Imperial Tobacco Canada responds to new tobacco surtax
June 27, 2008 08:59
MONTREAL, June 27 /CNW Telbec/ – Imperial Tobacco Canada believes that certain provisions of the federal government’s Bill C-50, which include the application of a surtax on “manufactured tobacco” sold in quantities equal to or lower than 50 grams, will ultimately impede the introduction of new smokeless tobacco products with potentially lower health risks such as Swedish style snus.
“While we acknowledge that there is no safe tobacco product, we believe that adult Canadian smokers deserve to have product options that represent potentially lower health risks than smoking, and we believe that the tobacco industry should be encouraged, not discouraged, to bring these products to the Canadian market,” said Benjamin Kemball, President and CEO of Imperial Tobacco Canada. “When certain provisions of the bill come into force next week the price of snus will increase to such a degree that smokers might not consider them a viable option.”
Products with potentially lower health risks than smoking, such as snus, a smokeless tobacco used orally, which is not chewed or spit, are traditionally sold in quantities much lower than 50 grams due to the nature and usage of the product. When certain sections of Bill C-50 come into force, the tax on snus will increase from $0.46 to $2.89 per tin; a 600% increase that would make it more expensive than a pack of cigarettes.
“It seems strange that while Australia, New Zealand and the EU are all studying the harm reduction potential of snus, Canada, who claims to be a leader in the area of tobacco control, seems to be turning a blind eye to this important issue”. Because of the illegal tobacco market, it has never been easier or cheaper to buy cigarettes in this country. However, the Canadian government appears to be focusing its attention on regulating out of the market a tobacco product that has been observed as potentially less risky.” said Mr. Kemball.
Despite all these challenges, Imperial Tobacco Canada is committed to offer adult smokers in Canada products that may be less risky and to continue to test market these products in Canada.
David Sweanor . It’s smoking that kills
January 31, 2008
David Sweanor, Citizen Special
My fellow anti-smoking advocates have taken their eyes off the ball with their fierce opposition to a new smokeless tobacco product
Imperial Tobacco has recently started a test market of a non-combustible tobacco product in Ottawa called “snus.” As befits any action by a company responsible for untold thousands of cigarette-caused deaths and a decades-long history of denying science and fighting public health measures, the immediate reaction of some anti-tobacco groups was to attack the initiative. Though that is the expected response, it may not be the wisest one.
There is no doubt that cigarette smoking is an enormous cause of death and disease, responsible as it is for more than 40,000 deaths a year in Canada. Smoking dwarfs the combined death toll from AIDS, illicit drugs, alcohol, homicide and automobile accidents. Yet it is important to recognize that the reason for this tragic toll is not the nicotine that smokers seek but the repeated inhalation of smoke into the lungs in pursuit of it. Smokers smoke for the nicotine, but die from the smoke. Cigarettes can be accurately seen as a “dirty drug delivery system” akin to HIV-infected needles or an alcoholic beverage contaminated with diethylene glycol.
Many of those working to reduce the risks of illicit drugs – as has recently received considerable attention in Ottawa with respect to users of crack cocaine – promote “harm reduction” as one of the key tools to reduce the health toll from drug use. Harm reduction efforts have a long and successful history in many other areas, including highway design, auto safety standards, alcohol regulations, pharmaceutical oversight, food preparation standards and sex education. Pragmatic efforts to improve the health of a population recognize that there are many risky behaviours that will not be eliminated in the foreseeable future. But we can often dramatically reduce the deaths, injuries and diseases caused by such behaviours by finding ways to reduce the associated risks – even as we pursue strategies to completely eliminate the behaviour.
In the case of nicotine self-administration, the continuum of risk is extraordinarily broad. It ranges from the 50-per-cent mortality rate associated with long-term smoking to the massively lower risks from medicinal nicotine products such as Nicorette gum. Indeed, the greatest risk associated with medicinal nicotine products is that smokers will use too little for too short a period of time and thus revert to smoking. While nicotine itself has health risks (and fetal risks are worth noting), at the dosage levels smokers seek these risks are comparable to those associated with caffeine rather than those associated with cigarette smoking.
By way of comparison for tobacco products, the cigarettes Imperial Tobacco sells are at least 10 times, and likely closer to 100 times, more toxic than the non-combustion “snus” product the company is now placing into test markets. Odd, then, that some self-described public health advocates would attack the availability of the less toxic alternative. To follow such a line of reasoning would suggest that we mandate the addition of yet more toxins to cigarettes. After all, if much less toxic products are a bad idea, then much more toxic ones must be a good idea.
There is a more sensible strategy. For smokers who would otherwise not quit and can switch completely to the snus products of Imperial Tobacco, the health gains (including to those sharing air space with the consumer) are significant. Anti-tobacco organizations or tobacco companies that fail to fully inform smokers about such an option are engaged in a fundamental denial of human rights, and the perpetuation of our epidemic of smoking-caused diseases.
In reality, though, most smokers are unlikely be making the switch to Imperial Tobacco’s snus, and that is actually where the snus products are likely even more important. Such products are, like the prototype safer car built by Preston Tucker in 1948, an example of “proof of concept.” Such a product shows that it is possible to have a far less dangerous product. This should leave us only questions about which alternative products should be offered and how we might best regulate the market to ensure maximum health gains.
Few smokers are currently aware that it is possible to obtain their nicotine at a fraction of the risk they currently face. Were Canadians to become aware of this, there would undoubtedly be demands that tobacco products be regulated in a way that sought maximum reduction in these risks, as there would be for consumer-centric regulation of medicinal nicotine products. If people could meet their long-term needs for nicotine through snus, or through gum, patches, lozenges, inhalers (or who-knows-what new products), why are such options denied to them?
Canada currently is the victim of a “nicotine maintenance monopoly.” More than five million of our fellow citizens are only allowed to satisfy their long-term nicotine demand by use of a product that will kill half of them, reduce the quality of life for most of the rest, pollutes the air for all of us and causes users to be unwilling role models for kids.
When dealing with any cause of death, injury or disease, we have four broad areas of intervention: We can try to prevent onset of the behaviour, encourage cessation among those already engaging in it, protect third parties from any associated risks, and reduce the risks for those who will continue the behaviour. This applies whether we are talking about rock climbing, crack smoking, motorcycle riding, drinking to excess, playing goal for house league hockey or ingesting nicotine. The way we use these four broad avenues of intervention will vary, but the goal is always the same: the maximum practical reduction in the risk of harm.
Rather than attacking Imperial Tobacco for introducing a much less toxic alternative to cigarettes maybe we should welcome the opportunity to discuss a rational, health-based regulatory approach for the full range of nicotine delivery products. If in the end there is a better recognition of the limitations of a “just say no” approach to tobacco and nicotine, so much the better.
We need to show greater compassion for smokers. We need to offer them far more help to quit and a wider range of less toxic options for those not yet ready, willing and able to quit. We need to provide truthful and non-misleading information about relative risks, and allow consumers to make informed decisions.
Were we to do so, we could have far, far fewer Canadians smoking cigarettes. That would create a public health breakthrough of historic proportions. Such a breakthrough would not stop efforts at reducing overall nicotine use, but, even for those with zero-tolerance for any form of nicotine use, the first step should be to keep the users alive long enough for other interventions to work.
David Sweanor is an adjunct professor of law at the University of Ottawa and special lecturer with the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham.
He has been actively involved in tobacco and health issues for nearly 30 years.
January 29, 2008
The Edmonton Journal
Re: “U of A tobacco ties slammed: Activists film governor Bruce Saville, put him on Internet,” The Journal, Jan. 25.
This article misrepresents my research as being about “the health effects of chewing tobacco compared with smoking.”
In reality, the answer to that question is known beyond any scientific doubt (modern smokeless tobacco, most of which is not actually chewed, is about 99-per-cent less harmful than smoking). My research focuses on the possibility of helping smokers who will not quit to switch to smokeless tobacco, which is almost as good for their health as quitting entirely.
A program encouraging such “harm reduction” offers a greater potential for improving public health in Canada than any other current policy proposal (for more information see TobaccoHarmReduction.org).
The Journal quoted the scientific claims of the student activist who initiated the story. His background is limited to political science and philosophy, and that lack of scientific background is evident in the factual errors that appeared in the story (for example, smoking is obviously very unhealthy, but tobacco still kills considerably less than half of its users, contrary to what was published).
The story also misrepresents the university’s policy regarding funding from tobacco companies, also apparently based on claims by the student. In particular, the School of Public Health publicly declared opposition to funding from the tobacco industry, but they have never promulgated a “ban” as official policy. I am still in that school and my research is still partially supported by industry funds.
I believe that the university would not allow a faculty to enforce such a denial of intellectual freedom if they tried.
Carl V. Phillips,
associate professor, University of Alberta School of Public Health, Edmonton
Read More:? Canada Snus Update Page 1