When a tobacco company starts talking about sustainability, it raises a few eyebrows – particularly in Canada, where tobacco control measures are among the strictest in the world.
It seems clear to me that the intention of the restrictive tobacco policies in Canada is to ensure there is no future for the industry. But despite all these measures, like retail display bans, ingredients bans and high taxes and excise, people continue to choose to smoke.
The difference is that many of these smokers now go to illegal sources – in fact, it’s estimated that in 2010 one in five cigarettes sold in Canada was illegal. Many of these illegal cigarettes are made on First Nations reservations of indigenous Canadians and distributed by organised criminal gangs. They’re sold in roadside smoke shacks in untaxed bags of 200 cigarettes, which often sell for as little as a 10th of the price of legal cigarettes.
The people selling these products aren’t following any of the tobacco regulations, such as having health warnings on the bags and not selling cigarettes to children. So surely it’s better to have a legitimate, regulated industry than a black market that is untaxed and unregulated.
As the leading tobacco company in Canada, we have a responsibility to raise awareness of these issues. Of course we want to protect our business, and we fully intend to remain the market leader, but what we’re fighting for isn’t just better for us – it’s better for Canadian society too.Marie Polet, President and CEO, Imperial Tobacco Canada