Tobacco Info

From Tobacco Info No. 1 - June 2010
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Cigarillos in packs of 20

April 6 marked the final day of individual cigarillo sales, thanks to the passing of federal bill C-32 in October, 2009. Under the terms of the federal legislation, the Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act, cigarillos must now be sold in packs of at least 20. These measures were established in order to restrict the marketing of cigarillos to young people. Tobacco control groups demonstrated that smoking among youth had increased as a result of the promotion of flavoured cigarillos, which were attractive and affordable for teenagers because they were sold in smaller, colourful packages and were available in an array of flavours like chocolate or candy.

Later this summer, the question of additives will be answered by a second phase of bill C-32. On July 5, 2010, virtually all flavourings added to cigarettes, cigarillos and blunt wraps, including the addition of sugar, honey or other sweeteners, will be banned.


Tobacco tax hikes

In the provincial budget delivered on March 29, 2010, the Newfoundland and Labrador government increased tobacco taxes by $2.00 per carton of 200 cigarettes and by $2.00 per 200 roll-your-own cigarettes (100 grams of tobacco).  Tobacco taxes are increased by 1 cent per cigarette and 2 cents per gram of roll-your-own. The province is forecasting that total tobacco tax revenues will increase by $6 million per year, from $113 million to $119 million.

In the Manitoba Budget tabled March 23, 2010, tobacco taxes were increased by $4.00 per carton of 200 cigarettes and by $2.00 per 200 roll-your-own cigarettes (100 g). The budget forecasts an increase in annual revenue of $18 million, from $207 million to $225 million.

In the Nova Scotia budget delivered on Tuesday, April 6, the government increased the provincial portion of the harmonized sales tax from 8% to 10% effective July 1, 2010, meaning that the total HST will increase from 13% to 15%. The result is that the price of a carton of 200 cigarettes will go up by about $1.50, and the price of 200 roll-your-own cigarettes (100 g) will go up by about 70 cents.

Effective April 1, 2010, the government of the Northwest Territories will be introducing policies to ensure that tobacco tax rates keep up with inflation.


The doctor’s not always right

Retired psychiatrist, Dr. Jean-Jacques Bourque, former  president of Quebec’s Association of Psychiatrists, wrote a book entitled Écrasons la cigarette, pas le fumeur (Crush the cigarette, not the smoker), which received wide and unquestioning media coverage in Quebec.

Bourque’s book, published in January, argues that smoke is less harmful to smokers than the social pressures they feel with smoke-free initiatives or tobacco cessation messages. He also claims that smokers are people with mental illness, but not conscious of their condition, and would be at risk of suicide if they halted the intake of nicotine. As a result, he proposes that health warnings on tobacco packs should include information discouraging quitting. 

Bourque’s plea depicts nicotine addiction as apparently incurable, and uses a set of unverifiable and often melodramatic anecdotes to justify what he believes has been a “crusade” to crush smokers.

In the book, Bourque sidesteps the dangers of the thousands of chemicals in cigarettes. While he does admit the potential risk of secondhand smoke, he leads readers away from the real damage of secondhand smoking with statistical half-truths. Beyond the first part of the title, the 187-page book is in no way an incentive for anyone to “crush” cigarettes.

Bourque mentions that doctors regularly prescribe drugs more toxic than tobacco, revealing that he himself is a pipe smoker.

Several doctors in Quebec refuted many of Bourque’s claims, like Dr. Marc-Andre Roy, psychiatrist with Laval University in Quebec City, who said that his ideas about warning labels were “exaggerated and don’t make any sense.

In the book’s armory of metaphors, smokers are witches on the stake, tobacco control advocates, the Inquisition and Dr. Bourque himself, Galileo.


Gates pulls funding for Canadian research

Bill Gates’ charitable foundation has cancelled a $5.2 million grant to the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) for planned tobacco control work in Africa, citing disturbing links to the tobacco industry.

The Gates Foundation made the decision after learning that the chair of IDRC’s board of governors, Barbara McDougall, was, from 2004 until last month, also a board member of Imperial Tobacco Canada (ITC), a subsidiary of British American Tobacco.

Tobacco control advocates argue that Barbara McDougall’s appointment to the IDRC’s board was a blatant conflict of interest and is in direct violation of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which seeks to prevent tobacco industry officials from influencing government public health policy. Canada ratified the treaty in 2004.

The press release announcing McDougall’s appointment to the IDRC board did not mention her directorship of ITC, nor is it mentioned in her bio on the IDRC website.


World No Tobacco Day

“Gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women” will be the theme for the World No Tobacco Day, which will take place on May 31, 2010.

Controlling the epidemic of tobacco among women is an important part of any comprehensive strategy. World No Tobacco Day 2010 will be designed to draw particular attention to the harmful effects of tobacco marketing towards women and girls,” states the World Health Organization in a press release.

Women comprise about 20% of the world’s more than one billion smokers. However, female rates are on the rise, while male smoking rates have peaked. Women represent a very important opportunity for the tobacco industry, which needs to recruit new users to replace the one-third to one-half of current users who will die from tobacco-related diseases.

Data from the new WHO report, Women and health: today’s evidence, tomorrow’s agenda, shows that globally about 7% of adolescent girls smoke cigarettes as compared  to 12% of adolescent boys. In some primarily developed countries, almost as many girls smoke as boys.

The global health treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which took effect in 2005, expresses alarm at the “increase in smoking and other forms of tobacco consumption by women and young girls worldwide.”