 2007, three billion cigarettes that are now more available to Canadian youth.
Contraband cigarettes cost the Canadian government nearly $2.4 billion a year in lost revenue that could be invested quite usefully in programs and health research.
I hope that in writing Bill and engaging thorough stakeholder consultations rather than information sessions, the government sought to push for more interdepartmental coordination, re-evaluated the failed enforcement strategy that has seen the number of contraband cigarettes rise rapidly and pushed for the cheap and effective strategy of warning labels on tobacco packages. It is not enough for the government to ban something without finding out about and dealing with the other places where this same product can come into Canada, in the same way that we are fighting so terribly about contraband cigarettes.
Right now on the playgrounds in Ontario, 48.6% of cigarette butts found are contraband, illegal cigarettes that kids are buying out of duffle bags in the parking lot for $6 a carton. This is the way kids are getting addicted. This bill is a good first step to deal with flavoured tobacco, but it will do nothing unless the government actually works much harder to deal first-hand with contraband cigarettes.
Bill 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 units. We know the price point for tobacco is very important to children. Long ago we eliminated the kiddie packs and now it is important to ensure that this also applies to cigars and blunt wraps.
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 the act, as well as the packaging of those products in a manner that suggests that they contain a prohibited additive. It also prohibits the manufacture and sale of tobacco products unless all the required information about their composition is submitted to the minister.
Bill also aims at protecting children and youth from tobacco industry marketing practices that encourage them to use tobacco products. These marketing practices included the use of flavourings and additives that would appeal to children and youth, the availability of little cigars and blunt wraps, sheets or tubes or tobacco in small quantities and kiddie packs and an increasing number of tobacco ads in daily newspapers and free entertainment weeklies.
Little cigars, also known as cigarillos and blunt wraps, are marketed today with fruit flavours such as grape, cherry, peach, banana split, tropical punch and additives such as vitamins, sugar and others that taste like candy that mask the harshest of the tobacco and appeal to children and youth.
Research from both American sources and the tobacco industry's own internal documents released through court cases indicate that the addition of fruit and candy flavours to tobacco products make them more appealing to new users. The tobacco industry's internal documents show that flavours and additives increase the “try factor”.
There is no question that California ads that portray tobacco industry executives corralling youth or sitting in smoky boardrooms saying, “Our customers are dying off, we had better go get the young ones”, has been clearly demonstrated with the advent of these truly sinister products.
This is a growing problem. Wholesale sales of little cigars have increased from 53 million units in 2001 to 403 million units in 2007, making them the fastest growing tobacco product on the Canadian market. Bill would amend the Tobacco Act by prohibiting the addition to little cigars, cigarettes and blunt wraps of fruit flavours and additives that would appeal to children and youth. It would also prohibit the representation of these flavours and additives on the package, such as a picture or a graphic.
The amended Tobacco Act would also provide Health Canada the flexibility, through governor in council authority, to ban other appealing additives or include other product categories in the flavour ban at any time in the future if the evidence indicated that these were serving as inducements to youth.
Regarding minimum package requirements, unlike cigarettes that must be sold in packages of 20, little cigars and blunt wraps are often sold individually and priced as little as $1. Bill would amend the Tobacco Act by extending the minimum quantity provisions that exist for cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps, requiring they be packaged in quantities of at least 20. This change would end the industry practice of selling these products in single or small kiddie packs that are attractive youth because of their cheaper price.
Regarding advertising, although there are currently restrictions on tobacco advertising in both print and electronic formats, the tobacco industry has been taking full advantage of an exemption allowing them to advertise in publications that have at least 85% adult readership. A recent resurgence of tobacco advertising, over 400 ads nationwide between November 2007 and December 2008, has exposed youth audiences to tobacco sales pitches.
Full colour tobacco ads have been appearing in daily newspapers, magazines and in free entertainment weekly papers. The free entertainment papers are available to anybody by way of a curb-side box, making it impossible to restrict access by children or determine if the readership is at least 85% adult.
Between November 2007 and December 2008, tobacco companies spent approximately $4.47 million to place nationwide ads in print publications, a dramatic increase from the amount spent in the previous 14 months. The proposed legislation will repeal this exemption that allows tobacco ads to be placed in a print publication, again with adult readership of not less than 85%.
The legislation to ban flavoured tobacco is important. However, in many areas it misses the point. In my order paper question I asked whether the government would develop a strategy to combat contraband tobacco. It is clear that Bill simply would add regulations and would do little to keep contraband out of the hands of children. It makes the legal industry deal with the problem caused by the illegal industry. As we know, children are unable to purchase the legal product.
I agree with the stakeholder groups such as the Ontario Korean Businessmen's Association, which claims that Bill will have no impact on the true problem, how children start smoking in the first place. It is the illegal product that causes the rise in consumption and the government continues to do nothing to combat the wave of illegal manufactured cigarettes from being distributed in high schools for, as I said, as little as $6 a carton. In fact, we have seen flyers where people can dial for a carton, except it is not in a carton. It is a garbage bag full of cheap cigarettes delivered right to one's door. We know these are the same organizations that also deal in guns and drugs and this must be stopped.
The Ontario Korean Businessmen's Association says that it does not work. If a person calls the local police, it takes six hours for a police officer to get there. These business people can actually see people selling things right outside their stores. There needs to be at least a 1-800 number and a task force, for which the RCMP called, where all levels of policing could come together to deal once and for all with this dangerous and illegal trade.
The RCMP has also called for the dismantling of the illegal manufacturing sites and called for a multi-jurisdictional department task force. Yet the government has issued licences to illegal operations to make them legal and the task force apparently has never met.
As I mentioned before, illegal tobacco costs taxpayers $2.4 billion a year in lost tax revenue and undermines every single tobacco control law and regulation currently being administered by the federal and provincial governments.
The sale of illegal tobacco is more than just a tobacco industry issue. This growing trade affects everyone. It deprives Canadian governments of significant revenues, it fosters other criminal activities, it has an impact on public health and provides unregulated, easy and affordable access to tobacco products.
There is also a direct correlation between the rise in contraband tobacco consumption and the change in government in 2006. Looking at the statistics for the growth of illegal tobacco sales, we can see that 33% was the national average last year, up from 16.5% in 2006. This is a jump up over 100%. In 2008 it was 48.6% on the playgrounds in Ontario schools and 40.1% in Quebec.
The Liberals had a strategy in place and multi-pronged approach to deal with problems, but the Conservative government let the rate of contraband consumption grow exponentially. Now we have learned that the American Secretary for Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, knew nothing of the huge problem in tobacco smuggling until after she came out of the meeting with the . She only responded to this problem after it was raised by a journalist. This is totally irresponsible.
Why is the government refusing to deal with contraband tobacco? Contraband causes huge losses in tax revenues. Does it not need the money? It sees more and more Canadian children becoming addicted on cheap cigarettes and allows smugglers and members of organized crime to profit off the illegal trade.
As I said, it is the same people smuggling the cigarettes who are smuggling the drugs and the guns. This is organized crime. We should look at the statistics. There were 13 billion estimated total Canadian purchases of illegal cigarettes in 2008 compared to 10 billion in 2007.
It is time that the government got smart on crime. If the government were serious about reducing youth smoking, it would consider stopping youth from having access to these cigarettes. The government needs to deliver a plan and enforcement strategy to stop the importation of illegal black market tobacco.
In a Hamilton Spectator article written on April 30, 2009, it was reported that the jump in smoking rates was directly correlated to easy access to contraband and tax free cigarettes that sell for a fraction of the regular price. Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, mentioned in the article that he was very concerned about the impact of inexpensive contraband cigarettes on smoking rates.
Public health officials estimate that 200 contraband cigarettes cost $8 to $15, compared with the usual $55 to $80. Mr. Cunningham continued to say that higher tobacco taxes were the single most effective measure to reduce smoking, and the presence of widespread, inexpensive contraband tobacco was dramatically impeding the progress that we would otherwise be making.
The government must address the fact that contraband cigarettes are the cheapest and easiest cigarettes to get for children. I am concerned that in the media backgrounder, the department skirts the issue entirely by saying that contraband is the purview of Public Safety. While this may be true, it completely ignores the fact that an entire strategy is undermined by the lack of action by whatever department is in charge of contraband, and it shows that the government is working in silence, to the total detriment of the health of Canadians.
These are only some of the stakeholder reaction groups we have heard so far. However, many groups, including Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and the Canadian Medical Association have been pushing the government for laws that would crack down on the sale and marketing of cigarillos.
Paul Thomey, the chair of the tobacco policy for the Canadian Lung Association, is quoted in the government press release accompanying the bill stating that these are positive steps forward in the fight against tobacco, and that 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 its products to the youth of this country.
I say again, banning these products in this country will not do anything if they just arrive in duffle bags and dunnage bags from across the border or, as this industry has done before, from Canada, outside and back into Canada, and then dealt with in the black market.
The president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Robert Ouellet, also quoted in the government press release, thanked the government on behalf of Canada's doctors and their patients, adding that closing loopholes is a step forward in protecting our children from a deadly addiction to tobacco.
Despite our concerns that Bill does nothing to address the contraband issue that is at the heart of youth smoking rates, the Liberal Party will support the bill in principle. However, we will be asking the government questions at committee. Why does the bill not include restrictions against menthol, and why will there be a 270 day period before store owners must take these products off their shelves?
We will also investigate whether the ban on flavours can be extended to chewing tobacco and smokeless tobacco as a kiddie product, as one quarter of the users are children under 19. Flavouring smokeless with candy flavours is a problem so similar to the flavouring of little cigarillos that it makes no sense to exclude this one category.
We understand that smokeless is not as large a problem as smoking, but it is significant enough to worry. For every five boys who smoke cigarettes, there is one smokeless user. Adding smokeless to the bill would require a very simple amendment to the schedule. Although it could be done by regulation later, there is no reason to delay.
Bill is a step in the right direction to protect Canadians, and youth in particular, from tobacco marketing. Tobacco products should not be marketed as inoffensive. By prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps that contain a series of additives that have flavouring properties, and by prohibiting packaging that suggests that these products contain these additives, the bill aims at avoiding the misleading marketing of tobacco products.
By prohibiting advertising in all types of magazines and newspapers regardless of their readership, the bill ensures that all Canadians, and youth in particular, will not be exposed to tobacco sales pitches.
However, as I mentioned in detail, this bill will not solve the problem of smoking among youth altogether, and that is because the bill fails to address the question of contraband tobacco which is an important source of supply for youth, contraband products being cheap and easily accessible.
Despite the omission of contraband, the Liberal Party will support the bill at second reading. We look forward to engaging in a deeper study at the health committee. We will take witness testimony at committee into consideration in assessing whether this bill should be amended.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill . This bill has a commendable objective, which is to discourage tobacco use among young people by limiting availability and reducing the types of tobacco products on the market.
Needless to say, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, and we are not alone. Earlier, I got out a May 26 press release from the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac that welcomes the federal government's tobacco bill. Louis Gauvin, the spokesperson for the coalition, says:
|| Even though it does not go as far as we would have liked, the legislation contains crucial provisions that will provide much more protection for young people against the tobacco industry's marketing strategies.
We know that the tobacco industry targets young people. Because nicotine is addictive, young people risk being hooked for a long time. The member for said earlier that someone who is unfortunately addicted to nicotine will likely have to try a number of times to quit smoking. She talked about eight times. My mother, who was a smoker, did not have to try that many times. She tried to quit once in her life and fortunately was successful the first time. But addiction is a fact, and that is why companies target young people.
I digressed briefly, but I will continue. Louis Gauvin says:
|| From now on, the industry will no longer be able to mask the harmful effects of its products using fruit and candy flavours...These products, which came on the market barely five years ago, are alone responsible for the increase in tobacco use by young Quebeckers. Finally, companies will be prohibited from marketing these deadly chocolate- and strawberry-flavoured products in fun, multicoloured kiddie packs.
Continuing with the press release:
|| The most recent research shows that tobacco use, even when very limited, can lead to dependency. Young people who have tried cigarillos [a type of little cigar that is even sold singly] can easily develop a dependency on nicotine, since the nicotine content in these is similar to the amount in a cigarette. They are then at risk of changing to cigarettes because they are very much cheaper when bought in large quantities. In other words, “even if they account for only a small part of the market, cigarillos play a major role in introducing young people to smoking”.
I will share a personal experience if I may. When I was 12, 13, 14, like a lot of kids, I had some people in my group of friends who smoked occasionally, and some others a bit more regularly. As I have said, my mother smoked as well. So yes, I have sneaked my mother's cigarettes. We took them to the park and we puffed away on them. Then we found out we could get them at the corner store. I must point out that we were certainly not of legal age to be buying them. I do not know what the age limit was at the time, but I am sure that you could not get packages of cigarettes legally at 12 or 13.
However, they sold little cigars with a plastic filter end and a grape flavour. Grape flavoured cigarillos, with a picture of a grape on the package. They were sold in a pack of four or five, I do not remember exactly. When we started smoking those cigarillos, it was a lot more interesting, because inhaling smoke that smelled and tasted like grapes was a lot easier than inhaling the smoke from a regular cigarette.
I am therefore convinced that this kind of marketing was created by the companies to target young people. I remember that we preferred the cigarillos to cigarettes but I am sure the harmful effects were the same. I will assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I did not continue along that path. I quit completely when my mother did, when I was 14 or 15. Everybody in the family was pleased. My brother, unfortunately, continued to smoke for a long time, but he finally quit as well. At a certain point, a person finally listens to reason despite the harmful efforts of the tobacco companies.
As I said, the Bloc Québécois is in favour in principle of Bill , although it is not particularly useful in Quebec because the Government of Quebec already has more severe restrictions on cigarillos.
The cigarillos we are talking about and all other tobacco products should be subject to the same bans as cigarettes.
As with cigarettes, advertising of tobacco products to young people under 18 must be banned. In addition, the message warning of the dangers of smoking must be applied to all these products, and the products must be hidden from public view.
The companies have tried to convince us, without saying so and just by the product's appearance, that tobacco was less harmful, that it smelled good and that the taste of it was much milder and more pleasant. My colleagues and I talked about all sorts of flavours such as strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. I know we are not allowed to show any props here and I do not want to advertise, but I have in the palm of my hand one of these vanilla cigarillos. I do not want to show it or hold it up to the camera, but the packaging is delightful. It looks like a treat or a candy. A young person getting hold of this would think it was a candy more than anything else. However, far be it from me to advertise it or light it here.
All of us in the House of Commons were given a small package by an anti-smoking coalition to show us how the tobacco companies use this type of marketing to disguise their product, which is in fact harmful. We saw an image of candies and real treats interspersed with tobacco products, which were presented as if they were treats. You cannot tell which is which. There was nothing to indicate that what I had in my hand earlier was harmful to my health. The law in Quebec requires it, however, for tobacco products. Fortunately this will change with Bill .
Some of the demands I mentioned earlier are in part covered by Bill . Still, it must be added that the federal government needs to take stronger action, in connection with cigarette smuggling, among other things. Action must be taken to limit the supply of illegal tobacco products as much as possible, for they are available to minors as well. If the supply is cut, young people will have less access to tobacco products, especially those at lower cost. The low price is, of course, why tobacco smuggling exists.
While police action is needed, certain regulations should be changed to discourage smugglers. There is talk of eliminating the source of supply, which is still the best way of preventing smuggling. There is a proposal to prevent unlicensed manufacturers from acquiring the raw materials and equipment used to produce cigarettes. It has also been suggested that the licences of tobacco manufacturers who fail to obey the law be revoked and an effective system established for marking cigarette packages—the term is traceability— so that tobacco deliveries can be more closely monitored.
Efforts could also be made to persuade the United States federal government to close the factories of illegal manufacturers on the American side of the border. In some places, it is easy to cross by boat. Everyone has seen television reports about this kind of thing. It is very easy to smuggle goods across the U.S.—Canadian border. Not everyone is caught. We should try, therefore, to persuade the American government.
Finally, there are proposals to increase the fee charged to obtain a federal licence to manufacture tobacco products. It could be increased to $5 million instead of the laughable $5,000 it is today. These are some of the measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois to help reduce smuggling.
About a year ago, on May 7, 2008, the public safety minister of the time, who is now the , announced an RCMP strategy to fight tobacco smuggling. There were three objectives: dismantle the production facilities, disrupt the supply and distribution networks, and seize illegal tobacco and related products of crime. We never heard any details about the implementation of this strategy and the methods to be used were never clearly explained. The only conclusion we can draw is the results have fallen far short of the expectations.
Ever since 2003, and even before, the Bloc Québécois has been constantly calling on governments of all stripes to act vigorously to prevent the explosion of cigarette smuggling. The Bloc even proposed measures to fight this crime, which undercuts all our efforts to discourage smoking, especially among young people.
The conclusion after a year is that the strategy has not been very well defined. According to several studies, illegal tobacco products supply one-quarter of the Quebec and Ontario market. The federal and provincial governments lose nearly $2 billion a year in taxes. It may be even more by now. Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada is right to emphasize that the reduced cost of contraband cigarettes is undermining the progress we have been making in reducing smoking, especially among young people.
I am talking about contraband products today because all the efforts we might make in the House as parliamentarians, through things like Bill or other measures to reduce smoking among young people, will be in vain if we do not attack the root of the problem, which is smuggled cigarettes.
The Bloc Québécois demands that the RCMP utilize every legal means to effectively combat this illegal importing of tobacco. We absolutely must fight the evil at its root by taking action on both supply and demand. If that means going so far as to seize the automobiles of people going to stock up at the many illegal smoke shacks, so be it. Obviously this would be an excellent way to deter the resellers.
This problem is very expensive for Quebec and Canadian taxpayers, and deprives regular merchants who have the right to sell tobacco—even though we are trying to reduce the availability of tobacco products and cigarettes are no longer displayed openly in convenience stores—of legitimate income because of this unfair competition. This is why it is absolutely necessary to tackle cigarette smuggling.
To return to the famous cigarillos—I have even given my own personal example—I would describe their attractiveness to children as a con game, because of what the tobacco companies have managed to do, which is to present them almost as if they were candy. The variety of cigarillo flavours makes them seem less harmful to children and youth. The trick lies in perception. I think the kids will have the impression that they are less harmful because of the better taste and smell. All the flavours come from the natural world, but I think that is exactly what these companies were aiming for—to ensure that there is less of the bad cigarette smell so that children are not put off so much and are attracted to the product. As a result of this con game, children really like the cigarillos. Yet those little cigars pose as much risk to their health in terms of nicotine dependence as real cigarettes.
One Health Canada study done in 2000 concluded that cigarillos contain between 67% and 200% more tar than standard cigarettes. Furthermore, unfiltered cigarillos contain twice as much nicotine.
According to the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac, there are many reasons why children are attracted to cigarillos. First, the unit price is very accessible. One cigarillo can be bought at a convenience store for $1. This used to be possible, but things are changing. As I said earlier, it is no longer possible in Quebec. There are also the attractive flavours and packaging, as I demonstrated earlier.
The selling of individual cigarettes is prohibited in Quebec. The reason is quite simple: single cigarettes and cigarillos are more financially accessible. Children generally do not have much money, and buying cigarillos is easier and more accessible when they cost $1. In my time, it may have been 10¢ or 25¢, and we were all able to collect enough coins from our piggy banks to buy one cigarette or cigarillo. Not so long ago this was also going on in Quebec, and it may be happening, as it should not, in Canada. This will be corrected when Bill comes into force.
Quebec law prohibits selling to minors. Unfortunately, certain merchants do not abide by the law, and I am sure this is not just in Quebec. According to Health Canada data, nearly 86% of merchants were complying with the law in 2007.
Still, that left 12% who were not, who were selling tobacco products to minors.
The survey by the Institut de la statistique du Québec, the ISQ, estimates that approximately 38% of students purchase cigarettes themselves at a shop. In other words, at some point, the word gets around. It is just a matter of finding the convenience store or shop that will sell tobacco products and all the children will go there. Every group has one youngster who looks older than the others. That was the case in our group, and it wasn’t me. There is always someone who looks older and succeeds in duping the merchant and buying cigarettes or alcohol. There is always a way: young people are imaginative.
Therefore it is up to the merchant to be very vigilant and to require ID when someone who looks young comes in to buy cigarettes or cigarillos.
When it comes to flavours, I would again point out that cigarillos come in many flavours. We heard the list earlier. I kept a copy of the list here to show the extent to which the marketing of this kind of product was probably aimed much more at children and young people. They come in raspberry, vanilla, cherry, spearmint, strawberry, cinnamon and even rum. Some may say they are trying to attract adults with this, but in any event, the intention behind this marketing is really very clear. Flavouring tobacco products obviously encourages people to take up smoking by making their first puffs sweeter and more pleasant.
They have chosen attractive packaging. Catching people’s eye, the visual aspect, is very important. Cigarillo packages conjure up treats and candy. There are no warnings on the boxes. As I was saying just now, when they are purchased as singles, the little package has absolutely no indication of the danger of inhaling, really of smoking, and using these products. You can even buy chewing tobacco now. It is also presented as an attractive product.
I said that I have smoked, but I have to say I have never tried that. It completely repulses me, but I think some children who like to try things, if it is presented in a way that it looks almost like a treat, a candy, they are certainly going to try it. Imagine what a catastrophe it may be when they put that in their mouth. In the United States, studies have been done, and people who chewed tobacco were more likely to develop cancers of the mouth.
I said earlier that we have all had the evidence from an anti-smoking coalition placed on our desks, showing that these products were hidden among the treats and the attempt was made to pass them off as candy. We were also given a brochure with information.
We are told that the market for new flavoured tobacco products has grown by over 400%. In 2001, 50,000 items were sold, and in 2006 it was 81 million items. We can see what a master stroke of marketing this has been, one that has been diabolically effective, but at the same time a damaging and terrible thing for our young people’s health.
I mentioned the Institut de la statistique du Québec. I have more information, in particular about a Quebec survey on tobacco, alcohol, drugs and gambling among secondary school students. Statistics were collected in the fall of 2006 from nearly 5,000 students.
The ISQ found that students were starting to smoke cigars between secondary 2 and 3, and boys and girls were using these products in equal numbers. In the month before the survey, 22% of boys and 21% of girls had smoked a cigarillo. In secondary 5, more than a third of students said they had smoked a cigarillo in the month before the survey. Eight out of 10 students who smoked or were starting to smoke cigarettes every day or occasionally had smoked a cigar. One out of 10 students who did not smoke cigarettes had even tried cigars or cigarillos.
These statistics, which have been collected not only in Quebec but more or less everywhere in Canada, show that tougher legislation has got to be enacted. While Bill is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction.
Mr. Speaker, it is a real privilege to rise today in support of this legislation, Bill . This is a good news day for Canadians.
I am very pleased that the government has responded to suggestions by the New Democratic Party opposition to move in this area and that it has listened to the voices of Canadians from one end of this country to the other to try to close a very serious loophole in terms of tobacco addiction.
I have listened to some of my colleagues in the opposition, and I agree there are major areas yet to be dealt with by the government, by Parliament, issues of huge importance, like the contraband issue, like the fact that we have not been able to stop tobacco companies from designing new smokeless products. There is no end to the job at hand by parliamentarians, but we have to take this journey of cracking down one step at a time, wherever possible, when it comes to the very crass, very manipulative marketing of big tobacco. Let us face it, that is what this is all about.
We are here today because big tobacco in this country has found a loophole in the Tobacco Act and regulations that tries to restrict the sale and marketing of tobacco products. The companies have taken advantage of that loophole and designed products that are specifically targeted at creating a whole new market, another generation of smokers. Their market is dwindling, their market shares are falling, their profits are not as large as they once were, and they need to capture the hearts and minds of another group of Canadians so they are addicted to tobacco products for a lifetime.
We are talking about the most clever products one could imagine. I wish we could use props in the House. I know it is against the rules, but if we could, we would show Canadians what we are talking about, show parents how serious this issue is and how important it is that the House finally acts on cracking down on these kiddie products, these little cigarillos that are designed to look like candy or cosmetics, which have the flavours of the world embodied in them, from cotton candy to peanut butter to banana to orange to cherry, and the list goes on and on.
These are wonderfully smelling products that are designed to appeal to young people, to make them want to purchase them because they look so harmless, so appealing. Big tobacco knows that if these young people smoke these products they are more addictive than even normal, regular cigarettes. They are more harmful than the run-of-the-mill tobacco products. Worst of all, they get those kids addicted to cigarettes and smoking before they are even of legal age to smoke.
This is really about shutting down, closing a loophole that tobacco companies have taken advantage of. These products were never intended to be part of any legislation or regulations that this Parliament would allow. We cannot envisage the creativity, the ability of big tobacco to develop such products.
Who would have thought that big tobacco in this country would be so crass, so profit hungry, so disrespectful of human health and well-being that it would design products to deliberately get young people hooked? Imagine.
The bill is something that many anti-smoking activists have called for in this country for a number of years. They called on members on our side of the House, and we responded by saying this is a serious issue and it is time that we had legislation.