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Letter: Government must stop brand expropriation

While the federal government moves ahead with the legalization of marijuana, it continues to seek stricter tobacco industry regulation by banning menthol cigarettes and introducing plain packaging. These tobacco regulations are an easy political win meant to generate headlines and appease a vocal, well-funded tobacco control lobby, but do nothing to further reduce smoking rates.–government-must-stop-brand-expropriation.html

Meanwhile, millions of Canadians purchase marijuana. In fact, most surveys show marijuana use higher than smoking. According to Health Canada’s own data, the youth usage rate for marijuana is almost six times that of tobacco, which is remarkable since marijuana is presently illegal. This is interesting since as an illegal product, marijuana is already effectively sold in a plain pack.

The federal government’s stated objective with marijuana legalization is to get people to switch over from the illegal and unregulated market to the regulated market. The government’s task force on marijuana legalization recommended plain packaging for that product.

Licensed producers of marijuana are now arguing that branding and marketing are necessary to attract consumers from the black market to the legal industry and cite the liquor sector as an example to follow. Branding justifies why it makes sense for consumers to go through the legal system instead of going to somebody they know in the neighbourhood.

The tobacco industry also needs brands to differentiate its products from illegal traffickers. It makes no sense to allow marijuana producers to display their brands to bring consumers through legal channels while taking away branding from the tobacco industry. The only result is sending consumers to the illegal market.

The unlawful production, distribution and sale of cigarettes in Canada has reached unprecedented levels in recent years, with illicit products making up more than 20 per cent of tobacco products. This is creating challenges for public health officials, law enforcement, tax authorities, policy makers and the public. Governments suffer significant revenue shortfalls in tobacco taxes. Efforts on the part of government and other organizations to protect the health of Canadians of all ages are undermined.

Small business owners are losing sales.

Plain and standardized packaging will lead to an increase in Canada’s already rampant illicit tobacco and thereby actually undermine public health objectives.

Unsurprisingly, evidence from Australia shows plain packaging has not achieved any of its stated objectives. Canada will be no different.

Nobody disagrees with the virtues of regulating tobacco and yes, even the tobacco industry believes young people should not smoke. But there are proven means to ensure that young people do not smoke, such as education programs and interventions targeted at at-risk populations. Yet, the government continues to concede to a small but vocal group of anti-tobacco lobbyists who are more anti-industry than pro-health.

With products already hidden from view in stores and 75 per cent of the pack covered with health warnings, nobody starts smoking because of the pack. Plain packaging will only make it easier for counterfeit tobacco manufacturers to copy legitimate products.

No other industry would accept this requirement, as the lobbying from marijuana producers now makes clear. However, all industries should be fearful of this abuse of government power. In the U.K., which passed tobacco plain packaging legislation in 2015, there is a growing chorus of health groups and academics calling for alcohol to suffer the same fate. While it may be tobacco and marijuana facing plain packaging in Canada today, it will be another industry shortly thereafter.

Companies making a legal product have a right to their brands and those need to be protected to ensure consumers have the confidence in the source and quality of the product.

Eric Gagnon, head of external affairs
Imperial Tobacco Canada

Health Minister’s call to raise legal smoking age to 21 receives cloudy reviews

It’s the number-one preventable form of death in B.C.

“You look at cancer, heart disease, other vascular strokes, they’re all related to smoking,” said BC Health Minister Terry Lake.

Earlier this week Lake tweeted the idea of raising the minimum legal smoking age in B.C from 19 to 21.

According to Lake, Hawaii, California, and more than 120 jurisdictions in the United States have already made the move.

“In a study, they looked at one jurisdiction where they had raised the age verses surrounding jurisdictions where it was a younger age,” said Lake. “There was a 47% reduction in smoking in high school students in the jurisdiction that had raised the minimum smoking age to 21.”

The current legal age to buy cigarettes across Canada varies.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec’s legal age is 18.

The rest of the provinces are 19.

While B.C has the lowest smoking rate at 14%, Interior Health Smoking Reduction Coordinator Jeff Connors says raising the legal smoking age to 21 could lower that number even further.

“85% of people who smoke for life start before 19 years of age, so that’s highschool,” said Connors. “I think by sending the message you’re not allowed to, it puts an onus on staff and consumption agencies that tobaccos is a bigger problem. It’s not 19 it’s 21 now, that’s a big difference, so it will reduce the availability to it.”

Along with increasing cigarette buying age, Connors says Health Canada is toying with the idea of making health warning signs larger and even more visible on cigarette packs in an effort to get more people to butt out.

“Looking at plain packaging is another piece, just to reduce the sexiness of the drug,” added Connors.

The majority of the people CFJT-TV spoke to in downtown Kamloops Friday say raising the cigarette buying age won’t deter smokers.

“It’s a bad idea. I see 12-year-old kids smoking, kids are going to still do it,” said one man.

“I think it’s a great idea, anything you can do to deter smokers,” said one woman.

“I don’t think it’s necessary. If a teen wants to smoke, he’s going to smoke,” said another man.

The Health Minister says there’s still plenty to discuss before any changes are made to the smoking market.

“We don’t want to have unintended consequences,” added Lake. “The black market is always something you have to consider when you put in policies like this. It really is just a conversation starter.”

Youths More Likely to Combine E-cigarettes with Other Substances

Are youths more likely to combine e-cigarettes with other substances? A new study of Canadian high school students shows a correlation between e-cigarette use and other risky behaviors, including tobacco and marijuana smoking, binge drinking, and mixing alcohol with energy drinks.

E-cigarette popularity has increased significantly amongst global youths since 2011. Recent data also shows a spike in e-cigarette use amongst high school students in Canada, with approximately 20% of students reporting having tried an e-cigarette. With vapor emerging as a supposedly healthier alternative to tobacco smoking, researchers and public health workers have voiced concerns regarding unknown long-term effects of e-cigarette vapor on individuals’ health, the risks of renormalizing smoking in popular culture, and the potential for e-cigarettes to become gateway substances. Evidence suggests that high school students may be more likely to combine e-cigarettes with other substances such as marijuana and alcohol, which pose health risks amongst youths.

A recent Journal of Adolescent Health (2016) review of year 3 (2014-2015) of the COMPASS study analyzed data from 39,837 Canadian high school students from Grade 9-12 to investigate the correlation between e-cigarette use and binge drinking, mixing energy drinks with alcohol, and smoking tobacco or marijuana. During the course of the COMPASS study, a student-level questionnaire, or Cq, was given to participants during class time in order to collect information regarding substance use within the last 30 days to 12 months. Any student who indicated that they had consistently used a substance within the last 30 days was classified as a current user (e.g. students who reported smoking cigarettes within 30 days prior to taking the questionnaire were categorized as current smokers).

Researchers retained all data for participants that provided full information on necessary variables for the study, such as age, ethnicity, and consistent responses regarding recent substance use. Using these criteria, 2323 respondents were excluded from this study. The remaining data was further divided into subgroups based on sex, ethnicity, and spending money, and placed within a logistic regression model to examine any potential associations between each student’s demographic and their substance use patterns.

Nearly 10% of participating students reported having used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days. Comparatively, approximately 6% were current smokers, 15.97% were marijuana users, 13.69% consumed energy drinks mixed with alcohol, and 16.20% reported occasional binge drinking. While marijuana use was more common among male participants, occasional binge drinking was found to be more prevalent among females. Evidence also showed a higher likelihood of e-cigarette users to use other substances as well (28.66% of e-cigarette users were current tobacco smokers, 53.15% were current marijuana users, 20.09% were occasional binge drinkers, and 41.08% reported mixing alcohol and energy drinks). Researchers found that while the co-occurrence of binge drinking and marijuana use among current e-cigarette users seemed common, e-cigarette users who exclusively only smoked tobacco (and did not binge drink or smoke marijuana) was determined to be rare.

Both current smokers and male students with more spending money were found to be more likely to use e-cigarettes. Similarly, students who reported other health-risky behaviors, such as binge drinking and marijuana use, were more likely to use e-cigarettes than non-drinkers or non-smokers. This data on current e-cigarette use demonstrates a 35% increase amongst the youth of Ontario and Alberta from the previous year of COMPASS data. Furthermore, substance use appears to act as a strong indicator of future e-cigarette use relative to age, sex, ethnicity, and available funds.

As the results of this study have shown, health-risky behaviors appear to have a strong correlation with increased likelihood of e-cigarette use (although there is a lower prevalence of e-cigarette use as smokers increase in age). These findings are useful in terms of public health program planning, as further research may enable prevention efforts to target younger demographics within the youth population who are at a higher risk for e-cigarette or other substance use.

Opinion: Raise age to legally buy tobacco to 25 years old

National non-smoking week will be observed the week of Jan. 17 with one of the stated goals being a smoke-free Canadian society. The toll of nicotine addiction continues to be significant. The annual death toll is staggering — about 6,000 British Columbians, about 40,000 Canadians and worldwide about six million. The Conference Board of Canada estimates the annual economic costs of smoking in Canada to be $11.4 billion.

Significant progress has been made in reducing the percentage of smokers, however, progress has stalled and has even reversed for 19 to 25 year olds. And yes, this is an addiction that targets our youth with 99 per cent of smokers starting to smoke before age 25, 90 per cent before age 19. Government regulations have assisted but more needs to be done.

Government should cease providing financial support to an industry that markets the glamour of smoking. In B.C. alone, the entertainment industry is provided with about $500 million in tax breaks while it continues to push the coolness of smoking to youth. Only entertainment that is free of smoking images should qualify for tax breaks.

Retailer compliance requires significant improvement. Health Canada reports that 28 per cent of minors buy tobacco directly from retailers. Fraser Health spends about $265,000 annually on compliance audits — clearly this is insufficient funding. However, why are health-care dollars spent on retailer compliance? Shouldn’t retailers, who profit from tobacco sales, pay for compliance audits? An annual retailer licence fee of $1,000 would generate about $6 million annually to fund increased compliance audits. Further, the government should implement a moratorium on new licences until retailers can demonstrate 100-per-cent compliance.

Many health consequences of tobacco aren’t well understood by the public. For example, research has found that nicotine primes the developing brain of youth for addiction to other illicit substances. A 2012 U.S. study found that 87.9 per cent of 18 to 34 year olds who had ever used cocaine had smoked cigarettes before using cocaine.

The New England Journal of Medicine published a Sept. 4, 2014, study, by Dr. Eric Kandel and Dr. Denise Kandel. They found that “nicotine acts as a gateway drug on the brain, and this effect is likely to occur whether the exposure is from smoking tobacco, passive tobacco smoke or e-cigarettes. More effective prevention programs need to be developed for all products that contain nicotine, especially those targeting young people. Our data suggests that effective interventions would not only prevent smoking and its negative health consequences, but also decrease the risk of progressing to illicit drug use and addiction.” Given the recent spike in drug-overdose deaths, protecting our youth from nicotine addiction has increased urgency.

So what is the medically appropriate age to legally buy tobacco if we want to achieve a smoke-free society? Quite simply it’s 25. The empirical evidence is clear, only one per cent of smokers start smoking after age 25. Why the dramatic drop-off at that age? Dr. Frances Jensen answers that question in her book, “The Teenage Brain” — the rational part of young brains isn’t fully developed until age 25 or so — a conclusion supported by other researchers. And for those minors who are unable to purchase directly from retailers, their source of tobacco are friends who are old enough to buy tobacco (and in most cases are under age 25).

The evidence is clear, the war on tobacco isn’t yet won.

Art Van Pelt is a former food-retailing executive and the founder of Susan’s Battle, a family advocacy group seeking government action to better protect youth from nicotine addiction. A teenage smoker, Susan smoked for 20 years. At the time of her lung-cancer diagnosis Susan had been smoke-free for 23 years. Susan passed away seven weeks after her initial diagnosis of Stage 4, non-small-cell lung cancer at age 58. Former smokers never reduce their risk of lung cancer to that of a never smoker.

Consultation Summary: “Plain and Standardized Packaging” for Tobacco Products

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Flavoured tobacco ban looms

Menthol cigarettes, along with most other flavoured tobacco products, will no longer legally be sold in Ontario starting in the New Year.

Changes to the Smoke Free Ontario Act will result in the sale of clove cigarettes and most menthol-flavoured tobacco products being banned as of Jan. 1.

Klaus Larsen, a tobacco enforcement officer with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, said the ban is the latest step in the province’s crackdown on flavoured tobacco products.

“What statistics show is that young people are drawn to flavours,” Larsen said.

“What menthol does is cover the harsh flavour of tobacco products so we’re seeing it’s popular among those under the age of 25 and the ban will steer away the younger population from tobacco products.”

The first ban began last year on New Year’s Day and covered all flavoured tobacco products except for some flavoured cigars and a temporary one-year exemption for menthol and clove flavoured products, which is now expiring.

Larsen said the health unit has inspected vendors and have not found any compliance issues.

“The retailers tell us they’re still getting requests for the tobacco products and often times when the flavoured tobacco products are not available the customer will walk away from purchasing any tobacco product,” Larsen said.

One concern is more people switching to vaping, or e-cigarettes, to use flavoured products.

Larsen compared the current state of the vaping industry to “big tobacco” before governments began implementing regulations and restrictions.

“I think what’s been proven statistically is that vaping is less harmful than smoking but you have to remember that less harmful does not mean harmless,” he said.

“The other thing you have to remember is the fact that we don’t know what the long-term effect is of vaping.”

NDP give update on tobacco industry lawsuit

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley says the NDP government is pleased with the progress being made on its legal action against the tobacco industry, though any resolution to the case is likely years away.

In 2012, the former Progressive Conservative government filed suit against 14 Canadian and international tobacco firms, seeking $10 billion to recover smoking-related health costs.

The process around the Tory government’s decision to hire the International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers consortium as counsel on the case remains mired in controversy and under review, but Ganley said that the NDP is satisfied with the work done by the firm so far.

“The quality of the work itself has been very good,” she said in a recent interview.

“So at this point it would cause further delay and be quite costly to change counsel at this point. And so I don’t think it would be in the best interest of taxpayers to do that.”

British Columbia’s conflict of interest commissioner, Paul Fraser, is currently reviewing the actions of former premier Alison Redford in relation to questions of potential conflict of interest around her awarding of the tobacco lawsuit legal contract as justice minister in 2010. A key part of the consortium is Calgary-based JSS Barristers, a firm where her ex-husband is a partner.

Redford was cleared by then-ethics commissioner Neil Wilkinson when the matter was investigated in 2013, but a report this spring from former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci cited concerns that Wilkinson didn’t have all the relevant information. He recommended Alberta’s ethics commissioner take another look but a potential conflict led to the appointment of B.C.’s commissioner.

Ganley said she couldn’t comment on how that report may ultimately affect the government’s legal action against the tobacco companies but reiterated the NDP’s support for the case.

“We do believe in the merits and the cause of the case and I think it’s potentially worth an enormous amount of money to the taxpayers of Alberta, so it’s definitely worth pursuing,” she said.

Among the allegations in the government’s lawsuit, none of which have been proven in court, is that the companies deliberately designed tobacco products to be highly addictive, deceived Albertans by minimizing the products’ addictiveness and harm, and falsely denied the health risks of exposure to tobacco products.

Ganley said the defendants in the case filed statements of defence in the spring.

The next step will be the exchange of documents, then the questioning phase.

“These things typically take a while,” said Ganley.

“There’s going to be an enormous amount of documents.”

It has been slow going for legal action against the tobacco industry by Canadian provinces since British Columbia filed the first lawsuit in 1998, said Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society in Ottawa.

There are 12 provinces and territories that have enabling legislation allowing them to launch lawsuits and 10 have legal action already underway.

“There are no trial dates set for any of the cases. The cases that are the most advanced it seems are B.C. and New Brunswick, in terms of the pre-trial discovery process,” said Cunningham, noting that he has no indication the controversy around Alberta’s legal contract has affected its case.

“It’s incumbent for provincial governments to get these cases to trial.”

In 1999, the U.S. tobacco industry settled with 46 U.S. states by agreeing to pay almost $250 billion over 25 years. That deal featured restrictions on how tobacco products were marketed and sold.

Cunningham said a case to watch in Canada is a Quebec class action lawsuit that awarded C$15.5 billion in damages to plaintiffs from tobacco companies.

The case was appealed and heard at the Quebec Court of Appeal in November, with a decision expected in 2017.

Cunningham noted many of the same documents and issues that were in play in the class action trial will be at issue in the provincial cases.

“The Quebec case demonstrates overwhelmingly the tobacco industry can be beaten,” he said.

Smoking out Canada’s Indigenous cowboys

Cigarettes produced on Canada’s native reserves are at the heart of ‘multinational’ smuggling

With Donald Trump only weeks away from his inauguration, talk of walls along the Mexican border have – for the moment at least – fallen from the agenda. But another border is fast becoming a problem.

The 3,000-mile frontier with Canada has seen smuggling involving organised crime develop on a potentially global scale, with both governments apparently powerless to do anything about it.

The smugglers’ commodity is tobacco, mostly ready-rolled cigarettes, boxed and branded but untaxed, uncontrolled, and being sold at barely one third of the legal price, particularly in Canada where taxes are higher – and often to schoolchildren.

The problem has been growing since it took off in 2008. The Canadian government claims to have seized to date 252 million contraband cigarettes and 4.3 million untaxed cigars, but reckons that represents just the tip of the illegal tobacco mountain.

Canada is due to legalise cannabis totally next year and there are hopes that a “pot tax” could replace some duty lost to contraband cigarettes, but also fears that excessive tax would end up with the same situation as now pertains with tobacco, involving the same players.

In March 2016 a mammoth cross-border operation involving some 700 US and Canadian police and customs officials seized C$4m (£2.5m) in cash and 5,200kg of smuggled tobacco worth C$13.5m (£8m).

Six months later, Sylvain Éthier, 41 – among those arrested and still awaiting trial – was shot dead outside his home near Montreal by a member of one of the biker gangs believed to be facilitating the smuggling operations.

But the reason this formidable and growing racket has not been stamped out by either the US or Canada is that there are more than two nations involved.

In theory at least, there are several hundred, scattered all across North America, even if some of them number no more than a few thousand individuals. In Canada they call them First Nations; in the US, Native Americans.

Following centuries of maltreatment and under-representation, both the US and Canada nowadays recognise their “reservations” – usually no bigger than villages – as sovereign territory with their own internal laws and “peacekeeper” police forces. But for the Indigenous community it is all too little, too late. They consider themselves to have been lied to and robbed for more than 250 years, despite supposedly legal treaties signed, over time, with British, French and US governments.

They insist they never sold off their land, but were robbed of vast areas by unscrupulous “Indigenous agents”. And, over the past decades, even as their cause became recognised, they have become more militant, demanding compensation and an end to encroachment.

The first major incident occurred in July 1990 when the mayor of Oka, a small town near Montreal, began felling trees to expand a nine-hole golf course to 18 holes and develop an apartment block nearby.

The local Mohawk tribe were outraged, claiming the development infringed on their land. They blocked access and set up barricades, and police armed with tear gas and stun grenades inflamed the situation. One policeman was killed, while the rest retreated, leaving behind bulldozers and patrol cars.

The situation escalated over several weeks, with “natives” from all over North America rallying to the Mohawks’ support, until at one stage there was an army of 600 armed men defending the territory and blocking a bridge over the Saint Lawrence river into Montreal.

The “Oka Crisis”, as it has gone down in Canadian history, lasted nearly two months and ended with a climbdown by the authorities and advice to police forces to go softly on “Indian” relations.

Spool forward three years, to the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (a target very much in Trump’s sights), and many of North America’s big tobacco companies relocated their manufacturing plants to Mexico’s cheap labour market.

The result? Members of the Indigenous community acquired their equipment cheaply and went into the business themselves, setting up factories on the reservations, theoretically not subject to US or Canadian domestic law. The theory was that the cigarettes could only legally be bought by reservation-dwellers; the result was a contraband explosion.

The most visible evidence of the native tobacco revolution has been the mushrooming of “smoke shacks” along the roads and in the village centres of almost every reserve, selling packs of home-made cigarettes at less than a quarter of the price of big brands, and unbranded loose bags of 200 for substantially less.

Drive into Kahnawake, a small territory lying in the shadow of Montreal just across the Saint Lawrence, and every corner has its own: Red Man Smoke Shop, Mighty Iroquois Tobacco, Totem Pole Smokes, proclaiming “Meilleur qualité, meilleur prix” [best quality, best price], and offering the vast multiplicity of “native”’ brands: Tomahawk, Deerfield, Fleur de Lys, Canadian Goose, Putters and dozens more.

And then there are the “baggies”, which offer 200 smokes for just C$10 (£6) as opposed to the C$80-90 for well-known brands bought in an ordinary Canadian corner shop. Officially the “natives” are not supposed to sell to outsiders, but in practise it is impossible to enforce.

On the road into Kahnawake, a small town of some 8,000 people, I watched a portly white Canadian couple in their 60s load 20 baggies into the boot of their car: 4,000 cigarettes for the price of 400. They may be for private use, they may be being sold on in places much further away.

Anti-smoking campaigners say baggies are regularly to be seen on sale near schools even though the legal age to buy cigarettes is 18. They also insist the Indigenous are harming themselves: on average just 18.2 per cent of Canadians smoke; among the aboriginal population that rises to 56 per cent.

But ask any of the mostly Mohawk inhabitants of Kahnawake and they will tell you that the tobacco industry that has mushroomed on the “reserves” provides much-needed jobs and a major source of local wealth and investment for often relatively poor communities. “Anyway, tobacco is part of our culture,” says Linsey, a girl behind the counter at a smoke shack on the road into town.

The tribes, after all, have been smoking, chewing and cultivating the stuff since the Stone Age. And the anti-smoking lobby accepts the cultural importance of “sacred tobacco” to the natives of North America. But it tries to insist that the traditional use of tobacco in healing and prayer rituals did not involve inhalation.

It is an argument that might be labelled the “Bill Clinton approach”, since most historians acknowledge that in many tribes it was customary to try to inhale deeply and hold the smoke in an attempt to increase the narcotic effect. No plant ever became sacred by people doing nothing with it.

As for the factories, they are mostly discreetly located down back roads on the reserves, often in unmarked barns. Their owners and employees are not exactly garrulous. I asked for an interview with someone at Rainbow Tobacco in Kahnawake and was politely laughed aside: “You gotta be kidding.”

The reason for their lack of enthusiasm for publicity is that the smoke shacks that provide the basis of a living for many locals are barely the tip of the iceberg. Although the cigarettes may not legally be sold off-reserve, the producers insist on their right to transport them between First Nation communities, particularly out west.

Rainbow has fought legal battles against the governments of the western provinces of British Columbia and Alberta for confiscating cigarettes they insist were either sent “as gifts” or bore the proper stamps to show they had government duty paid. Not that all the tobacco is Canadian grown.

The tobacco belt of south-western Ontario was a motor of prosperity in the mid-20th century, having helped Canada out of the depression in the late 1920s, but in recent decades the crop has been discouraged and the government has bought out some farmers. The remainder are grateful for the native industry, which takes all it can get and then some.

Between 2014 and the summer of 2016, the Canadian government estimates that 2,081 tonnes of tobacco worth some C$530m (£300m) was imported illegally, much but not all of it from the US, but all headed for the cigarette manufacturing plants on the First Nations reserves.

Grand River Enterprises (GRE), by far the largest of the native cigarette companies, has line after line of grey warehouses and manufacturing sheds adorned with a picture of an Indigenous chief in traditional feathered war bonnet, on either side of the northern end of Chiefwood Road in the Six Nations reserve in south Ontario.

Fully licensed by the Canadian government as a tobacco producer, GRE insists that it abides by all regulations, though some former law enforcement officers say it is hard to police exactly how strictly it complies with the rules in a factory technically located outside Canadian-controlled territory, even though it pays large sums in tax to Ottowa.

Its Mohawk founders have faced allegations ranging from large-scale smuggling in the 1990s to links last year with large-scale cannabis cultivation on Native American lands in northern California, although no formal charges have been brought.

One thing is certain: GRE has grown astronomically over 20 years, from a tiny two-man business to a company with more than 1,000 native employees and a business empire worth tens of millions, including a factory in eastern Germany, opened in 2004, which now produces billions of cigarettes a year for discount supermarkets in Europe.

GRE funds local services in its home territory, the Six Nations’ small town of Ohsweken, its very name proclaiming its native origins in an area where nearby towns are London, Cambridge, Woodstock and Kitchener. First Nation lobby groups insist on their right to move their products freely between their widely scattered territories.

The question is, how many go astray en route. According to Canada’s Frontline Safety and Security magazine, the profit to be made from a single tractor-trailerload of native-produced cigarettes resold at half the commercial shop price could bring in an illicit profit of nearly C$2.5m and a loss to Ottawa’s revenue of nearly double that.

The incentive is therefore enormous. But the roadside smoke shack sellers shrug and say that the government is really only interested in lost tax revenue and cares no more about the native communities than it ever did. And the irony, now, is that the colonial authorities’ historic dismissal of the rights of natives to “their own land” is being used against them in the cross-border smuggling business.

The border situation near the town of Cornwall in southern Ontario is one of the most complicated in the world, involving the US, two Canadian provinces – Quebec and Ontario, with different police forces and different jurisdictions – plus a large area of Akwesasne Mohawk land, which extends across all three of them.

Akwesasne Mohawks legally recognise but do not in practise accept the frontier running through their lands. There are no border controls on the southern mainland: they can walk or drive freely from their territory in Canada to their territory in the US.

But they can only get back to the Canadian mainland by crossing the invisible border to the non-Akwesasne US, then over a bridge and through customs control into Canada.

There is, of course, an easy alternative: a boat. The river here is a sportsman’s paradise. Most people here live on the river, have jetties and small boats. Most crossings are within Canadian territory. They are also within Akwesasne territory – as are those to the US. It is not just a paradise for sportsmen, but smugglers too.

There is no imminent end to the impasse. Not least because, whatever the native producers say, tax collection is not the only motive. Canada is rapidly acquiring a reputation as one of the world’s most interfering nanny states. On the exterior walls of the Ramada Inn in Cornwall signs warn “No Smoking within 30ft of the hotel”. Back in 2001 Canada became the first country to insist on gory health warnings covering 50 per cent of the front and rear of cigarette packs.

The theoretical fine for possessing anything from one pack of “native” cigarettes is a minimum of C$100 (£60) plus three times the tax, though in areas around the reserves small-scale smuggling is so common it is rarely enforced.

Now the anti-smoking lobby is pressing for totally plain packaging, which would completely obliterate the branding. The irony is that by so doing they would be playing directly into the hands of the native cigarette manufacturers, who could still sell their brightly coloured packets on the reserves.

Darryl, the Scottish-born landlord of the Glengarrian pub in Cornwall, told me he would regularly spend C$16 on a packet of Matinée cigarettes for his wife, but for himself he often made do with native cigarettes. And he had a favourite brand: Putters, recognised by most smokers as a rip-off of popular big brand Players: “They’re not quite as good as the real thing, but they’re not bad, and they’re cheap.”

Cheaper still are the bêtes noires of the anti-smoking lobby: the “baggies” selling out there in the reserves – and later in the schoolyards – at the price of a Pokemon Go starter pack for 200 random cigarettes in a clear plastic bag: the ultimate plain packaging.

This would be an odd way to make the illegal trade more transparent. But there is no sign of a peace pipe being smoked any time soon.

Tobacco exposure ups behavioural issues and dropout rates in children

Exposure to tobacco smoke is immensely toxic to the developing brain.

Children exposed to tobacco smoke in early childhood adopt anti-social behaviour, engage in proactive and reactive aggression, and face conduct problems at school, even drop out at age 12, a research has showed. Exposure to tobacco smoke is toxic to the developing brain at a time when it is most vulnerable to environment input, the researchers said. ‘Young children have little control over their exposure to household tobacco smoke, which is considered toxic to the brain at a time when its development is exponential,’ said lead author and Professor Linda Pagani from the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada. Parents who smoke near their children often inadvertently expose them to second- and third-hand smoke. Abnormal brain development can result from chronic or transient exposure to toxic chemicals and gases in second-hand tobacco smoke. These compounds eventually solidify and create third-hand smoke. In the study, the researchers found compelling evidence that suggests other dangers to developing brain systems that govern behavioural decisions, social and emotional life as well as cognitive functioning.

Anti-social behaviour is characterised by proactive intent to harm others, lack prosocial feelings, and violate social norms. Such behaviours include aggression, criminal offences, theft, refusal to comply with authority, destruction of property and is also associated with academic problems in later childhood. ‘These long-term associations should encourage policy-makers and public health professionals to raise awareness among parents about the developmental risks of second-hand smoke exposure,’ Pagani said. For the study, published in the journal Indoor Air, the team examined 1,035 boys and girls born in 1997 and 1998. Their parents reported whether anyone smoked at home when their children were aged 1.5 to 7.5 years. At age 12, their children self-reported their anti-social behaviour and academic characteristics. (Read: Children exposed to cigarette smoke may develop early heart disease)

Quebec’s new tobacco laws come into full effect Saturday

Smoking outside, within a 9 metre-radius of a window or door that opens, is now prohibited in Quebec, under the Tobacco Control Act.Formerly known as the Tobacco Act, several amendments were made to the law with the first changes coming into effect one year ago today.According to a government website, the Tobacco Control Act was enacted to protect the public from the dangers of second-hand smoke, to encourage smokers to quit smoking and to prevent youth from taking up smoking to begin with.

Changes to the act targeted several areas, including but not limited to, the use of tobacco in certain places, the promotion and advertising of tobacco products, a framework for electronic cigarettes and increased fines for offences.The last amendments to the law came into effect Saturday.The nine-metre radius rule is also applicable to air intakes connected to an enclosed place where smoking is not allowed. The exception is when the radius extends beyond property limits, meaning that if a door or window leads to a municipal sidewalk the smoke ban doesn’t apply.As of Saturday, it is also illegal for adults to buy tobacco products for minors.Anyone caught contravening the act can be fined anywhere from $250 to $3,000 depending on the offence and whether or not it’s a repeat offence. Prior penalties ranged from $50 to $3,000.For a full list of regulations, fines and offences, you can consult the Quebec government’s online health portal.