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Canada’s Health Minister Chooses To Ignore Today’s Real Tobacco Problem

Imperial Tobacco Canada asks the Minister where the proposed health warnings will be on the illegal “baggies”

Montreal, Quebec, December 30, 2010 – Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited today lamented the Minister of Health’s decision to abandon her commitment to tackle the nation’s contraband tobacco problem and imposing new regulations on the legal tobacco industry.“This announcement is simply poor policy for political gain and has little to do with its stated health objectives,” said John Clayton, vice president, Corporate Affairs.

Since 2006, illegal cigarettes have made up between 18-33% of the national market with rates soaring to as much as nearly half of the market in Ontario. The RCMP has reported recently there are now 50 illegal cigarette factories and over 300 smoke shacks selling tobacco on First Nations reserves in Canada. After announcing in September that tackling illegal tobacco was her priority, special-interest anti-tobacco groups lobbied the Minister heavily to focus on increasing the size of health warnings on legal products. Most of these groups are funded by her own department.

“Three months ago, the Minister of Health said illegal tobacco was her priority. However, she has done nothing to crack down on the illegal trade since then. Instead, she caved into the pressure of a handful of anti-tobacco groups,” said Mr. Clayton. “The illegal operators already ignore over 200 rules and regulations, including the existing labeling requirements. This will simply be another law that is ignored – and yet another case of the Government of Canada turning a blind eye to that illegal activity,” he added.

Imperial Tobacco Canada recognizes the health risks associated with smoking and agrees that consumers should continue to be informed about those risks. The Company also believes that the health risks have been known for decades and that the existing regulations provide sufficient information to consumers in order for them to make an informed decision. Today in Canada, tobacco regulation places a fifty percent health warning on cigarette packs, prohibits display from public view and restricts most communication to consumers.

“Increasing the size of health warnings will not provide greater awareness to consumers or decrease the number of smokers” said Mr. Clayton. “It is unfortunate that the Health Minister has decided to let a few anti-tobacco groups dictate the government’s tobacco control strategy instead of using a common sense approach,” he added.

Media contact
Eric Gagnon
Manager, External Communications
Tel: (514) 932-6161, ext. 2113