MONTREAL, Jan. 27, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - Anti-tobacco groups in the province of Alberta have duped the government into moving towards banning flavoured tobacco products, by aggressively prompting and promoting information that is recklessly misleading. Consequently, the government of Alberta is on the verge of throwing away tens of millions of dollars in legitimate annual tax revenues - while seriously undermining the rights of thousands of legitimate business owners and half a million smokers/voters across the province.
The Tobacco Reduction (Flavoured Tobacco Products) Amendment Act, 2013 - formerly known as Bill 206 - passed Third Reading on November 25th, 2013 and received Royal Assent on December 11th, 2013. The law is currently awaiting Proclamation through an Order in Council and no specific regulations have yet been identified.
Legitimate industry stakeholders across the province are now actively reaching out to the government demanding a Stay of Proclamation and/or any subsequent eventual regulations.
"We have contacted key Cabinet Ministers and Premier Redford, effectively asking them to stop and actually think about this one before it's too late", says Luc Martial - VP in charge of Government Affairs at Casa Cubana. Mr. Martial is also a longstanding tobacco control expert in Canada, having (of relevance to this file) 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 include postings with the Non-Smokers' Rights Association of Canada, the Canadian Council on Smoking and Health, and the National Clearinghouse on Tobacco and Health.
In Alberta, Casa Cubana legally distributes flavoured little cigar products such as Prime Time and Bullseye, through more than 2,500 licenced retailers servicing more than 500,000 tobacco customers. Sales of these two products alone generate more than $11 million in provincial tax revenues every year.
The health groups' recent and unjustified attack against flavoured tobacco products found momentum and support 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 Smoking Gun for the industry
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. All of the data collected is available on 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.
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 led the government of Alberta to rush to regulate a product and industry it knew absolutely nothing about", said Mr. Martial.
THE SMOKING GUN in their 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 to start smoking", 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 call for a ban on flavoured tobacco products.
"And of all of the YSS data it collected for Health Canada, that the Propel Centre would choose to issue a public report on flavoured tobacco use as an implied priority among today's high school youth is also questionable in choice. They knew that the YSS data clearly showed that flavoured tobacco took a back (way back) seat to much more prevalent youth health priorities - (i.e. Alcohol use, binge drinking, marijuana use)", said Mr. Martial.
THE TRUTH ABOUT FLAVOURED TOBACCO PRODUCTS - According to Health Canada
- 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 CANADIAN TOBACCO USE MONITORING SURVEY CLEARLY CONFIRMS:
- There are more than 500,000 legal-age Albertans who exercise their individual right to buy legal tobacco products in the province.
- The market for flavoured tobacco products (i.e. flavoured little cigars) is absolutely adult-driven (92%).
- 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.
- There was actually a decline among kids smoking little cigars (flavoured and unflavoured), from 2011 to 2012 (from 6% to 5%).
CTUMS data can be found at the Health Canada website at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/research-recherche/stat/index-eng.php
THE YOUTH SMOKING SURVEY CLEARLY CONFIRMS THAT:
- High school kids unfortunately do try flavoured tobacco products - but only because they are already smoking/smokers. Traditional tobacco is the gateway to "trying" flavoured tobacco products.
- 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 entice kids into becoming smokers.
- Only 1% of high school kids (29,000 across Canada) who never tried smoking a cigarette - "tried" a flavoured tobacco product in the previous 30 days of the survey.
- 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 (illegal) access to tobacco - by far, from family members and friends (75%).
- In Alberta, 3 times more high school kids consume alcohol compared to tobacco.
- In Alberta, 11 times more high school kids consume alcohol compared to flavoured tobacco products (other than menthol).
- In Alberta, 9 times more high school kids "binge drink" alcohol compared to consuming flavoured tobacco products (other than menthol).
- In Alberta, 5 times more high school kids consume marijuana compared to flavoured tobacco products (other than menthol).
"That publicly funded health groups in Alberta have focused their efforts and wasted the people's time and tax dollars on wanting to ban flavoured tobacco products in the province - as a way to allegedly address a pressing youth health crisis - is a perfect example of the immediate need for review of and accountability on public funding in government. Action by these groups, on this file alone, not only justifies but warrants funding termination", said Mr. Martial.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- No responsible and honest tobacco control expert in Canada would ever lend their reputation to the offensive insinuations that have been promoted in the media about flavoured tobacco products and the industry.
- It is important to note that the market for flavoured tobacco products in Canada continues to represent less than 0.5% of all tobacco products sold every year in the country.
- As in Alcohol, adult consumers have come to expect, demand and enjoy a wide variety of flavours in their tobacco products.
- The exact same flavours which health groups contend are intentionally designed to "target kids" can be found in a much wider variety of alcohol products approved for sale by the government of Alberta and sold in the province every day.
- In Alberta, according to data obtained from the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) and the Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdiction (CALJ) - there are:
- 40+ STRAWBERRY flavoured alcohol products
- 30+ PEACH flavoured alcohol products
- 26+ CHERRY flavoured alcohol products
- 18+ GRAPE flavoured alcohol products
- 20+ CHOCOLATE flavoured alcohol products
- 50+ RASPBERRY flavoured alcohol products
- 15+ APPLE flavoured alcohol products
*Alcohol products include Spirits, Coolers, Ciders, Liqueurs, Wines, Beers and Cocktails.
- As with Alcohol, there are (unfortunately) some high school kids who are trying tobacco. This however, is the overwhelming result of friends and family members breaking the law and illegally providing tobacco products to them.
- Traditional tobacco use is the gateway to high school kids "trying" a flavoured tobacco product - not the other way around.
- There is no valid rationale for allowing legal-age Albertans the right to consume flavoured alcohol products, but not flavoured tobacco products.
- There is no valid rationale for undermining the legitimate business investments of more than 2,500 retailers in Alberta who responsibly distribute flavoured tobacco products to legal age-verified customers every day.
- There is no valid rationale for throwing away tens of millions of dollars in legitimate tax revenues every year - collected from the legitimate sale of flavoured tobacco products that, according to Health Canada data - clearly supplies a legal-age demand.
"Based on my professional background and experience in tobacco control and with the anti-tobacco movement in Canada - I think it's fair to say that some groups have intentionally exploited the Propel Centre's limited interpretation of the YSS data as a way to effectively misdirect the public's attention and blindside government into making an extremely poor legislative decision. For other youth-oriented groups who keep emerging on the flavoured tobacco issue and tugging at politicians' heartstrings - their efforts and voices are simply misguided. These youth organizations, these wide-eyed kids, are obviously all well-meaning and should be commended for their interest in wanting to contribute to their communities and society in general - but the fact remains that they do not have the experience, maturity or mandate to understand the information given to them or more importantly challenge its validity and credibility. So they unfortunately, simply become BIG ANTI-TOBACCO's pawns and puppets - and in the end their involvement only comes to cloud the government's judgement and productive public policies on tobacco" said Mr. Martial.
OUR CALL TO GOVERNMENT
- Casa Cubana and its thousands of commercial partners in the province are actively calling upon the government of Alberta to effectively Stay Proclamation of the law and/or any subsequent regulations - until a formal and full public review of the issue is undertaken.
- Casa Cubana is calling upon the 43 members of the Alberta Legislature who, on November 25th, 2013 actually stood up in pride to announce their support of Bill 206 - to now publicly retract their support and demand that the Health Minister actually conduct a fair, honest, open and comprehensive review of this issue before moving forward. Casa Cubana is asking these MPPs to essentially place integrity above pride - in support of the rights of all Albertans.
- Casa Cubana is calling upon the Health Minister to show real leadership on this file by conducting expert research and analysis of the data on youth smoking (and flavoured tobacco products specifically) - in support of responsible and productive tobacco control policies in the province.
- Casa Cubana and its thousands of commercial partners in the province are calling upon the government of Alberta to focus its regulatory interest on those people who are actually breaking the law and knowingly providing high school kids with tobacco products. Just because mom and dad, big brother or sister or a school friend breaks the law and gives a tobacco product to a minor - shouldn't mean that everyone else should have to lose their legitimate jobs and/or business investments.
- Casa Cubana is calling upon the government of Alberta to initiate a formidable educational campaign aimed at reminding friends and family members that it is against the law to furnish any minor with any tobacco product.
- Casa Cubana is calling upon the government to enact and enforce a youth possession law.
- Finally, Casa Cubana is calling upon the Minister of Finance to publicly consider the wide ranging ramifications of Bill 206. Enacting this unjustified and unwarranted law would mean unnecessarily throwing away tens of millions of dollars in current, legitimate annual government tax revenues - while hurting thousands of businesses across Alberta.
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 Alberta, the company distributes its products to more than 2,500 licenced retail clients servicing more than half a million legal-age smokers.
SOURCE: Casa Cubana
For further information:
VP Government Affairs
Cell: (819) 743-9140