Imperial Tobacco Canada has come out in support of the ‘intention behind the amendments to the Quebec Tobacco Act’, but believes certain measures will not achieve the government’s public health objectives and, in some cases, will be counterproductive.
According to a CBC News story relayed by the TMA, the junior minister for public health, Lucie Charlebois, on Tuesday tabled Bill 44 that would ban electronic cigarette use in public places; outlaw the sale of these devices to minors; prohibit tobacco smoking inside vehicles carrying young people under the age of 16; expand the smoking ban in enclosed public places to bar and restaurant patios, and to common areas in buildings of two to five apartments; and ban flavored tobacco products. Also under the bill, retailers ‘repeatedly’ caught selling tobacco products to minors could be fined up to C$250,000 (US$ 208,000), while businesses that allowed customers to smoke on patios could face fines of up to C$100,000 (US$ 83,200).
A public consultation is due to be held on the proposals before members of the National Assembly vote on the bill.
“We applaud the Government of Quebec for making sure there is ample time for consultation on the amendments, and we look forward to being part of the process,” Caroline Ferland, vice-president of corporate and regulatory affairs at Imperial said in a statement issued through Canada Newswire. “We are hopeful that the government will be receptive during the consultation process and recognize the difference between fact-based evidence and emotional cries for change”
Imperial said that in its proposed amendments to the act, the government intended to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes; a ban that would serve only to fuel the illegal tobacco trade while not contributing to reaching any of the government’s health objectives. “Although we agree with many of the proposed measures, such as a ban of fruity-, candy- and confectionary-flavored tobacco products, there is no fact-based evidence to support a ban of menthol products,” said Ferland. “Prohibiting menthol will drive adult consumers to the illegal tobacco market where over 35 menthol brands are already available.”
Imperial has a problem, too, with the government’s intention to regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products. It said that such an approach failed to take account of the unique nature of these products, which did not contain tobacco.
“We recognize the potential health risks associated with smoking and support reasonable, evidence and fact-based regulation of tobacco products, especially those intended to keep tobacco out of the hands of youth,” said Ferland. “We fully support Minister Charlebois’ stated intention of the bill: to protect youth, and we look forward to being part of the discussion process.”
Dr. Richard Massé, director of public health at Montréal’s health and social services agency and the Coalition Québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac, also welcomed the bill, but he argued that the measures did not go far enough – did not require standardized tobacco packaging.
According to a story in the Montreal Gazette relayed by the TMA, Massé commended the government for following the ‘precautionary principle’ in banning electronic cigarette use in indoor public places.
Meanwhile, Suzanne Dubois, executive director of the Quebec division of the Canadian Cancer Society, commended Charlebois’ “courage in putting an end to the sad strategies of the tobacco industry”.
One Montreal bar and restaurant owner had other ideas, however. According to a story by The Canadian Press, Peter Sergakis, who owns 40 establishments in the Montreal area, predicted that business would drop by as much as 15 per cent if Quebec went ahead with the plan to ban smoking on outdoor patios.
Sergakis said the proposed rules would result in clients opting to stay home at a time when business was already slumping. “The consumer has no money and instead of going to bars and restaurants two or three times a year, they’re going once because everything is so expensive,” he said.
“With no smoking on patios there will be even less people coming.”