Conservative Party Promise on Tobacco Dangerously Misguided

    MONTREAL, Sept. 18 /CNW Telbec/ - The recent electoral promise by the
Conservative Party of Canada, that would set a minimum packaging requirement
on little cigars/cigarillos and ban the use of flavours in tobacco products -
would actually come to provide much more, much cheaper and much less
controlled tobacco products to Canadian kids.
    "While Casa Cubana supports the Conservative Party's interest in
protecting our children, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's proposal for a
minimum packaging requirement and for a ban on flavored cigarillos is
dangerously misguided", says Luc Martial (in charge of government affairs with
Casa Cubana and formerly with the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, the
Canadian Council on Smoking and Health, the National Clearinghouse on Tobacco
and Health, and the Tobacco Control Programme at Health Canada). Mr. Martial,
a 17 year veteran to the tobacco control file in Canada, warns that such a
regulatory framework would further fuel the uncontrollable contraband tobacco
market which already now easily finds its way into school yards across the
    "While on the face of it, the proposed policy may seem noble and
justified - the fact is that the industry, the product and its market are not
in the least well understood by decision-makers and the proposed regulatory
action is unfortunately misguided, ill-conceived and would come to cause more
harm than good", says Mr. Martial.
    Of the limited research and survey data which does exist on these
products, little is actually known about the origin of the product being
consumed; the quantities being consumed; the purchasing patterns for these
products; and the likely impact of the proposed regulations on these
variables. Casa Cubana actually contacted the Prime Minister and the Minister
of Health last February to proactively review and discuss the issues before
us, but was never able to secure interest on the part of the government for
the transfer of necessary expert-based knowledge. For a Party which prides
itself on accountability in government, the mystery remains as to why they
would chose to regulate in the dark.
    The Conservative Party's own backgrounder on this issue, posted on their
campaign website, is factually erroneous - suggesting that there are no health
warnings required on cigarillos packaged in less than 20 units. Health
warnings on all cigar products (to include cigarillos) have been mandated by
law since the Tobacco Products Information Regulations first became law in
2000. While cigar product warnings do differ from cigarette warnings
(i.e. size and placement), the fact is that all packaged formats of cigar
products must and do have a government-mandated health warning.
    It is important to note that fruit flavoured cigarillo products in
Canada, also represent less than 0.5% of all tobacco products consumed in our
country and comparatively mirror the exact same fruit flavours found in a much
greater variety of alcoholic beverages sold by Canadian governments across our
country. If elected, it would be interesting to see how a Conservative
government would justify not immediately and automatically banning the exact
same fruit flavours found in alcohol products sold in Canada - especially when
government data now clearly show that there are 4-5 times more high school
kids who consume alcohol compared to tobacco.
    As importantly, the cheapest flavoured cigarillo on the market currently
sells for 10 times more than a contraband cigarette found in Canadian
schoolyards. In fact, the pricing on flavoured cigarillos in Canada actually
is comparatively prohibitive - and any responsible and knowledgeable tobacco
control expert would agree. The pricing and packaging scheme sustainably
lobbied for by anti-tobacco groups would consequently result in a cheaper per
unit cost of the product - thereby encouraging youth uptake and consumption.
Quite relevantly, anecdotal evidence now suggests that in some instances kids
are illegally purchasing flavoured cigarillos in packs of 20s and re-selling
them at a $1 per cigarillo in the schoolyard.
    Over the last several months, key anti-tobacco groups and advocates have
ramped up their efforts to create more chaos on tobacco in our country by
increasingly misrepresenting data and information about the flavored cigarillo
industry, its products, and the market. The survey data regularly referenced
by these extremist groups in no way supports their proposal for a ban on
cigarillos or flavourings. What the survey data does clearly tell us however
is that product "access" - not product design, product pricing or product
packaging - is the real issue. Kids are getting tobacco products from friends
and family members at an alarming rate - and often with the full knowledge and
consent of their parents. The fact is that the vast majority of Canadians who
consume cigarillos (plain or flavoured), according to the Canadian Tobacco Use
Monitoring Survey (CTUMS) are over the age of 25. While some underage
Canadians are apparently gaining access to these products, as well as access
to other age-restricted (e.g. alcohol, gambling) and/or illegal (e.g.
marijuana) products - banning flavored cigarillos will only come to penalize
those Canadians currently respecting the law. Those who are currently breaking
the law or allowing the law to be broken, would in no way be impacted by the
proposed regulations.
    On a final note, Casa Cubana takes great offense at any suggestion that
it markets tobacco products that target kids in any way. More to the point,
the tens of thousands of Canadians that work for or are in partnership with
the company - many of whom themselves are mothers and fathers - obviously take
great offense at any suggestion that we would involve ourselves with a tobacco
product that targets kids and/or that we care less about kids and
youth-related issues than other Canadian parents. At a time when Canadian
survey data continually establishes Alcohol, Gambling and Marijuana use as
much more prevalent youth-related problems in our country, one has to question
the thinking and motives behind the current agenda against cigarillos.

    Casa Cubana is a Montreal-based importer of quality cigar products.
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. The company imports and distributes a wide variety
of cigar products, to include traditional product, little cigars and flavoured

For further information:

For further information: Luc Martial, (819) 682-2352, Cell: (819)

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Casa Cubana

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