Cigarette prohibition is not on the agenda
After I was briefed on the file three weeks ago, I mentioned for the first time in a Journal de Québec interview the problems potentially raised by Bill C-32. This bill amends the Tobacco Act in order to prevent the marketing of little cigars with fruit and confectionary-style flavours which are considered to be attractive to minors. This is a commendable goal to protect the health of youths, since the law forbids the sale of tobacco products to minors, but despite that these little cigars still seem to be aimed at them.
However, as drafted by Health Canada bureaucrats, the text of the bill has a reach that is so broad that it would also forbid the use of hundreds of other ingredients, in particular those used in the production of American blended cigarettes. This blend contains among other things Burley tobacco, and the ingredients added to it are only used to modify in an imperceptible way the bitter taste of this type of tobacco without giving it a specific aroma like that of fruits or candy.
Although the consumption of this product is not widespread in Canada (the Canadian market is dominated by Virginia tobacco, which is milder and does not need these additives), we’re talking here about a type of cigarettes among the most widely distributed throughout the world, with well known brands such as Camel, Marlboro and Gitanes. It’s a product intended for adults and has nothing to do with flavoured small cigars.
And yet, the bill’s goal cannot be clearer. Its alternative title is the “Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act.”
Freedom of choice is a fundamental principle in a civilised society. We can think what we want about the act of smoking (personally, I don’t smoke), but it remains legal. There is no reason to deprive adult smokers of the possibility of choosing between cigarettes that contain Burley tobacco, and cigarettes that contain Virginia tobacco, even if those who choose the first are in a minority.
Anti smoking pressure groups claim that the disappearance of American blended cigarettes is the price to pay to make sure that we protect the health of young Canadians. But there has never been any public debate on the prohibition of cigarette or of some types of cigarettes in Canada before or since the tabling of this bill.
C-32 has already been approved unanimously by all parties in the House of Commons and is now being examined by the Senate. However, less than two weeks ago, the Quebec Conservative caucus (Members of Parliament and Senators) declared its support for amendments which would make it more acceptable, without diluting the original intention of protecting minors.
The fact is that, in addition to violating a fundamental principle, this legislation could have important negative repercussions, among which an increase in contraband sales, a violation of our international commercial obligations, and the closing of the Rothmans plant in Quebec City which employs 330 workers.
In the coming days, we are going to try to raise this issue with our colleagues in other provinces so that the Senate adopts amendments that would exclude American blended cigarettes from the list of products that would be banned.
As I said in several occasions, liberty and responsibility are the two most important concepts in my political philosophy. We should not deprive consumers of a legitimate freedom of choice without reason. It’s a question of principles.
You can leave a response.