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Secret report shows Big Tobacco targeted city politicians in Sudbury and Sault

Algoma municipalities are being asked to stub out all motions proposed by tobacco companies or front groups that slip demands for a freeze on excise taxes into campaigns against contraband tobacco.

Leaked map shows 10 Ontario 'strategic municipalities' whose local politicians were targeted in 2012 by Imperial Tobacco Canada. Reasons for selecting these targets included their 'proximity to illicit tobacco' and 'likelihood of buy-in.'

Leaked map shows 10 Ontario ‘strategic municipalities’ whose local politicians were targeted in 2012 by Imperial Tobacco Canada. Reasons for selecting these targets included their ‘proximity to illicit tobacco’ and ‘likelihood of buy-in.’

Greater Sudbury has the dubious distinction of being named in a secret Big Tobacco document aimed, ostensibly, at fighting contraband smokes, but at the same time quietly lobbying to freeze the excise tax on legitimate tobacco products.

Algoma Board of Health, the governing body of Algoma Public Health, is warning area politicians about new evidence linking Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. to lobbying campaigns against contraband tobacco.

The health board voted this week to ask Algoma municipalities to reject all motions received from tobacco companies or front groups that spike campaigns against illicit smokes with demands for a tobacco excise tax freeze or limits on regulation of tobacco products.

Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of British American Tobacco Plc., one of the world’s five biggest tobacco companies with 55,000 employees in 44 factories in 41 countries.

In a recently leaked internal report prepared for its London-based parent, Imperial Tobacco Canada reveals that it’s been quietly involved for years in lobbying campaigns by convenience-store and anti-contraband groups.

The secret report describes Project M&M, a 2012 campaign intended to “mobilize local governments to pressure for big government action” against illicit tobacco, with demands for an excise tax freeze piggybacked on the main message.

Listed as partners in Project M&M are the Canadian Convenience Store Association, the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Fédération des Chambres de Commerce du Québec and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The leaked 32-page document includes a map identifying 10 “strategic municipalities” to be targeted in Ontario: Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Windsor, Brantford, London, Mississauga, Niagara Falls, Whitby, Cornwall and Toronto.

These municipalities were selected, the report says, because of their:

  • proximity to illicit tobacco
  • seizure activity
  • internal sales data
  • political weight
  • likelihood of buy-in

The document also identifies 10 targeted municipalities in Quebec: Montreal, Gatineau, Chateauguay, Laval, St. Georges, Sherbrooke, Quebec City, Drummondville, Trois Rivieres and Saguenay.

An article published one month ago by the National Post pointed to other close ties between convenience-store organizations and the tobacco industry.

“In fact, there is other evidence of their close links to the industry, including at least three former tobacco-company executives who are now leaders in the Ontario, Quebec and national convenience-store associations,” the Post’s Tom Blackwell reported.

The leaked Imperial Tobacco report suggests that the “2012 lobbying campaign was no grassroots movement, and that the retail and contraband organizations have for years been used as surrogates by the cigarette giant to promote its own interests,” Blackwell wrote.

Sales of illicit cigarettes are considered a major problem in Ontario, where a bag of 200 illegal “rollies” sells for as little as $10 to $15, compared to more than $80 for legally taxed smokes bought at a corner store.

A 2013 study of collected cigarette butts conducted by NIRIC Group for the Ontario Convenience Store Association found that 17.7 per cent of butts picked up in Sault Ste. Marie were contraband, compared to 30.1 per cent in Kitchener, 28.5 per cent in Barrie, 24.5 per cent in Sudbury, 20.9 percent in Thunder Bay, 18.7 per cent in Toronto, 18.1 per cent in Guelph and 11 per cent in North Bay.

Major tobacco firms are appealing a landmark $15B ruling they lost

Three major tobacco firms are appealing a landmark $15 billion Superior Court ruling they lost in June 2015.

Lawyers for Imperial Tobacco, JTI-Macdonald and Rothmans-Benson & Hedges began arguments today during hearings that are expected to last until the end of the week.

The companies were targeted by two separate lawsuits heard at the same time that were filed in 1998 and only went to trial in 2012.

They were sued by people who were addicted to cigarettes and couldn’t quit as well as by those who had suffered from cancer or emphysema.

Some 76 witnesses testified and nearly 43,000 documents were deposited as evidence, including internal tobacco company documents that showed smokers didn’t know or understand the risks associated with cigarettes.

Cigarette companies argued their customers knew the risks of smoking and that their products were sold legally and were strictly regulated by the federal government.

The same cigarette companies are also being sued by the Quebec government in a $60-billion lawsuit aiming to recover health care costs related to smokers.

Think tanks with ties to tobacco arguing against plain packaging

A tobacco company speaking out against a public-health measure doesn’t have the same credibility as a respected think tank or advocacy group. So those companies often work with or donate funds to organizations that publicly criticize tobacco taxes and other new regulatory measures.

Those financial relationships create the possibility for bias. Yet most of the organizations on the receiving end of tobacco donations do not clearly disclose that information when speaking about related issues.

The latest example is the current debate over plain packaging.

The federal government wants to pass new regulations that would strip brand colours and logos from tobacco products and instead require them to carry a standard plain colour and font in addition to the graphic health warnings that are currently used. The government hopes the move can stop some of the nearly 90,000 Canadians who pick up the deadly habit each year. Across the country, nearly 40,000 people die annually from tobacco-related illnesses

Not surprisingly, the three biggest tobacco companies in Canada, Imperial Tobacco Canada; Rothmans, Benson & Hedges; and JTI-Macdonald, are all opposed to the measure.

But they aren’t the only ones against the proposal. Some think tanks and advocacy groups with tobacco funding are also speaking out against plain packaging. And yet, these groups typically don’t mention their financial ties when speaking about policy.

For example, the Montreal Economic Institute published a report in September saying plain packaging “attacks the value of brands.” It included a disclaimer saying the report was “in no way” financed by tobacco. In September 2015, institute president Michel Kelly-Gagnon authored a Huffington Post article saying plain packaging drove consumption higher in Australia, where it was adopted in 2012. The article didn’t mention an industry connection.

But in an e-mail, Kelly-Gagnon said the institute has “proudly received” tobacco funding since 1998 in amounts between 2 and 4 per cent of its budget. He said in an interview that the organization recently decided to stop accepting donations from the industry because health groups use that information to criticize its work.

Then there’s the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco, which issued a press release in September warning about the prevalence of illegal cigarettes and how the problem will worsen with plain packaging. A letter to the editor from the coalition and published in The Globe and Mail in September also stated that plain packaging will increase the contraband market. In its official comments to the federal government on plain packaging, the coalition said there is “no doubt” the new measure “will increase the availability of the illegal product.” The document doesn’t mention financial ties to tobacco.

Online, the coalition lists its members, which include the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Toronto Crime Stoppers and the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council.

But according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail, the coalition works closely with the country’s three major tobacco companies to shape its public statements and reports. The coalition declined an interview request and did not respond directly to questions about its ties to tobacco.

Another example dates back to May, when the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), a Halifax think tank, hosted a talk by Sinclair Davidson, an Australian professor and vocal plain-packaging critic. According to articles in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Institute of Public Affairs, where Davidson is a fellow, has received tobacco funding and some experts have criticized Davidson’s work as flawed.

In an e-mail, Davidson defended his work and said he was invited to speak in Canada by the Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA). But according to the AIMS Facebook page, Davidson’s Halifax visit was organized by the institute in partnership with Crestview Strategy, a public-affairs firm. According to the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada, Crestview currently lobbies on behalf of Rothmans, Benson & Hedges. (Crestview and Rothmans did not respond to questions about the visit.)

The CCSA said it does receive funding from the tobacco industry but declined to state an amount or respond to questions about Davidson’s visit.

Imperial Tobacco Canada; Rothmans, Benson & Hedges; and JTI-Macdonald declined requests to name the groups they fund, but said they work with groups that share their views.

Julia Smith, a postdoctoral research fellow at Simon Fraser University who studies tobacco control, said she is concerned organizations with financial ties to tobacco will help derail plain packaging and other health measures, in part because many believe their views are independent and unbiased. “We’ve seen the tobacco industry use these tactics in the past,” she said, noting that “in some cases, they have been successful.”

Beyond engaging vocal sources, the tobacco industry has also commissioned several reports that say plain packaging is ineffective. But independent research tells a different story.

An Australian government survey found the number of daily smokers fell from 2.7 million in 2010 to 2.5 million in 2013. The average age young people reported smoking their first full cigarette rose from 15.4 years in 2010 to 15.9 years in 2013. And a 2013 study published in the journal Tobacco Control found only a small number of retail stores sold illicit cigarettes. Before plain packaging, researchers found about 2 per cent of cigarette packages to be illicit, compared to 0.6 per cent in the months after implementation.

Think tanks and advocacy groups regularly seek to influence public policy. But policy-makers and the public deserve to know when those organizations may be representing the interests of others.

Tobacco plain packaging catching on worldwide: Canadian Cancer Society report

The trend to reduce smoking and cancer rates by forcing tobacco companies to use plain packaging is gaining momentum across the globe, concludes an international report released today by the Canadian Cancer Society. The report shows that 4 countries have plain packaging laws in place and 14 others are working on it.

Plain packaging requirements prevent tobacco companies from using colours, logos and design elements to market their cancer-causing products. The shape of the package must be in a standardized format, outlawing sales tactics such as slim packs appealing to girls and young women. Health warnings still appear on plain packages.

“Plain packaging is a global trend and it is coming to Canada, too,” says Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst, Canadian Cancer Society. “We must continue to show leadership in the fight against the marketing of tobacco.”

In 2001 Canada was the first country in the world to implement graphic picture warnings on cigarette packages. Since then, more than 100 countries and territories (105 in total) have followed Canada’s lead – accounting for 58% of the world’s population – as illustrated in this graph. Canada’s leadership in graphic picture warnings has resulted in enormous health benefits globally.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada, including about 30% of all cancer deaths and 85% of lung cancer cases. Tobacco kills 37,000 Canadians every year.

Tobacco packaging is one of the last and most effective ways for companies to promote their products, with eye-catching logos and colours designed to appeal to consumers. Plain packaging reduces tobacco use by eliminating promotion on packaging, reducing product appeal, curbing package deception, and increasing the impact of health warnings. Research shows that plain packaging works.

“Plain packaging is a crucial next step for Canada to reduce smoking and save lives,” says Cunningham. “We strongly support the federal government’s commitment to follow the lead of Australia and other countries to implement plain packaging to curtail the marketing of these cancer-causing products.”

Plain packaging is required in Australia, the United Kingdom and France, and will be by 2018 in Hungary. The 14 countries working on plain packaging are Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Slovenia, Uruguay, Thailand, Singapore, Belgium, Romania, Turkey, Finland, Chile and South Africa.

Canada’s federal government included a commitment to plain packaging as part of its 2015 election platform. After forming a government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau identified it as a “top priority” in a mandate letter to Health Minister Jane Philpott. On May 31, 2016 – World No Tobacco Day – Minister Philpott launched a 3-month public consultation on plain packaging. The federal government is now reviewing the responses and developing regulations.

The Canadian Cancer Society report released today – Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report – ranks 205 countries and territories based on the size of their health warnings on cigarette packages and lists countries that have finalized requirements for picture warnings. Canada ties for 8th in the world with package warnings that cover 75% of the package’s front and back. Nepal and Vanuatu are tied for top spot with a warning size of 90%, while India and Thailand are 3rd at 85%. The United States is in last place with minimal requirements for health warnings on either the front or back of the package.

The Canadian Cancer Society is calling for plain packaging to be implemented in Canada as part of a strengthened Federal Tobacco Control Strategy, which should also include increased funding to support additional programming and policy measures. Health Canada’s current strategy expires on March 31, 2018. The existing Tobacco Act is 2 decades old and must be modernized.

The Society’s report, published every 2 years, reviews and ranks cigarette health warnings internationally and tracks developments in this important area of tobacco control.

Other report highlights include:

94 countries and territories require warnings to cover at least 50% of the package front and back (on average), up from 60 countries in 2014 and 24 in 2008. — The top countries ranked in terms of warning size (as an average of the front and back of the package) are: 1. 90% Nepal 1. 90% Vanuatu (effective in 2017)

3. 85% Thailand 3. 85% India 5. 82.5% Australia (75% of front, 90% of back) 6. 80% Sri Lanka 6. 80% Uruguay 8. 75% Brunei 8. 75% Canada 8. 75% Laos 8. 75% Myanmar
The Canadian Cancer Society’s report was released today in Delhi, India, at the 7th session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control being held Nov. 7-12. The report was released to support implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, ratified by 180 countries. The goal of this international treaty is to control the global tobacco epidemic. Its guidelines recommend that parties consider implementing plain packaging.

Cigarette Package Health Warnings report in English Cigarette Package Health Warnings report in French

About the Canadian Cancer SocietyThe Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. Thanks to our donors and volunteers, the Society has the most impact, against the most cancers, in the most communities in Canada. For more information, visit or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

SOURCE Canadian Cancer Society (National Office)


The ball is rolling internationally as more countries ban menthol cigarettes, including flavour capsules, as well as other flavoured tobacco products.

The rationale to ban menthol is clear and compelling.

Menthol soothes the throat making it easier to smoke, and makes it easier for kids to experiment and get addicted.

Menthol also discourages adults from quitting.

On 31 May 2015, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia became the first place in the world to implement a menthol cigarette ban. The menthol ban applies to all tobacco products. 7 out of 10 Canadian provinces have adopted menthol bans as part of broader flavoured tobacco bans.

The Canadian government is preparing a national menthol cigarette ban.

In the European Union (EU), a menthol cigarette ban will come into force 20 May 2020 for all 28 EU countries. Turkey and Moldova will do likewise on 20 May 2020. In Africa, Ethiopia and Uganda have adopted legislation banning flavours including menthol.

In recent years, a major tobacco industry strategy has been the marketing of cigarettes with squeezable flavour capsules. Sales of capsule cigarettes are significant and growing in many countries. While menthol is the most common flavour in capsules, other flavours are also being used.

In the EU, a ban on flavoured capsules came into force at the manufacturer level on 20 May 2016. Germany and Belgium were the first countries with cigarette capsule bans, prior to the EU requirement. Canadian provincial legislation banning menthol includes a capsule ban.

There is a positive, accelerating international trend to ban menthol, capsules and flavours in tobacco products, and thus respond to industry practices to increase tobacco product attractiveness and sales.

Rob Cunningham
Canadian Cancer Society

Health Canada proposing menthol ban for tobacco products

Federal government’s suggested change to Tobacco Act would apply to 95 per cent of tobacco market

Health Canada has announced it’s proposing an order that would amend the Tobacco Act to prohibit “the use of menthol in cigarettes, blunt wraps and most cigars sold on the Canadian market,” as a measure of curbing smoking rates among youth.

A press release issued by the federal department late Friday afternoon says the proposed flavour ban would apply to 95 per cent of the entire tobacco market.

This decision comes after Health Canada completed a month-long consultation on the issue back in May. Health Canada accepted stakeholder comments for 30 days.

The news release dated Nov. 4 says “the vast majority” of the comments the department received were supportive of a ban on the use of menthol flavouring in tobacco products.

Health Canada says the proposed amendment will be published in the Canada Gazette Part I and will be open to a 75-day public comment period. The news release encourages Canadians to submit feedback to the department.

The government has made other amendments in the past which banned other flavour additives, such as chocolate and bubblegum. Menthol makes tobacco smoke easier to inhale, “which facilitates experimentation by youth,” the news release reads. The document also says recent data shows that a “significant” number of young people smoke menthol cigarettes.

“Every year, tens of thousands of Canadians die from preventable diseases that can be directly linked to smoking,” Health Minister Jane Philpott is quoted saying in the release. “Research shows that the best way to prevent these deaths is to stop people from smoking in the first place, especially when they’re young.”

The health minister is scheduled to host a forum in early 2017 to discussed the future of tobacco control.

Nunavut smoking rates high, but tobacco law enforcement low

Five-year anti-smoking strategy set to expire, health minister planning assessment

Twelve years into implementation, no fines have been levied under Nunavut’s Tobacco Control Act for smoking within prohibited areas despite the territory remaining the highest per capita smoking jurisdiction in Canada.

That’s according to Health Minister George Hickes who responded to queries from South Baffin MLA David Joanasie on the implementation of the Tobacco Control Act during question period in Nunavut’s legislature Oct. 24.

“Can the minister clarify whether any contraventions to the Tobacco Control Act, specifically with respect to smoking within a prescribed radius, have ever been recorded and if any fines have ever been levied?” Joanasie asked.

“To my knowledge, there have currently been no fines levied for smoking within those parameters,” Hickes responded.

Across the territory, smoking is not permitted within three metres of a workplace or public place—or within 15 metres of a school—under the tobacco act.

In June, Iqaluit’s Qikiqtani General Hospital implemented a no smoking policy on its campus, designating two specific areas away from the main entrances to smoke.

According to a Canadian Community Health Survey from 2014, Nunavut’s smoking rate is the highest in Canada—at a whopping 62 per cent compared to the national average of 18.1 per cent, all tallied in 2013.

Hickes told MLAs that the Department of Health has been focusing on tobacco education and compliance programs targeting youth as well as consultations and marketing initiatives to reduce smoking.

Joanasie pressed the minister, asking if any inspectors have been appointed under the Tobacco Control Act and if not, who was enforcing the law.

“Currently, we have environmental health officers who are doing inspection of retailers,” Hickes responded.

Nunavut’s tobacco reduction action plan, tabled five years ago and entitled “Nunavut Tobacco Framework for Action, Tobacco Has No Place Here, or “Tuvvaakiqariaqanngilaq” in Inuktitut, expires later this year.

Joanasie asked Hickes if he would consider updating the act, in conjunction with drafting a new anti-smoking plan, by expanding the no-smoking radius around buildings and doorways and also areas under building intake vents.

Hickes thanked Joanasie for his suggestions, but said there is currently no plan to amend the Tobacco Control Act.

But Hickes added that his department is hoping to gather more data to evaluate the success of its various anti-smoking programs.

“We’re bringing in new software, upcoming, to be able to track usage and make more community-specific programs,” he said.

In 2013, Nunavut’s chief medical officer estimated Nunavummiut spent $43 million on tobacco products between 2011-12.

A current figure was not provided in the most recent tobacco control act annual report of 2014-15, but that number is likely to be higher due to tobacco tax increases passed on to retailers by the Government of Nunavut in 2012.

Leaked Big Tobacco document suggests it used convenience-store, anti-contraband groups as lobbyists

Across Ontario and Quebec, city and town councils passed a wave of similar resolutions, urging provincial governments to crack down on the scourge of contraband tobacco.

It was no coincidence: the municipalities had all been lobbied by convenience-store and anti-contraband associations.

The same, seemingly independent groups have also called for a freeze on legal tobacco taxes, opposed bans on menthol cigarettes and, today, are fighting the federal government’s plan to require plain packaging for smoking products.

But a leaked Imperial Tobacco document suggests that 2012 lobbying campaign was no grassroots movement, and that the retail and contraband organizations have for years been used as surrogates by the cigarette giant to promote its own interests.

The internal PowerPoint presentation describes deploying the convenience-store groups and the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco — both at least partly funded by the tobacco industry — to promote fears about contraband, push for action against it and keep taxes down on legal ones.

The document focuses at length on what it calls Project M&M: “Mobilizing municipalities to pressure for Big Government action.”

It then refers to cases where the convenience-store associations or anti-contraband group garnered media coverage and convinced dozens of local councils to pass those resolutions.

One slide in the August 2012 presentation suggests Imperial’s tactics worked, noting there had been no increases in tobacco taxes since 2008.

“Our campaigns have delivered some success.”

The document — a presentation made to parent company British American Tobacco — was leaked to a public-health researcher by a company “whistleblower,” said Melodie Tilson of the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association.

“This presentation makes it really clear,” she said. “They are orchestrating various organizations and using them basically as their puppets to ensure governments don’t enact effective tobacco-control measures.”

Groups like the convenience stores mislead the public and elected officials when they fail to make clear their close ties to Big Tobacco — whose products are one of the biggest sources of chronic disease and death in Canada, said Tilson.

She and other anti-smoking advocates agree that contraband cigarettes — whose cheap prices may be encouraging more smoking — are an important issue.

But they note the groups have not only called for enforcement action against the illicit trade, but opposed tax increases, bans on flavoured cigarettes and even the move to hide tobacco “power walls” in stores.

In fact, there is other evidence of their close links to the industry, including at least three former tobacco-company executives who are now leaders in the Ontario, Quebec and national convenience-store associations.

It’s a bit peculiar that some are hanging their hats on this particular PowerPoint presentation, in that it addresses contraband … which I think all of us should be concerned about
The CEO of the Ontario group, David Bryans, for instance, worked at what is now JTI-MacDonald until 2002, at one time as director of domestic sales. He has led either the Ontario or Canadian convenience-store trade groups since 2003.

But the current president of the Canadian Convenience Stores Association, Satinder Chera, denied his group acts at the behest of the tobacco industry.

Cigarette companies are among 60 national firms who are part of the association, representing the stores’ major suppliers from soft-drink makers to oil companies, he said.

The association lobbies on a “slew” of issues, and makes no apologies for opposing contraband, said Chera.

“It’s a bit peculiar that some are hanging their hats on this particular PowerPoint presentation, in that it addresses contraband … which I think all of us should be concerned about.”

Still — like colleagues from his and the other groups at various legislative committee hearings — he refused to disclose what proportion of the association’s funding comes from the tobacco industry.

Jeffrey Guiler, an Imperial Tobacco spokesman, said in a statement that the company works with a variety of groups on a “multitude of issues,” including contraband.

“This criminal activity harms honest small-business owners. They care about their business and we work with their umbrella groups to advocate for their best interests.”

The National Coalition did not respond directly to the suggestion it is part of Imperial’s lobbying campaigns, but noted in a statement that its 18 member organizations have convinced governments to act against “this growing (contraband) threat.”

The Imperial Tobacco presentation lists the company, the convenience-store groups and contraband coalition side by side as conducting various campaigns for years to oppose illegal cigarettes and to “freeze taxes.”

Then it asks “how to keep the pressure on” and answers by describing the 2012 Project M&M campaign involving the same players, but leaning on Quebec politicians during an election year and on municipalities in two provinces.

Through such “front groups,” the tobacco company essentially co-opted politicians and other “innocents,” charged Cynthia Callard of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

“If I was a councillor in any of those municipalities that had passed a resolution in good faith,” she said, “I would feel used.”

If Big Tobacco sells e-cigarettes, they’ll ‘recruit a whole new generation’ of smokers: Public Health Ontario

Pending federal regulations should limit flavours, marketing to kids, Dr. Peter Donnelly says

If Ottawa lets Big Tobacco into the e-cigarette business it would be handing the industry the chance to hook teenagers on nicotine and turn them into lifelong customers, the chief executive officer of Public Health Ontario says.

“It’s desperately difficult for people to give up smoking once they’re addicted to nicotine,” Dr. Peter Donnelly said. “And my concern is that e-cigarettes and vaping of nicotine-containing mixtures could be a very effective way of recruiting a whole new generation of nicotine-addicted young people who are then very prone to turn to smoking cigarettes.”

The federal government announced last month that it would introduce changes to the Tobacco Act in order to regulate the burgeoning e-cigarette and vaping industry.

Right now, e-cigarettes can only legally be sold in Canada without nicotine — and since they’re not regulated by Health Canada they can’t be marketed as a way to help someone stop smoking.

But what’s legal and what’s actually happening are not necessarily the same thing.

More than 26 per cent of people who vape reported that their last e-cigarette contained nicotine, while another 19 per cent said they didn’t know if their last vape was nicotine-free or not, according to a 2015 study on countrywide tobacco uses and trends by Waterloo’s Propel Centre for Population Health Impact.

The study also found that most specialty vaping stores and online e-cigarette shops offer nicotine-laced vaping liquid, much of which is flavoured to taste nothing like tobacco.

‘Who are they targeting?’

It’s an issue that Donnelly said the pending regulations need to address in order to balance the needs of an adult population trying to quit smoking, with protectionist measures to keep youth from taking up the habit.

The flavours include everything from bubblegum to maple syrup to mint, something that has been the target of public health officials like Donnelly who argue it’s essentially marketing to children.

“I mean who are they targeting?” he said. “I don’t know many adults who are going to go for gummy bears.”

The public health official said he wants to see regulations that would make it illegal to market e-cigarettes to youth, which he said could include putting limits on what kind of flavours could be sold.

Nascent research surrounding e-cigarettes has found that vaping appeals to young people, Donnelly said, perhaps because it seems like a safer alternative.

Conflicting research

“But cigarettes are an outstandingly dangerous product and the worry is that nicotine-dispensing e-cigarettes and vaping products are very attractive to young people,” he said. “If they use them, they’re more likely to go on and smoke cigarettes.”

Canada’s largest tobacco company, meanwhile, says that it’s not interested in getting into the e-cigarette industry to target children.

“I don’t want my kids to smoke,” Imperial Tobacco spokesman Eric Gagnon told CBC’s the fifth estate. “We support reasonable and evidence-based regulation, especially the ones aimed at keeping tobacco products out of the hands of kids.”

Instead, he said, the tobacco industry wants to be able to offer a product that’s less harmful to people who are already addicted to smoking, likening it to McDonald’s offering a salad on their menu as well.

It’s a kind of logic that Dr. Gopal Bhatnagar might understand.

The cardiovascular surgeon at Trillium Health Centre is also the owner of 180 Smoke, a popular chain of vaping shops, and said he believes he’s offering a tool to help smokers quit.

The issue, however, is that because it’s a new product there are few long-term studies measuring its effectiveness. And those that have been done offer conflicting information.

The medical journal, The Lancet, for example, released a study in January that found people were 28 per cent less likely to quit smoking by using e-cigarettes than by turning to other methods. In March, however, it published another piece, which found that vaping is less harmful to someone than traditional cigarettes.

So when asked whether it seemed out of character for a health professional to sell an addictive product like nicotine, Dr. Bhatnagar responded that pharmacists also sell nicotine through gums, patches and sprays.

“Combustible tobacco smoking remains the number one preventable cause of disease in our society,” he said. “So I feel that anything that can continue to reduce the smoking rates and lessen the harm caused by tobacco is a very positive thing.”

Protecting plain tobacco packaging against industry influence

Summary: Canada’s public consultation on plain packaging for tobacco requires strict guidelines to protect against interference by the tobacco industry, and media must also be wary, according to a new report.

Canada’s public consultation on plain packaging for tobacco requires strict guidelines to protect against interference by the tobacco industry, and media must also be wary, according to a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The Canadian government’s public consultation on plain packaging of tobacco products, as a public health measure, will close Aug. 31, 2016. In the past, the tobacco industry has tried to thwart plain packaging initiatives using threats of legal action and by influencing public opinion through biased research — for example, in Australia in 2011, when its government introduced this type of packaging. Troubling tactics are now being deployed in Canada, with individuals and organizations linked to the tobacco industry speaking against plain packaging in the media.

Plain packaging requires the removal of all branding (colours, imagery, corporate logos and trademarks) on tobacco products, so that all packaging is standardized.

Manufacturers may only include the brand name in a mandated size, font and location on the package. According to the Australian government, which was the first to implement plain packaging, this move has contributed to a decrease in smoking.

The authors of the commentary call for vigilance by several sectors.

“The Canadian media should remember their important role in challenging industry-affiliated sources regarding their conflicts of interest, and should guard against simply becoming vehicles for industry misinformation,” write Drs. Julia Smith and Kelley Lee, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia.

“The [Canadian] government must require any individual or organization making a submission to the federal consultation to declare potential conflicts of interests, including funding sources, and must require that any claims made in submissions be substantiated by peer-reviewed evidence, with transparent methodologies, non-industry-linked data sources and clear funding declarations.”