/R E P E A T -- Ontario Bill 131 - Government Lying to Itself, Lying To The People And Essentially Recruiting New Smokers For Big Tobacco/

MONTREAL, Feb. 21, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The Government of Ontario is currently proceeding with the debate and passage of Bill 131 - the Youth Smoking Prevention Act, 2013. The Bill would among other things come to ban the presence of all flavours in all tobacco products - providing an exemption for menthol and flavours used to reduce the harsh tastes of certain types of tobacco.

But let's be clear about one thing, Bill 131 is about hate not health. It is leveraged on lies and deception, not truth or evidence, says Luc Martial - VP in charge of Government Affairs at Casa Cubana. Mr. Martial is also a longstanding tobacco control expert in Canada, having worked at Health Canada in the Offices of Research, Surveillance & Evaluation and Policy & Planning within the Tobacco Control Program. His unique experience in tobacco control further includes postings with the Non-Smokers' Rights Association of Canada, the Canadian Council on Smoking and Health, and the National Clearinghouse on Tobacco and Health.

Casa Cubana, a distributor of legitimate flavoured cigar products sold in the province is shocked and awed at the legislative debate that has since occurred on Bill 131. That politicians would want to rally around and publicly support tobacco control initiatives aimed at protecting kids is obviously understandable. That politicians would act so recklessly in their attempt to fast-track public policy which finds no truth in basis or objective - borders on the fraudulent if not corrupt, says Mr. Martial.

It is simply deplorable that the government chooses to remain ignorant to the easily accessible and verifiable facts on this issue. What's happening here is a perfect example of the Government having absolutely no idea as to what is going on with youth in the province, undertaking absolutely no due diligence on this particular file and basically choosing to ride the easy wave of popular, not accountable public policy on tobacco, says Mr. Martial.

The Health Minister's recent statement that "we know that kids are much more likely to use flavoured products than are adults" is a frightening example of the serious lack of knowledge and competence within the Health Ministry on this particular issue. More absurdly, the Minister of Health further proposes to provide an exemption for the use of Menthol in tobacco products. As matter of fact - Menthol is the only flavour that Health Canada data clearly confirms is the flavour of choice among high school kids who "try" flavoured tobacco products. As importantly, there exists absolutely no data within any Canadian government which provides any information as to what other flavours in tobacco products are being "tried" by kids.

Perversely enough, following through on this regulatory witch hunt is tantamount to the Government of Ontario actively recruiting smokers for the big cigarette companies. By arbitrarily destroying the legitimate niche businesses of the smaller specialty tobacco companies servicing a legal-age-verified tobacco market, the Government will simply be channelling our customers directly into the hands of Big Tobacco.

THE TRUTH ABOUT FLAVOURED TOBACCO PRODUCTS:

  • There exist two longstanding, key monitoring mechanisms of relevance to tobacco and smoking in our country - the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey (CTUMS) and the Youth Smoking Survey (YSS). Both are conducted by the federal Government (Health Canada).

  • CTUMS is by far the yardstick for monitoring smoking behaviour and trends in our country. It is a million dollars/annual joint venture with Statistics Canada (since 1999).

  • The YSS is a longstanding survey which monitors use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco among high school kids across Canada.

THE MOST RECENT CANADIAN TOBACCO USE MONITORING SURVEY (2012) CLEARLY CONFIRMS THAT:

  • There are more than 800,000 legal-age Canadians who exercise their legitimate, individual right to buy legal cigar products (flavoured and unflavoured).

  • The market for flavoured tobacco products (i.e. flavoured little cigars) is without question adult-driven (94%).

  • As with alcohol, marijuana and other age-restricted or illegal products of greater interest to kids - some kids are unfortunately also getting illegal access to flavoured tobacco products. This illegal access, however, is overwhelmingly being provided to minors by friends and family members (75%) - not the industry.

  • Of those kids who do "try" flavoured tobacco products - their illegal market share of our flavoured cigar products has been declining over the last 3 years - from 10% in 2010 to 8% in 2011 and 6% in 2012. In this sense, youth illegal access to our products has declined by 40% since 2010 - and continues to decline year over year.

CTUMS data can be found at the Health Canada website at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/research-recherche/stat/_ctums-esutc_2012/ann_summary-sommaire-eng.php

THE MOST RECENT YOUTH SMOKING SURVEY (2010-2011) CLEARLY CONFIRMS THAT:

  • High school kids unfortunately do try flavoured tobacco products - but only because they are already smoking/smokers. Traditional non-flavoured cigarette products are the gateway to kids eventually "trying" flavoured tobacco products -not the other way around.

  • If a high school kid is not already a smoker - there is almost zero chance that he will "try" a flavoured tobacco product. The presence of flavours in tobacco products is not relevant enough to actually entice kids into becoming smokers.

  • For high school kids who are already smokers and who do "try" a flavoured tobacco product - the flavour of choice, by far, is Menthol. More precisely, 50% of kids who are already smokers have "tried" a flavoured tobacco product and half of them have "tried" Menthol, while the other half have "tried" an unknown flavour(s).

  • High school kids are smoking because they are getting (illegal) access to tobacco products in general. The issue of youth smoking is not one of product design (flavours), but rather product "access".

  • High school kids are getting their (illegal) access to tobacco - by far, from family members and friends (75%).

  • In Ontario, 7 times more high school kids consume alcohol compared to tobacco.

  • In Ontario, 10 times more high school kids consume alcohol compared to flavoured tobacco products (other than menthol).

  • In Ontario, 5 times more high school kids "binge drink" alcohol compared to consuming flavoured tobacco products (other than menthol).

  • In Ontario, 5 times more high school kids consume marijuana compared to flavoured tobacco products (other than menthol).

YSS data can be found at the Health Canada website at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/research-recherche/stat/_survey-sondage_2010-2011/result-eng.php

It is relevant to note that the exact same flavours which health groups and the government offensively and wrongly contend are designed by tobacco companies to "target kids" - are found in a much wider variety of alcohol products approved for sale by the government of Ontario and sold in the province every day. In Ontario, according to data obtained from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) - there are:

  • 20+ STRAWBERRY flavoured alcohol products

  • 18+ RASPBERRY flavoured alcohol products

  • 10+ CHOCOLATE flavoured alcohol products

  • 10+ PEACH flavoured alcohol products

  • 4+ CHERRY flavoured alcohol products

*Alcohol products include Spirits, Coolers, Ciders, Liqueurs, Wines, Beers and Cocktails.

The use of flavours in tobacco products is also nothing new to the industry. In fact, the use of flavours in tobacco products dates back in some instances to the 1800s. In terms of some flavours long since used in tobacco products, we find: Walnut (1895); Beech-Nut (1897); Apple(1905); Peach (1905); Buttercup (1906); Wild Cherry (1910); Strawberry (1922); Rum and Maple (1937); Rum River (1939); Butterscotch (1945); Middleton's Cherry Blend (1947); Honey Bee (1956); Plumcake (1962); Turkish Taffy (1964); English Toffee (1966); Crème de Mint (1971); Mint and Menthol (1971); Wild Blueberry (1971); Jackson's Applejack (1973); Mocha (1975); Peach Melba (1977); Winter Green (1978); and Black Ambrosia (1983).

  • The specialty tobacco market in Canada (i.e. other than cigarettes / fine-cut tobacco) represents less than 1% of all tobacco consumed in our country.

  • Flavored tobacco products, at best, make up less than 0.5% of the total domestic tobacco market in Canada. Manufactured cigarettes remain by far the tobacco product of choice among Canadians of all ages.

A RELEVANT WORD ABOUT THE HEALTH COMMUNITY'S SUPPORT

According to the Health Minister's recent statements in the Legislature, Bill 131 apparently finds overwhelming support from well-established health and anti-tobacco groups in the province. It is important to note that these groups' longstanding and unjustified attack against flavoured tobacco products, however, just recently found momentum and leverage from a report issued by the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact. The report, however, raises serious concerns - as it omitted key data arguably proving that flavours in tobacco products do not entice or encourage kids to start smoking.

The Propel Centre Report

The Propel Centre for Population Health Impact (University of Waterloo) was contracted by Health Canada to conduct the Youth Smoking Survey (YSS) for 2010-2011.

The Propel Centre then decided to make public their own interpretation of most (but not all) of the data they had collected on flavoured tobacco use among high school kids - acknowledging in their report that their findings did not necessarily reflect the views of Health Canada. Their report (Flavoured Tobacco Use Among Canadian Youth: Evidence from Canada's 2010/2011 Youth Smoking Survey) was made public on October 7, 2013.

"From that point on, anti-tobacco groups in the province began prompting and promoting the Propel Centre's narrow interpretation of the YSS data - in a manner that can arguably be described as abusive and grossly misleading. The media attention which followed fueled the fire which is now pressuring the government of Ontario to rush to regulate a product and industry it knows absolutely nothing about", said Mr. Martial.

THE SMOKING GUN in the Propel report is the omission of the YSS data which looked at the percentage of kids who had never tried smoking before - but who did try a flavoured tobacco product in the previous 30 days of the survey. "This omission is both disconcerting and highly suspicious. From an honest tobacco control standpoint, this is the most important data pertaining to the issue of flavours in tobacco products and the health groups' contention that they entice or encourage kids into becoming smokers", said Mr. Martial.

The Propel Centre, at the very least, should have known that anti-tobacco groups would be using their report findings to propagandize their position that flavours in tobacco products both target and encourage kids to smoke - while leveraging the University of Waterloo's reputation as a way to lend credence to their longstanding, unjustified call for a ban on flavoured tobacco products.

There are serious questions which need to be asked and answered before Bill 131 goes any further, says Mr. Martial. It remains the legitimate business community's hope on this and every other file of relevance to our individual and commercial rights - that integrity and accountability will always be prioritized over false pride and popularity within the Ontario Legislature.

Casa Cubana is a Montreal-based importer of quality cigar products (flavoured and unflavoured). Established in 1998, the company's reach extends throughout Canada with a sales force servicing approximately 10,000+ direct accounts - to include wholesalers, retail chains, independent retailers, gas bars, grocery stores and the duty-free channel. In Ontario, the company distributes its products through more than 2,000 licenced retail/wholesale provincial partners.

SOURCE Casa Cubana

For further information:

Luc Martial
VP Government Affairs
Casa Cubana
Cell: (819) 743-9140