MONTRÉAL, April 18, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The government of Manitoba recently introduced in the Legislature a Bill that would come to unjustifiably and without warrant ban the sale of legitimate flavoured tobacco products in the province. Bill 52, the Non-Smokers Health Protection Amendment Act (Prohibitions on Flavoured Tobacco and Other Amendments) was introduced on April 16th, by the Hon. Sharon Blady, Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors.
"The existence of this Bill comes to fundamentally question the existence of honesty and integrity within government. The easily verifiable truth of the matter is that the Minister's allegations about flavoured tobacco products and the industry are grossly misleading, bordering on the fraudulent and tantamount to an outright lie", 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.
"With Bill 52, the Minister is essentially finger-pointing the more than 1,500 legitimate business owners across the province (who responsibly sell these legitimate products) - as people who target, depend on and profit from the sale of tobacco products to kids. It is an offensive and groundless insinuation that comes to further threaten their livelihoods, undermine their individual rights and undermine their customers' rights", says Mr. Martial.
"If the Minister had done any due diligence on this file, instead of rushing to regulate a product and an industry that she apparently knows absolutely nothing about, she would have realized how baseless her personal attack was against these legitimate products and the industry which responsibly services what is without question an adult-driven market in Manitoba", says Mr. Martial.
According to the only existing, unbiased, evidence-based research available (i.e. Health Canada's Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey and Youth Smoking Survey):
- There are approximately 800,000 legal-age consumers of little cigar products in Canada (flavoured and unflavoured).
- 94% of the market for our flavoured little cigar products (e.g. Prime Time, Bullseye) is adult-driven.
- The majority of our flavoured tobacco consumers are over the age of 25.
- The kids who do unfortunately find illegal access to our flavoured tobacco products – overwhelmingly get their illegal access through friends and family members (75%).
- Flavours in tobacco do not entice or encourage kids into becoming smokers. If a kid is not already a tobacco smoker (cigarettes), there is virtually zero chance that he or she ever will "try" a flavoured tobacco product.
- The tobacco product of choice among kids is by far (non-flavoured) cigarettes.
- The flavour of choice among kids who "try" a flavoured tobacco product is by far MENTHOL.
"It is important to note that Bill 52, if enacted into law, would simply come to channel our current, legal-age-verified flavoured tobacco customers into the waiting hands of Big Tobacco. So why is the Minister so intent on doing a big favour for Big Tobacco? The answer seems quite simple and obvious. By publicly allowing the Big Tobacco companies to keep selling menthol cigarettes (the product and the flavour of choice among kids who try flavoured tobacco products, according to Health Canada research), the Minister knows that she can expect their support for (no opposition to) her current Bill aimed at destroying the legitimate, easier-to-pick-on, niche-market tobacco companies (i.e. their competitors). It's a win-win for the Minister and Big Tobacco", says Mr. Martial.
From a purely policy standpoint, it is also important to question the rationale and legitimacy of banning those flavours found in tobacco products - which are equally found in much greater quantities and wider varieties of alcohol products which the government approves for sale every day in the province. This, especially within the context of high school kids finding much greater interest and getting much greater illegal access to alcohol products (compared to flavoured tobacco).
According to the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission (MLCC):
- 15+ alcohol beverages sold in Manitoba are STRAWBERRY flavoured
- 10+ alcohol beverages sold in Manitoba are PEACH flavoured
- 19+ alcohol beverages sold in Manitoba are CHERRY flavoured
- 5+ alcohol beverages sold in Manitoba are GRAPE flavoured
- 10+ alcohol beverages sold in Manitoba are CHOCOLATE flavoured
- 10+ alcohol beverages sold in Manitoba are RASPBERRY flavoured
N.B. Alcohol beverages include Spirits, Coolers, Ciders, Liqueurs, Wines and Beers, Cocktails.
Finally, it is important to note that the Minister's Bill is largely leveraged on a study conducted by the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact (University of Waterloo in Ontario). This study, titled: Flavoured Tobacco Use Among Canadian Youth: Evidence From Canada's 2010/2011 Youth Smoking Survey - was made public in October of 2013. The Propel study, however, arguably provides for a misleading interpretation of flavoured tobacco products and their illegal use among youth. Furthermore, it provides absolutely no evidence that flavoured tobacco products entice kids to start or continue smoking. The Propel Centre's personal interpretation of Health Canada's Youth Smoking Survey (YSS) data - was arguably designed to shock. There is also the question of one key omitted YSS data (in their report) which effectively confirms that if kids are not already smoking tobacco, there is virtually zero chance that they will ever try a flavoured tobacco product. In this sense, the presence of flavours in tobacco products is not relevant enough to encourage or entice kids into trying tobacco/smoking.
While we can certainly appreciate how politically difficult it is for any MPP to even question the merit of any proposed tobacco control initiative - without appearing to support tobacco or smoking - we would suggest that this issue and this Bill speaks to an even greater and more pressing matter of public accountability in government. It remains our hope that elected officials in Manitoba will demand due diligence on this file before blindly supporting passage of this completely misguided, baseless, offensive and irreparably damaging Bill.
Casa Cubana and its more than 1,500 commercial partners throughout Manitoba are simply asking that the government publicly consult on this issue before moving dangerously forward with what is currently tantamount to purely anti-business legislation.
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.
SOURCE: Casa Cubana
For further information: Luc Martial, VP Government Affairs, Cell: (819) 743-9140