Thank you for your warm welcome. Good afternoon. David, thank you for your introduction. To David, Dr. Cynthia Callard and all the others in the organization known as Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, thank you for having invited me to be part of this day.
Also, thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak with you about our common commitment against smoking. And let me also say how much I admire the work that has been done by the members of the Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.
As David mentioned, because of the nature of your profession, you see up close and first hand the effects of tobacco use. You have seen its toll and you have decided to move beyond treating its symptoms to confronting its causes and by bringing your insight and your efforts from your practices to the public domain. You have made a real difference and I want to express today, on behalf of the government of Canada, our gratitude and admiration for the efforts that you have made in this important area.
I know there are other groups present here today, health groups committed to reducing the level of smoking in Canada, people who have spent their time and their energy speaking out and acting. By doing so, you have earned the respect of Canadians by helping us better understand the impact of tobacco use. The example that you have set, whether through individual action or membership in groups, by speaking out, organizing, acting, and raising public awareness of these issues, you have demonstrated once again that in order to effect positive change it is not necessary to run for Parliament or to hold a senior public position.
Someone once said that the highest office in a democracy is the office of citizen and by your commitment and by your actions you have fully discharged the responsibilities of that office and you have made Canada a better place.
What brings us all here together is National Non-Smoking Week. This week also draws attention to the many people and groups that are active in anti-smoking initiatives. The commitment that each of you brings to non-smoking is shared by my provincial and territorial colleagues, family doctors and specialists, medical and health associations, and by municipalities, voluntary groups and individuals across Canada.
As that range of participants shows, National Non-Smoking Week is very much rooted in our communities. Across Canada, voluntary organizations are providing information and programs to help discourage young people from smoking. They are making services available to people who do smoke now but who want to quit. Each year, this week is an opportunity for health partners to assess our collective progress and to identify the work ahead of us.
And we all know there is much work to do. Smoking is, by far, the leading cause of preventable death in Canada today. As David Esdaile mentioned, the current estimate is that 45,000 Canadians lives end prematurely every year because of tobacco use.
The hundreds of young...